Bloating – why it happens and what you can do about it.

It’s totally natural for our tummy to change in size throughout the day and after meals. But when bloating becomes severe (painful or uncomfortable) and persistent (occurring almost every day), that’s a sign of an unhappy gut that is in need of some support! 

Severe, persistent bloating can lead to pain, discomfort, nausea and can affect one’s self confidence. Looking 6 months pregnant and feeling uncomfortable in your clothes by the end of the day is not anyone’s idea of fun, nor is it pleasant! 

If bloating is affecting aspects of your life, know that you are not alone – and there are things you can do to help.

What causes severe bloating?

Bloating is rarely a sign of anything serious or life threatening. But if bloating is severe, unexplained and prolonged then it’s important to see your GP so they can rule out anything serious like IBD, celiac disease, ulcers, gallstones or certain cancers. 

Some of the most common causes of bloating are:

Dysbiosis – Alterations in the delicate balance of bacteria and fungi living along our gastrointestinal tract (dysbiosis) can significantly affect digestion and result in all sorts of symptoms, including bloating. 

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is where there are too many bacteria (or fungi) in the small intestine. These bacteria give off gases that build up and can result in bloating, trapped gas, abdominal cramps and pain. Unfortunately SIBO is often misdiagnosed as IBS in the medical world. Infact, up to 85% of IBS cases are actually SIBO! However, SIBO can be tested for and treated privately. 

Poor eating habits – Eating in a hurry or on the go means we are less likely to chew food thoroughly. Consequently, more air is swallowed causing a buildup of gas, and then bloating. 

Poor digestion – Low stomach acid or pancreatic enzyme insufficiency impairs food breakdown (digestion). This causes food to “sit” in the stomach for longer. Bacteria can then feed on the food and produce fermentable gases that lead to bloating and distension. 

Diet – sensitivities or intolerances to certain foods like gluten, dairy, soy and eggs or food groups (e.g. FODMAPs) can result in bloating.  

Also be aware of excess processed food or sugar in the diet as these foods can wreak havoc with digestion and bad bacteria love to feast on them! 

Chronic stress – when we experience stress, the body goes into “fight or flight” mode and diverts energy away from our “rest and digest” mode. Hence when we are stressed, digestion slows down, causing many digestive symptoms. Interestingly, studies have reported higher levels of anxiety and depression in individuals suffering from severe intestinal bloating. 

Constipation – If we are ‘blocked up’, food moves more slowly through the gut. This slow movement encourages more fermentation which leads to distention and bloating. 

How can you relieve bloating? 

The good news is that you don’t just have to put up with bloating. There are many lifestyle and dietary related solutions that can help! 

Eat mindfully – Simply chewing food thoroughly (until it is like ‘mush’ in your mouth) and taking time to slow down and enjoy meals in a relaxed state can help fire up digestive enzymes and acids that are required for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. 

Stimulate digestion – try mixing a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in a small amount of water and drinking before main meals – this supports stomach acid production and enhances digestion. You can also try taking five deep, slow, belly breaths to help your body relax and “rest and digest”. 

Elimination diet – identifying which foods are triggering bloating can be tricky. By working with a Registered Nutritional Therapist, you can successfully identify and remove trigger foods before slowly reintroducing them to help pinpoint problem foods. 

De-stress – It’s time to rest & digest! Schedule in some relaxation every day. Whether that be meditation, walking the dog, yoga, reading a book, or an epsom salt bath. Anything that helps you to relax. 

Eat and cook with foods that aid digestion e.g. cumin, ginger, fennel, ginger, chamomile, peppermint, mint, parsley, dandelion. 

Movement – Daily movement helps keep our bowels moving. Try a brisk walk at lunch time. Or some evening yoga (great for relieving trapped gas!) 

Treating symptoms will provide some relief but to beat the bloat once and for all, you’ll need to pinpoint and address the cause. If you would like help getting to the root cause of your bloating, contact me for more information about how I can help.

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