Well, I am sure at some point in our lives that we have all experienced bloating where you look pregnant (even the men) or that you’ve put a football up your sweater, or the fact you haven’t put any weight on but still can’t pull your jeans up!
It’s not just women that suffer from bloating its also men and a swollen tummy can just become a fact of life for many. BUT when that bloating impacts on your daily life it does become a problem as well as an embarrassment!
Bloating can make life miserable – but with a few simple steps, it can be greatly reduced. If of course bloating is seriously affecting your life then you should go to see your GP and have the causes investigated as there are several reasons why we get bloated.
If your bloating tends to get worse after you have eaten bread, pizza, cakes or biscuits, then it is recommended that you get a blood test from your GP to eliminate coeliac disease as a possible cause of your discomfort.
You may have an intolerance to lactose (the inability to break down the lactose content in dairy products), which can cause bloating. Lactose intolerance is due to the absence of the enzyme lactase, needed to break down dairy products. Contact your GP for a lactose intolerance test if dairy seems to exacerbate your bloating.
A deficiency in hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) may also cause bloating and discomfort after meals. Antacids by their very nature reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach and can precipitate inefficient digestion of foods, leading to bloating and discomfort.
Please be aware that if you get sudden onset progressive and/or severe bloating of your tummy then you must go and see your GP.
With over 16 years’ experience of both being a registered colon hydrotherapist and complementary therapist plus having carried out over 20,000 consultations and treatments of colon hydrotherapy on clients that over time have become increasingly frustrated and in some cases at their wits end with their bloating, especially if they have been told…” it’s only bloating it’s not going to kill you is it?!”
How many of you out there start your day with a lovely flat tummy then by the end of the day you look pregnant…yes that includes the men, or your waistband is cutting in tummy just for some comfort. Thank god for elastic!
Once you are sure there is no serious underlying cause, it is perfectly possible to manage – and greatly improve – your symptoms with the following advice.
What is bloating?
Your intestines (both large and small) amount to approx. 9 metres long so it’s a big piece of kit! Gas naturally wants to run away and expand so by the production of excessive gas in your intestines it expands and stretches causing over inflation and distention. Bloating can also be caused by water retention and constipation.
If you think about what happens if you drop a brick on your foot…. The tissues because inflamed and irritated and it swells to protect. The same things happen in your intestines as they get more, and more gassy your tummy gets irritated and inflames so it swells.
If your intestines get irritated by processed or junk food, not chewing, gobbling your food or hoovering it up, eating too late at night or when stressed then gas gets trapped which leads to a lot of pain that can cause spasms in the bowel. Which basically is no different than a baby with colic! When the bowel goes into spasm it restricts the passage and gets narrow …thus it then results in the waste not getting through which then means you get constipated which then results in a lot of pain and discomfort, excessive amounts of gas and of course bloating…
What you then find is if the waste moves through the bowel too slowly then excessive gas caused by the bacteria in there can cause you to bloat like a balloon!
What causes bloating?
If you think of a motorway you get road works on there, car accidents and traffic jams. All resulting in slow or non-moving traffic that can sometimes last hours…especially if they shut the motorways! Your gastrointestinal tract is no different! If the waste that you have in your intestines is not able to pass through quick enough or it remains in there for too long it will create gas…probably smelly and will get irritated leading to bloating and also discomfort and pain.
Diet lacking in fibre and too many processed foods and refined carbohydrates, lack of fluids…water that it, too much alcohol, lack of exercise and also stress (this is a big contributory factor)!
Factors that may contribute to your bloating:
- Not chewing your food properly…..
This is a big one…digestion starts in your mouth as the salvia helps breaks down food. As soon as our senses are switched on and our mouth literally starts to water we product enzymes in the saliva which helps break down your food along with your teeth! We should in theory chew at least 20-30 times. I frequently see chunks of unchewed food as clients have literally inhaled their food…I had whole grapes in someone once, so by not chewing it can cause gas and bloating.
- Eating too much-processed food
If your diet is largely made up of ready meals that you can pop in the microwave or highly processed foods you are more likely to excessive amounts of gas and irritations in your stomach and intestines. The main reason is a lot of ready-made meals are very low in fibre. We need approx. 35g of fibre a day. They are also high in fat, sugar and salt. Limit these where you can.
- Eating too late at night
Where you can avoid eating and drinking too late ideally nothing after 7 pm as this is when our gastric juices are at their weakest. If you do eat late at night have a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in warm water or take a digestive enzyme prior to eating. We should eat our largest meal in the middle of the day but for many people it’s in the evening.
If you have had antibiotics or are taking medications such as antacids, steroids or opioid painkillers then there is a good chance that your gut bacteria will be out of balance with ‘friendly’ bacteria. Of course with antibiotics its not just course we have for ourselves there’s plenty of antibiotics in some foods we eat and water of course. Even if someone flushes their antibiotics down the loo or sink it goes into our water supply… Dysbiosis of the gut which means the environment of the gut changes so levels of microbial products such as methane and hydrogen can ramp up making smells. I would highly recommend a 3-month course of probiotics should this sound like you.
- Eating when stressed
If you are stressed and eating this will play havoc with your brain as it is naturally preparing you for flight or fight so your digestive system shuts down. Which is why it’s so important to be in a calm and relaxed state when eating otherwise you have a risk of bloating. Digestive enzymes prior to eating can really help reduce the risk of this.
- Eating too much fruit
Fruit is brilliant, natural and very tasty! However, it does still contain sugars albeit natural ones in the form of fructose so eating too much fruit (no more then 2/3portions a day)
- Eating too much gluten
Should you suffer with bloating, pain and gas after eating bread, cakes, crisps, pizza, pasta, biscuits and cereals then it is advisable to get a blood test to rule out coeliac disease or alternatively I offer several gut diagnostic tests at Complete Health Clinic.
- Intolerance to lactose
If you eat or drink diary and find that you get bloated or have smelly wind it could be that that your small intestine does not make enough of the enzyme called lactase. Your body needs lactase to break down or digest lactose.
- Intolerance to fructose
Fructose is a form of sugar and is used typically in many processed foods and drinks as well as honey, wheat, fruits, and table sugars. High fructose corn syrup is widely used by food manufacturers primarily because it’s a cheap ingredient. Fructose is broken down and digested in the small intestine, in however you are intolerant to fructose then once the waste is in the colon then the bacteria will ferment it and create bloating along with painful gas
- Taking antacids
If you take regular antacids for complaints such as indigestion, heartburn or acid reflux then over a period of time they may reduce the amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. By this happening then viruses, bacteria’s and parasites are more susceptible to enter your intestines causing inflammation, bloating and irritation.
If you have been away to any far-flung exotic places or if you eat raw fish or have animals such as cats or dogs then your bloating maybe a result of parasites. Some of these are easily detected such as pinworms as you can see them in the human eye others of-course you will need a stool test doing.
- Not enough enzymes in your gut that help digest your foods
As we grow older the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes which help with digestion and absorption of taking in nutrients start to decline and slow down. Again, if you are low in enzymes and acid then it’s going to result in pathogens getting into your intestines and causing the excessive amounts of gases, inflammation or pain. I would highly recommend digestive enzymes before meals to help support your intestines, pancreas, liver and stomach in the digestion process.
Hormones! The changes of these during the menopause whether you are peri-menopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal can affect the transit time of the bowel and also with the production of oestrogen slowing down then it can lead to constipation and bloating.
How you can manage bloating
Bloating may be caused by dysbiosis – an imbalance in the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the digestive system, and food fermenting rather than being optimally digested. Some foods sensitise the gut, and so it is worth experimenting with eliminating these foods completely from your diet:
- Cow’s milk
- Citrus fruit
In addition, I advise my patients to avoid the following foods which can irritate the digestive tract:
- Pork, beef, veal, sausages and processed meats
- Gluten grains: in addition to wheat – barley, spelt, kamut, rye
- Soybean products
- Sugar and sweeteners such as Sorbitol
- Fructose syrups, maple syrup and sugar
- Dried fruit, packaged fruit juices
- Alcoholic drinks
- Look carefully at labels for ‘hidden’ ingredients – avoid MSG, rusk, wheat starch, bran, and malt.
Healing foods to try
- The goal of a Bloating Plan is to optimise digestion, manage excess gas, heal inflammation, reduce abdominal pain and ensure the levels of “good” bacteria outweigh the “bad”. The following foods are useful additions to your diet:
- Add lean protein to each meal or snack. Try some of these combinations: salmon with leafy greens and quinoa or rice; eggs with tomatoes; fruit sprinkled with nuts and seeds. If eating animal protein, look for organic or free-range options.
- Choose cold-pressed oils, such as olive oil, sesame seed oil.
- Get plenty of fibre from non-starchy vegetables, flax-seed and fruits. However, don’t eat an excess of fruit – the high fructose (fruit sugar) content mean that fruits ferment in the intestines, creating unpleasant gases and bloating.
- Get essential fats from nuts, seeds, oily fish, coconut oil and olive oil.
- Drink water, green tea, lemon juice and herbal teas. Avoid all fizzy drinks, including sparkling water – you don’t want to add more gas to your system.
- Choose non-gluten grains: rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, tapioca.
- Try yam, soy, chickpeas and anything with gluten-free flour.
- Replace cow’s milk with rice or oat milk, or try goats’ or sheep milk – they contain casein, which can be a problem for some, but they are worth a go all the same.
- Use dairy-free spreads: nut or seed butters, or coconut butter.
- Ground flax-seed, fennel, fenugreek and aloe vera all help to soothe the gut.
- Increase your intake of filtered water to 2-3 litres per day.
- Culinary herbs such as sage, papaya and pineapple are antiparasitic and so help balance good and bad bacteria in your digestive system.
- Garlic and caprylic acid are antifungal, so also help with bacteria balance.
- Following an alkalizing diet can be beneficial – the diet includes vegetables, green juices and some green powders.
Tailoring your supplements
- In my clinical experience, bloating almost always responds to a daily supplement of live bacteria (probiotics). A good high-strength multi-strain live bacteria (probiotic) containing multiple strains and colony-forming units, is the product I recommend most often to my clinic patients to re-colonise their gut with “friendly” bacteria.
- The second most important supplement is a digestive enzyme, to help the body digest food so that painful bloating is less likely to occur. I recommend a product with added calcium to a plant-derived Digestive Enzymes to give your digestive system extra support. Take Live Bacteria with your breakfast and a Digestive Enzyme with your main meal in the evening – I’ve found this to be the best combination of supplements for most cases of uncomfortable bloating.
- If constipation accompanies your bloating, then a daily fibre supplement can help regulate your bowel movements. Fibre tablets contain four types of vegetable-derived fibre to increase the density of your bowel movements, helping you to go to the loo comfortably every day.
- Finally, if embarrassing, smelly wind accompanies your bloating, an activated charcoal supplement is advised. Two capsules of Charcoal capsules before, and after, each meal will help break up your gas into tiny bubbles so that it can be eliminated more gently and comfortably, before you suffer uncomfortable bloating. Taking Garlic tablets alongside Charcoal will help address any offensive smell by addressing the toxins in your gut that are responsible for the bloating, and the odour.
- You might like to try a Tummy Tea, blended with the herbs and spices that I use every day in my clinic. Drink it after meals to aid digestion and help prevent bloating. It’s naturally caffeine-free so will soothe rather than irritate your digestive tract – drink it daily for a little extra support for your digestion.
Lifestyle tips to banish bloating
You may need to implement lifestyle changes in order to successfully manage your symptoms. Try these ideas which I recommend to my patients:
- Think before you eat! Remember that good digestion begins in the mouth, not in the stomach. Chew food thoroughly, at least 20 times, ensuring plenty of saliva (where important digestion enzymes are contained) is mixed with the food before swallowing.
- Look at your portion size
- Reduce insoluble fibre in-take, such as bran or wholemeal bread or pasta as this can sometimes ferment and give you wind.
- Keep a food diary of what you eat and what effect it has on you. This will help to fine-tune a diet that meets your needs and keeps your symptoms at bay.
- Colon hydrotherapy will help remove solid waste matter and reduce excessive intestinal gas. This treatment will help relieve spasms in the bowel and reduce bloating and abdominal pain.
- A course of colon hydrotherapy treatments can also help if parasites or fungal yeast overgrowth in the intestines are a problem – the colonic treatment has the mechanical action of washing out parasites and ‘yeasts’ in the large bowel. I sometimes use herbs and extracts to implant during the colonic treatment to further treat parasites and yeasts. This cleansing with colonic water and herbs can have the effect of ‘de-pressurising’ the large bowel and facilitating the release of congestion backing up in the small intestine, giving immediate relief from bloating, gas and pain.
- Practice meditation or breathing exercises to help reduce stress and anxiety to help reduce excess gas and bloating
- Take a daily probiotic and digestive enzyme prior to food especially if when you do eat you feel bloated and uncomfortable even after just a little bit of food
- Don’t chew gum – this can cause you to take in excess air, adding to your problems.
- Don’t drink water with meals. Rethink your drinks! Drink water half an hour before a meal, and an hour following a meal. Replace caffeine with herbal tea – try chamomile tea to calm the digestive system, liquorice and fennel teas are calming and soothing, and peppermint tea is useful if you’re feeling gassy – but don’t have too much as it can slow the bowel down and make you constipated. If you fancy something with a bit of fizz, try tonic water with real (not synthetic) quinine in it. It is very soothing for an irritated stomach and intestines. Try to minimise alcohol as this irritates the lining of the gut and causes bloating. Beer contains yeast and this can cause bloating and abdominal pain.
- Don’t drink carbonated drinks – the co2 in them is acidic and its air so you are taking the gas in and the artificial sweeteners can irritate your stomach and a lot of the ones with sugar in them can ferment and give you gas.
- Talk whilst you are eating as you are taking in air and not chewing food properly
- Smoke – as it can contribute to heartburn and some gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcers, and some liver disease. Smoking decreases the strength of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) that keeps the acid solution in the stomach and out of the oesophagus. Smoking decrease the strength of the LES therefore allowing stomach acids to reflux.
- Get too stressed and do try to eat when relaxed. If you are in an eating situation, but you are feeling anxious and tense with your stomach in knots already, then take small mouthfuls of food and chew thoroughly before swallowing. Have a glass of tonic water before the meal.