Abdominal bloating is a condition, where your stomach feels uncomfortably full, tight, gaseous, and visibly distended or swollen. These days it has become a common problem as more and more people experience it on a daily basis without even eating a large meal. However, by figuring out the reasons behind your bloating you can take simple steps to keep bloating at bay.
Bloating is often accompanied by stomach pain, flatulence, belching, burping and stomach gurgles. To avoid these uncomfortable symptoms you must first discover the factors that are causing production of extra gas and distension.
Here is the list of common reasons you might be having bloated stomach and how you can prevent it by making some simple changes:
- Indigestion of Foods: Digestion is one of the most important functions of your body to break down food and produce energy to carry out its myriad functions. However, some foods can be hard to digest and induce bloating:
- Whole grains, beans, lentils: These foods contain indigestible sugars called oligosaccharides that can cause bloating and gas problems.
- Certain fruits and vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower), carrots, prunes, apricots contain sugars and starches that may cause bloating.
- Dairy products: Milk and milk products are hard to digest for many people and cause bloating.
- Sugar substitutes: Artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup added in processed foods are difficult to digest and can cause bloating.
- Fatty foods: As fat in your food is digested slowly, it sits in your stomach for long and makes you feel uncomfortable.
To prevent bloating, add herbs and spices (ginger, cayenne pepper, lemon and cinnamon) that enhance your digestive fire. Also, don’t drink water or other cold drinks with meals, as these can dilute digestive enzymes and impede the digestion.
- Poor Eating Habits: How you eat your food has an impact on your digestion:
- Overeating: It is the most common cause of feeling uncomfortably full and bloated. Overeating creates indigestion, as body struggle to digest all the extra food you have taken. Actually, it takes 20 minutes for satiety signals to reach your brain and reduce appetite. So, to avoid being bloated stop eating when you are almost but not completely full. Also, eat smaller portions 4-5 times a day to ease digestion.
- Eating too fast: When you eat too fast you don’t chew properly and add the risk of bloating after a meal. So, eat slowly and chew well, besides helping in your digestion, this will prevent overeating.
- Swallowing Air: The other most common cause of bloating is swallowed air. Some of your habits can increase the amount of air you swallow such as fizzy drinks, drinking through a straw, chewing gum, sucking on hard candy. Besides limiting intake of carbonated beverages and chewing gums, you can try sitting down (in an upright position) while eating, chew with your mouth closed and avoid talking.
- Food Intolerance: Certain foods (wheat or gluten, dairy, FODMAPs) cause production of too much gas in sensitive individuals. People with Coeliac disease can’t absorb gluten (wheat, barley and rye); likewise, people with lactose intolerance can’t absorb lactose (dairy products) and often suffer from diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fatigue with bloating.In Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) people are sensitive to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols (FODMAPs), which start fermenting in the intestine and trigger bloating. To find out, if you have food intolerance, keep a food diary for a couple of weeks, note down what you eat and drink, and when you suffer bloating most. Once you know you are intolerant of certain food avoiding or limiting that food should help.
- Constipation: A common digestive complaint with unpleasant symptoms like bloating, stomach cramps and slightly swollen tummy. In constipation, the waste left over builds up in your colon and gas formed during digestion gets trapped behind these slow moving stools, which gives you a bloated feeling. Prevent constipation with a fibre-rich diet, smaller more regular meals, drinking lots
of water and regular exercise. Just a 20-30 minute walk everyday can improve your bowel function.
- Gut Bacteria Imbalance: Significant overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in your body disrupts the balance in your gut. This modulation in the composition of your gut flora disturbs digestion and triggers symptoms like stomach bloating, belching and excessive gas. To restore balance you need to encourage growth of friendly gut flora by including prebiotic (whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits) and probiotic foods in your diet. Also explore natural alternatives of antibiotics, as these pills kill both healthy and unhealthy bacteria in your gut.
• Microbiome: This is a new and very relevant area of human health. We have over 100 trillion micro organisms living in commensal style (eating at our dinner table) in our body. The distribution and ratio of these organisms has a huge impact on our physical and mental health and ability to digest our food. Many people suffer from not enough acid in the stomach (hypochlorhydria). This leads to problems throughout digestion. Many people take antacids for this problem, when in fact the problem could be not enough acid. Try taking one to two tablespoons of pure lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in a glass of water with your meal to see if this improves your digestion and bloating. As always, we recommend you work with your doctor.
- Water retention: There can be many reasons why your cells hold onto too much water. One reason is you are eating too much processed foods, high in sodium that cause electrolyte imbalance and water retention. Another is you are not drinking enough water that’s when your body holds onto more water. So drink plenty of water, it prevents bloating by facilitating proper digestion of food, maintaining balance of gut flora and flushing out wastes from the body.
- Hormonal Changes (PMS For Women): Often bloating is accompanied with menstruation, as during the last two weeks of menstrual cycle rising levels of hormones cause water retention and digestive issues like constipation. To ease discomfort eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated and avoid processed foods.
- Late Dinner: Eating dinner just before going to bed increases your chances of bloating, as food is not digested properly in a lying position. So take your dinner atleast three hours before your bed time or else take a light dinner.
- Stress: When you eat under stress you swallow more air, don’t chew properly and impede proper digestion of your food; all these leads to bloating. Practice eating mindfully by engaging all of your senses and enjoying every bite of your food.
Sometimes, persistent bloating can be a symptom of serious conditions, so consult your doctor.