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  • Writer's picturejulietgoodwin

Do you suffer with bloating?





Abdominal bloating is a common issue which affects most people at some point, but for some it can be a very uncomfortable daily occurrence.


There are a myriad of causes, some simple, some more complicated. It could be down to the way you eat, rushing, on the go, swallowing lots of air, wearing tight gym wear, or maybe it's a sign of a gastrointestinal disorder, food intolerance, or perhaps your hormones & the thyroid require extra attention.


In this article, I have addressed some (not all) of the common causes, with some effective and simple recommendations to help prevent or reduce bloating. It is important to identify the cause in order to target the correct support. Many of these tips can be very helpful; it’s never usually just one thing, but often a mix of diet, eating style, lifestyle, stress management & much more.


If bloating persists, or does not respond to simple changes, it is important to see a medical professional for examination to exclude more serious possibilities.


Some common causes of bloating (include, but not limited to):


  • Stress

  • Fluctuating hormone levels especially during peri/menopause

  • Gas accumulation

  • Bacterial imbalance in the intestines

  • Inadequate digestion

  • Low activity levels

  • Food intolerances

  • Constipation

  • Underactive thyroid

  • ‘Grazing’ all the time

  • Poor sleep affects digestion

  • IBD & IBS

  • Tight clothing particularly workout leggings!

      

Stress


  • When we are stressed the body is in a ‘fight or flight’ state, producing stress hormones to help deal with the dangerous situation. Processes such as digestion that aren't essential for physical exertion are not a priority.


  • Blood flow to the gut, intestinal motility, intestinal permeability, digestive enzyme production and protective mucus secretion are all affected by stress. This can lead to not only bloating, but also: nausea, difficulty swallowing, indigestion, heartburn or diarrhoea.


  • Normal function of the gut returns once the perceived threat has passed. However, with chronic or ongoing stress the digestive system remains compromised, making it difficult to digest food effectively, resulting in regular bloating.


Hormones


  • Fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone, as well as decline, particularly during the peri/menopause affect digestion.


  • Low oestrogen in peri/menopause affects the flow of bile which slows transit time in the bowel, so it is sluggish and prone to constipation and cramping. Less bile also means more flatulence.


  • The progesterone increase during the luteal phase (leading up to a period) results in slower digestion, water retention and bloating


Compromised Digestion


  • Eating in a rushed manner, not chewing adequately all contribute to inadequate production of digestive enzymes and stomach acid. As well as insufficient bile secretion, this will impair the breakdown of food in the digestive tract.


  • Inefficient digestion and malabsorption of carbohydrates, particularly complex sugars like oligosaccharides and polyols, can lead to their fermentation by gut bacteria & cause bloating and gas.


  • Poor digestion and imbalanced gut bacteria can compromise the integrity of the intestinal lining, leading to increased permeability. This can result in undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria to enter the bloodstream, triggering an immune response and inflammation which will exacerbate bloating.


Constipation & Gas 


  • The most common cause of abdominal bloating is the accumulation of gas in the digestive system, which can result from swallowing air while eating or drinking, consuming excessive gas-producing foods e.g. beans, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, carbonated beverages, fermented foods/drinks or from bacterial fermentation in the colon.


  • Infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stool can cause the abdomen to feel bloated and uncomfortable. When stool remains in the colon for an extended period, it can ferment, producing gas and leading to bloating.


Tips to help reduce bloating:


  • Find ways to support stress; meditation, yoga, breath work, be in nature, exercise, connect with others, do what brings you joy.

  • Take a few deep breaths before eating, try to be relaxed, in a calm environment & chew well.

  • Limit water intake at meals 

  • Aim to have 3-4 hour gaps between meals to allow the gut to carry out maintenance

  • Limit raw foods, cooked is more easily digested

  • Get outside & move in some capacity everyday, avoid over-exercising.

  • Support sleep by avoiding screens before bed, keep room cool, dark and have a relaxing bath

  • Track patterns with bloating and foods eaten

  • Increase soluble fibre e.g oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots and psyllium in the phase leading up to your period. 

  • Be careful of a quick increase in fibre foods as this can result in bloating too! Build up slowly.

  • Increase fruit, vegetables, and hydrate (1.5-2l daily dependent on activity). 

  • Kiwis and ground flaxseed (if tolerated) are good for constipation

  • Seek advice from a registered health professional for support with hormonal and thyroid imbalances if identified.


Some people respond well to peppermint oil (capsules), of which there is clinical evidence to show it reduces cramping, bloating and gas. However it is not advisable for everyone, particularly those who suffer with reflux (GERD).


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