What is bloating?
Most of us have experienced bloating in some shape or form, but your experience of bloating might be different from someone else’s. It might be a feeling of excessive fullness after eating, or your tummy could actually be distended. Some people have bloating with gas (from either end), and it could be painful. Some people have relief after going to the bathroom, some people wake up bloated while others find that their bloating builds as the day progresses. What you might be surprised to know is that while bloating often feels like too much gas, research suggests this is not the case.
So what causes bloating?
Because bloating doesn’t look the same for everyone, you might expect that it has multiple causes…and you’d be right! What causes bloating for one person might not be the same for another.
· Swallowing air (gum chewing, or talking while eating)
· Eating gas-producing foods, such as fizzy drinks and artificial sweeteners
· Eating too quickly, which leads to poor chewing and swallowing more air
· Overeating – note that if we wait too long to eat between meals we tend to overeat
· Meal size vs abdominal size; if you have a small abdomen, you will notice it expand more when you eat.
· Sluggish digestion, such as slow stomach emptying or slow elimination
· Dietary changes, such as eating more fibre.
· Dysbiosis: imbalance in the intestinal bacteria
· Stress can cause your digestion to slow down
· Drinking smoothies too quickly, which will carry a big osmotic load.
When is bloating normal – or a sign of something else?
Some bloating, gas or belching is natural and common. Studies have shown that the average person generates 0.6-1.8L of gas per day…even if they don’t realise it. For lots of people, the passage of gas through the digestive tract causes no symptoms and is a sign of a healthy, happy gut. But some people experience frequent burping or belching, uncomfortable abdominal bloating, and lots of gas. If this sounds like you and you have significant on going digestive issues, the first thing to do is always see your health care practitioner to rule out any serious underlying causes.
10 Quick Fixes for Bloating
In rare cases it can be caused by an underlying medical condition, Most of the time bloating can be reduced by following some easy tips, not all of them have to do with the foods you eat. Some will help with what causes bloating – while others simply relieve the bloating itself.
Eat slowly and chew food well. The better you chew your food, the more efficiently you will digest it, leading to less food left in the stomach for fermentation.
Gradually increase fibre in your diet. If you’re getting on the fibre train, don’t add too much all at once! It takes time for your gut to get used to fibre. Instead, start with one fibre-rich meal a day.
Avoid talking with your mouth full. You’ll swallow more air.
Skip fizzy drinks and chewing gum. Because these are the main causes of swallowing air. There are 2 sources of gas in the gut: the first being gas produced by bacteria and the second is air swallowed during eating or drinking. Carbonated drinks, including sparkling water, are a major source of swallowed gas.
Try not to eat when upset or in a hurry. It can hinder digestion due to the gut-brain connection
Drink some peppermint tea. It is a carminative, meaning it helps to relax the gut muscles. Use 2-3 tea bags per cup, or take enteric coated peppermint oil as needed
Chew fresh, picked or dried ginger or sip it as a tea throughout the day. It helps with stomach emptying.
Chew a few organic fennel seeds after a meal. Fennel is a traditional remedy for gas and improving digestion.
Move your body. Exercise improves gas clearance from the bowel.
Avoid alcohol. It can irritate the gut and dehydrate, leading to constipation.
Longer term solutions for bloating
Try to go 12 hours overnight without food, to allow for multiple Migrating Motor Complex (MMC) cycles to happen! The MMC helps clear gut contents through. Finish dinner by 7:30PM and then don’t eat breakfast until 7:30AM.
Make sure you’re not constipated. The feeling of being bloated can often arise from constipation. Ensure to drink enough water, eat enough soluble fibre (found in vegetables, fruit, oats and beans). Fibre helps people with sluggish colon motility or weaker pelvic floor muscles by bulking up their stools. Why is this important? Because they are easier to pass! I recommend psyllium husks. Start with 1 teaspoon daily, working your way up to a tablespoon over a few weeks. Make sure you drink LOTS of water.
Rule out food allergies, food intolerances and food sensitivities. Bloating can be caused by gas from mal-absorbed nutrients. Lactose, fructose, eggs, peanuts, seafood, gluten, yeast and soy are common food items people can be sensitive / intolerant or allergic to. The best way to figure out whether you have a specific reaction to a food is to go through a structured elimination diet with the support of a registered dietition or nutritionist.
Manage your stress! Stress can actually be an enormous contributor as there are very deep and complex connections between your brain and your enteric nervous system, with what happens in one area affecting the other. Write out a list of your favourite activities and try to do one a day. If exercise is one of those activities, that’s brilliant as exercise helps promote movement in the gut and clearance of gas.
Bloating is very common but complicated – and what works for someone else might not work for you. I would recommend you work with your health care professional, nutritionist or dietician to get really clear and individual care before altering your diet. If you would like to speak to me please don't hesitate to get in touch.