It’s something that many of us deal with and struggle with … Yes, the dreaded bloating. But what is bloating and how can we deal with it? My blog today will discuss this.
What is bloating?
Abdominal bloating is caused by excess gas stored around the abdomen causing feelings of fullness and possibly a distended stomach. It can cause sufferers to feel discomfort because of the built up gas but also feelings of self-consciousness because of the look of the stomach.
What causes a bloated stomach?
There are lots of things that can cause bloating. These can include:
- Gassy foods such as beans and certain vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage
- Food intolerances such as lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance
- Changes to your diet
- Swallowing air
- Food supplements such as iron and magnesium
Sometimes, bloating can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. These include:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Diverticular Disease
- Coeliac Disease
- Cancers such as ovarian and colon
- Premenstrual Syndrome
But don’t panic. Often bloating is related to lifestyle factors so can be managed.
My Top Tips to Manage Bloating
Identify any triggers
This can be food triggers or lifestyle triggers. Keep a diary of when you bloat and what you ate, what you were doing and how you were feeling around the time of the bloating. This will help you to narrow down factors and pinpoint the cause(s).
Try an elimination diet
If you find that your bloating seems to centre around meal times, it may benefit you to try an elimination diet. This is when you cut out a certain food for a period of time (usually 2-4 weeks) to see if there is a reduction in symptoms. You will then re-introduce this food to see if your symptoms return. This is the main way of determining whether you have a sensitivity or intolerance to certain foods. This is a process I went through myself. My bloating was constant and horrendous until I eliminated gluten in the elimination diet. It can take a while as you should eliminate and re-introduce foods one at a time. It is best to do this under the guidance of a dietician or nutritionist.
You could also consider the FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. They are a group of simple and complex carbohydrates that some people find difficult to digest. It is often recommended to people suffering from IBS to try and figure out their triggers. You can discuss the use of this diet with a dietician or nutritionist.
Monitor your supplements
If you take supplements to boost your nutritional needs, keep an eye to see if your bloating occurs around the time of taking them. Some nutrients taken in supplement form can be a struggle for us to digest. I personally find magnesium in supplement form gives me cramping and bloating. Some nutrients are available in oral spray or transdermal spray form which is meant to avoid the stomach and be absorbed straight into the blood stream. It may also be worth visiting a dietician or nutritionist to see if you need all these extra supplements and whether you are getting enough from your food.
Try stress relief techniques
Stress is a big cause of digestive issues and bloating. The theory is that when we experience stress and anxiety, our body goes into “Fight or Flight” mode which stops our body from digesting food properly until it reaches a state of “Rest and Digest”. So, it is important we implement some stress relieving techniques into our daily lives. These can include:
- Exercise (e.g. yoga)
- Colouring books
- A warm bath
- A therapeutic or aromatherapy massage
- Reading a book
- Listening to music
Sit down to eat your food and eat slowly
Eating on the go can make it difficult for our bodies to fully digest the food we eat causing us to bloat. Aim to sit down while eating your food then go for a walk afterwards to aid digestion. Take your time eating. Rushing a meal can cause you to swallow excess air while taking bites causing bloating. A simple trick is to not put another piece of food onto your fork until you have swallowed the bite you are currently chewing.
Exercise can greatly improve our digestion and associated issues. Yoga is particularly helpful when suffering from bloating as you bend into shapes that can help relieve trapped wind. Make sure you allow an hour in between eating to prevent indigestion.
Try a soothing tea
There are lots of teas out there that can help sooth a bloated stomach. I like to start my day with a mixture of hot water and juice from a squeezed lemon as it is said to help stimulate the digestive system, especially if you have it first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. Peppermint and camomile teas are also supposed to be helpful in soothing a bloated tum.
Go see a doctor if you’re concerned
As I said, most of the time, bloating isn’t something to be concerned about and can be managed with lifestyle changes. However, if you notice other symptoms such as diarrhoea, blood in your stools or diarrhoea, weight loss, etc. you should go see your GP to get blood tests and possibly a referral for further testing.
I hope my little tips can help you and your tum live a happier life