There is nothing more uncomfortable than feeling or looking pregnant (when you’re not), feeling full and bloated despite being hungry, or feeling too heavy to exercise even if you haven’t eaten anything.
Bloating is a common symptom of a variety of functional bowel disorders, which can be occasional or chronic (e.g. liver cirrhosis, etc.). Some underlying causes of bloating include:
1. Overindulging in rich foods
Mixing a bold cocktail of rich foods and drinks inside your stomach could be one way to cause digestive upsets including temporary bloating. For example, having fatty foods (i.e. fried food) with refined desserts, mixed with carbonated drinks, alcohol and coffee, could cause acid reflux, which in turn can make us feel bloated.
During the holidays, when people tend to indulge, try eating the healthiest meal first followed by other foods in bite sizes to avoid overeating. Avoid fried foods and drinking anything except water during mealtime.
Gas is caused by swallowing air when we talk during meals, chew gum, drink carbonated drinks, suck on candy, etc. Sometimes, this can lead us to belch as we pass stomach gas through our mouth.
Gas is also caused by intestinal bacteria, which produces gas during digestion. Poorly digested foods will result in more gases being produced, which can cause us to feel bloated. Some gas will be absorbed into the bloodstream and eliminated through lungs while other gases will pass through the colon. However, gas can sometimes get trapped inside our waste matter, which can be very painful. Gasses trapped on the left side of the colon can be mistaken for heart disease and if they are trapped on the right side, they can be mistaken for the appendix or gallstones.
To the best of your ability, avoid or minimize most frequent stomach gas producing causes (chewing gum, carbonated drinks, etc.), especially during meals. Also, when eating, keep your conversations to a minimum in order to swallow less air. Finally, take the time to enjoy your food and make sure to chew each mouthful well.
Sometimes severe constipation can make one feel bloated. Our colon is a 5 to 6 ft long organ placed around where our flat belly is. When constipated, our colon can stretch in length and width, taking over more abdomen space to make our abdomen look bigger. The result is that we feel bloated.
Constipation can be caused by lack of fiber and water, an obstruction in the colon (growth, twisted colon or other serious anatomic problems) or spastic colon due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
If you have constipation and it is caused by a deficiency in fiber or lack of proper hydration, you should increase your consumption of foods rich in:
- Soluble fiber, which absorbs water and becomes a gel during digestion. It slows down the digestion process so the nutrients can be better absorbed.
- Insoluble fiber, which acts like an intestinal broom. Soluble fiber speeds up the passage of food through the digestive tract.
Whole plant foods are rich in both types of fibers, which have other health benefits as well: fibers help lower cholesterol levels, relieve diarrhea, lowers glucose levels, reduce the pain of hemorrhoids, etc. You should also increase your intake of fluids like water or eat fruits with high water content to increase hydration.
Additionally, physical activity helps with colonic motility and with that helps alleviate constipation.
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS can cause constipation, abdominal pain or diarrhea. 96% of people suffering from IBS experience bloating. The cause for IBS could lie in food sensitivities or allergies, such as being lactose-intolerant or gluten sensitive, or in you having a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth ( SIBO).
The best way to prevent or minimize IBS symptoms is by eliminating certain foods from your diet. Many people with IBS improve their symptoms by changing their diets to remove foods they are allergic to, having more soluble fiber and less insoluble fiber, as well as minimizing fatty foods and carbonated drinks.
You can also:
- Avoid artificial sweeteners as they alter gut microbiota and cause metabolic abnormalities;
- Eat more cooked or steamed vegetables than raw vegetables and salads;
- Try high quality probiotics, especially if they contain Bif dobacterium infantis, digestive enzymes for those who need them, peppermint oil and tea, and herbal extract Iberogast.
The best thing to do to avoid bloating is to get to know your body, from your allergies, sensitivities, abnormalities in gut function, and infections. Even small dietary and lifestyle changes can go a long way in improving your health and overall well-being.Katja Breceljnik is a Clinical Nutritionist who runs the blog More Than An Apple. She graduated from the California College of Natural Medicine and has received a certificate in NeuroEndocrine Regulation & Anti-Aging. She is a passionate advocate for healthy living in a dirty city. She has helped many people with both reversing their symptoms and gaining understanding of the connection between their symptoms and the cause.
Main Photo Credit: Madiz/Shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net