Does your stomach sometimes get so bloated that it is uncomfortable or so visibly swollen that you look pregnant? You are not the only one. Abdominal Bloating is a common complaint by both men, women and children these days due to poor diet, stress, side effects of some medication or exposure to pollutants. However, bloating should not be ignored as it may indicate the start of digestive disorders, allergies, autoimmune conditions or even cancer. In this article, I will outline the common causes of bloating and what to do about treating it.
What is abdominal bloating?
Abdominal bloating is a condition in which the abdomen feels uncomfortably full and gaseous, and may also be visibly swollen. Having a bloated stomach is different from gaining fat mass around your middle or water retention, as bloating is temporary and mostly caused by air becoming stuck around your abdomen, making it distended.
Usually, it can be cleared up by making simple nutrition and lifestyle changes, but if you also get other symptoms such as those listed below then it would be worth visiting your qualified health professional
When you’re feeling bloated, check for other symptoms, including:
- A fever
- Skin rashes or hives
- Watery eyes, itchy throat and other signs of allergic reaction
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Vomiting or nausea
- Blood in your urine or stool
- Unintentional weight loss
- Irregular periods
- Pain around your lymph nodes, including in your groin, throat or armpits
- Difficulty concentrating
Six common causes of bloating
- Digestive issues
The most common cause of bloating. Most people dealing with various functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, ulcerative colitis and coeliac disease have bloating, gas and other symptoms.
Constipation can cause stool to remain in the intestines, leaving you with a hard-feeling stomach, pain, discomfort and gas. The main reasons for constipation are stress, a low fibre diet, not drinking enough water and not being active
- Fluid Retention
Sometimes bodily fluids can build up in the body, including near the abdomen or pelvis area, which causes excess bloating and temporary weight gain. Reducing alcohol and lowering salt in your diet may assist.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
High levels of abnormal bacteria that are living in the digestive tract, usually in the bowel where they can accumulate after taking antibiotics or due to inflammation or poor nutrition or digestion can cause SIBO. Normally, different strains of bacteria are in proper balance in the colon, which helps with absorption of essential nutrients, but when harmful bacteria invade and take over, damage to the stomach lining can occur along with numerous symptoms. Some foods are capable of causing SIBO and related sensitivities including FODMAPS that can ferment abnormally during digestion.
- Food allergies
Food allergies or food sensitivities/intolerances (like lactose or gluten) may cause gas and bloating. Foods most likely to cause gas include dairy products, gluten-containing foods (most bread, pasta, rolls, cereals, etc.) and certain kinds of carbohydrates called FODMAPs which are not being properly broken down or digested.
FODMAPS are Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are specific sugars found in food, such as fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans and polyols. Because they’re not absorbed completely by the human body, they’re fermented by gut bacteria and can cause significant gastrointestinal (GI) problems.An elimination diet (carried out under the supervision of a qualified dietitian or nutritionist) can help you pinpoint which foods might cause bloating.
Lactose intolerance which is the inability to break down a type of natural sugar called lactose found in dairy products, such as milk and yoghurt. A person becomes lactose intolerant when his or her small intestine stops making enough of the enzyme lactase to digest and break down the lactose. When this happens, the undigested lactose moves into the large intestine. The bacteria that are normally present in the large intestine interact with the undigested lactose and cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhoea.
- Hormonal changes
PMS is known to cause a bloated stomach and digestive issues as it may cause constipation and fluid retention.
A rise in oestrogen levels in the early days of the menstrual cycle and as ovulation occurs, mid-cycle and more fluids and blood build-up increase the likelihood of bloating. Generally, after a period and the excess blood, fluid and tissue are shed the bloating goes away.
More severe reasons for bloating may include; Bowel obstruction, colon cancer, thyroid issues, coeliac disease, ascites, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD). A trip to a health professional is advised to start ruling things out.
Top tips to reduce bloating
- Work with a qualified naturopath and or nutritionist to pinpoint the causing of the bloating as it is most likely more than one thing. She can then prescribe the ideal nutrition, lifestyle changes and phytonutrients for the cause and symptoms.
- Eat a high fibre diet (more than 25 to 30 g a day) by consuming plenty of whole foods, including veggies, fruits, nuts/seeds, and some ancient grains or legumes.
- Heal the gut. Bone broth is anti-inflammatory and great choices for promoting gut health. As are fermented foods such as kombucha, plain acidophilus yoghurt miso and sauerkraut. Taking a high-quality probiotic will also so assist to reduce SIBO.
- Use herbs, spices and teas: Natural digestion-soothing herbs like ginger, dandelion, aloe vera and fennel have been used for thousands of years to soothe an uncomfortable belly. Many herbs act like diuretics (dandelion leaf) and help the body release extra fluid, while some, like ginger, can also assist the stomach to release its contents and relax the muscles in the digestive tract, which relieves constipation. Try eating fresh herbs such as peppermint, parsley, oregano, and rosemary, fresh ginger root, aloe vera juice, herbal teas or use essential oils. Work with a naturopath and trained medical herbalist to make up the right formula for your individual needs.
- Do not eat too quickly.
- Stop smoking.
- Reduce stress – it plays havoc with your digestion
- Get regular exercise
- Avoid foods that can produce gas:
Sugar and sweetened snacks: sugar ferments in the gut, can contribute to candida overgrowth and promotes inflammation.
Most dairy products: including those containing added sugars and artificial ingredients and others where modern-day manufacturing processes may have removed important dairy enzymes which help their breakdown in the gut
Refined grains and grain products: gluten is hard to digest for many people.
Avoid difficult-to-digest veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onion and even garlic: which contain sulphur and certain types of FODMAP carbohydrates, beans/legumes which can promote gas.
Certain types of fermentable fruit, including apples, peaches/other stone fruit and avocado
Chewing gum, artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols: including aspartame, sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol
Please do feel free to contact me and make an appointment to get to the bottom of your digestive issues, including allergies and intolerances and hormonal imbalances, or to get some advice on the best supplements and herbs for your condition.