Bloating is a common and uncomfortable occurrence most of us experience every now and again, however feeling bloated shouldn’t have to be your norm.
There are a number of common causes of bloating and ways to determine what underlying issues trigger your symptoms. We look into some of the causes and cures so you can safely say buh-bye to bloating once and for all.
What is bloating?
Bloating is a condition that follows the consumption of food causing your abdominal area to swell or increase in size. It is usually caused by excess gas production, and/or disturbances in the movement of the muscles in the digestive system. These signs of indigestion typically cause your lower abdomen to feel tight or tender causing abdominal discomfort. To put it simply, bloating involves excessive amounts of solids, liquids or gas in your digestive system.
What causes bloating?
Although bloating can result from serious medical conditions, it is most often caused by diet and foods or ingredients you are intolerant to. It can be caused by something as trivial as swallowing too much air while eating (chewing gum is an obvious culprit), eating too fast or simply not drinking enough water prior to eating.
Food intolerances, gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease: Food sensitivities or intolerances can aggravate bloating. If you suspect you might be intolerant to a food, speak to your doctor about getting some blood work done to confirm before eliminating healthy dairy or whole grains from your diet.
Deficiency of digestive enzymes: According to nutritionist Ben Warren, “Bloating is a sign your body isn’t making enough digestive enzymes.” When your body cannot break down the macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) in your food due to inadequate enzymes, bloating occurs. To improve your digestive health, add in digestive enzymes by eating prebiotic foods and taking a high strength digestive enzyme, daily.
Poor food combinations: The source of your bloating could be down to which foods you pair with others ultimately giving your digestion a hard time. Try eating fruits standalone and avoid eating them with proteins. Combining protein with carbohydrates (AKA sugar) is also known to cause bloating.
Irregular meal times: Your discomfort could be down to your meal timing and portion sizes. If this sounds familiar, aim for regular, small and frequent meals oppose to three large meals per day.
Menstruation: Hormonal changes as a result of your cycle can increase your body’s ability to retain water causing you to experience many of the symptoms associated with bloating. Increased blood flow to the uterus can also cause discomfort and swelling in the lower abdomen. Choosing protein and potassium-rich foods like bananas, cantaloupe and tomatoes can assist with a good balance of fluids if you run into bloating during your cycle.
Constipation: Not that there’s anything new here, but constipation is known to exacerbate bloating symptoms. An increased magnesium intake, sufficient sleep, and uptake of exercise should encourage things to get moving again.
Imbalanced bacteria, parasites, and yeast: Dr Warren says “These nasty non-beneficial bacteria feed on processed foods, refined grains, sugars, preservatives, and emulsifiers, which allows them to multiply creating a colony inside the gut. These non-beneficial bacteria emit toxins, slow digestion and cause food to ferment in the small intestine, leading to stomach pains and bloating after meals.” Opting for whole foods and supplementing with pre and probiotics should make a difference over time.
Foods that trigger bloating
Cutting back on gas-producing foods is your best defense against bloating. Carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, cookies, cake, and candy can have a natural diuretic effect, meaning healthy H2O gets flushed out, making you more susceptible to symptoms. The other obvious no-no is gas-producing cruciferous vegetables.
If you’re susceptible to bloating, the avoid the following:
- Raw cruciferous vegetables like asparagus, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
- Carbonated/fizzy drinks
- Artificial sweeteners or “sugar alcohols”
- Apples and pears
- Beans and legumes
- Dairy products
- Chewing gum (by swallowing too much air)
Foods that assist de-bloating
Look for foods that known to possess elements to support your digestion such as the acidity in lemons, the probiotics in yoghurt, or the anti-inflammatory properties in turmeric. These are a great go-to to tackle your bloating symptoms when it strikes. Get more of the following in your diet:
- Whole citrus fruits
- Herbal teas: green, ginger, peppermint, chamomile, dandelion, slippery elm, lemon balm, and fennel
Movements to assist de-bloating
Sometimes lying flat on a yoga mat and taking a few deep breaths before engaging in a few simple stretches can work a charm on shifting gassiness (if you catch our drift).
However, should your bloating strike when you’re outside the comfort of your home, which let’s be honest it always does, finding a spot to lie down might not be a realistic option. Fortunately, low-intensity exercise can have the same effect.
Head outdoors and do a lap of the carpark or walk to the end of the street and back until some level of comfort is restored. Alternatively, if your symptoms persist or you’re facing a more aggressive bloating spell, consider heading along to your community pool. While being seen in a swimsuit when you’re bloated is likely the last thing you feel like doing, a few lengths in a swimming pool can leave you feeling longer, leaner and less bloated. (Yay!)