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About Bloating

Bloating is intestinal gas that can cause extreme discomfort and pain. As uncomfortable as bloating is, it can affect everyone at some time. And because bloating can have several causes, we often donít know where it came from or what to do about this discomfort.

Causes of Bloating

  • A lack of digestive enzymes
  • Abdominal infections
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Calcium supplements
  • Candida or yeast infection (Yeast Sensitivity)
  • Constipation
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Digestive tract disorders
  • Eating too little protein
  • Alcohol, excessive consumption
  • Food allergy
  • Food poisoning, giardia
  • Fructose sensitivity
  • Gluten intolerance (Gluten Sensitivity)
  • Hernias
  • High salt intake
  • Improper abdominal contractions (spasms)
  • Ingestion of nonabsorbable carbohydrates
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Lactase deficiency
  • Liver disease
  • Medications
  • Malabsorption caused by
    • pancreatic insufficiency
    • biliary disease
    • bacterial overgrowth in small intestine
    • celiac disease
  • Ovarian cyst
  • Pancreas disease
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Scar tissue from surgery
  • Sodas or carbonated beverages
  • Stress
  • Swallowing air when eating or drinking
  • Uterine fibroid
  • Water, if you don't drink enough
As you can see there are many possible causes, some are serious but most are not. Either way it's worth paying attention to because treating bloating is about more than just putting an end to the discomfort. When poorly digested food passes inappropriately from the gut into the bloodstream it can contribute to inflammatory responses such as arthritis, asthma, type I diabetes and fibromyalgia.
One of the main causes of bloating and gas is food that doesn't get properly digested. Our bodies can't produce a digestive enzyme that will digest some of the things we eat. Sorbitol for example, which is common in sugar-free gum, is not absorbed by the body. Milk sugar or lactose is another food that our body has a problem digesting. And some people have a sensitivity to Fructose, the sugar in fruit. When our body doesn't have the right enzymes to completely digest a food it just feeds the bacteria that results in more gas and bloating.

It's a fact that our bodies are just not designed to process everything we can eat. If you don't respect this fact and eat ingredients that are harmful to you, it will result in undigested food fermenting in the intestines, where bacteria will feed on it and produce more bloating. It's up to you to find out your personal limits.

What to do about Bloating

Bloating can signal any of several serious digestive diseases. If feeling bloating happens every week or every day then it's a chronic condition and you should check with your doctor to find out if it is something that requires medical attention. If there is no serious medical condition then you can probably handle this problem on your own.

The first step in figuring out the cause of bloating is to find out whether it's associated with eating or drinking. Keeping track of what you eat and drink in a log or food diary will help you in a couple of ways. First it helps to identify which foods may be causing the bloating. And second, this will also tell you how often and when it occurs. Just write down everything that you eat each day and how your body reacts to it.

Food intolerances often cause bloating. Pay special attention to the following foods, they have caused bloating problems for others:
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • beans (particularly baked and dried beans)
  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • carbonated beverages
  • dairy products, including ice cream and cheese
  • dietetic foods that contain sorbitol
  • deep fried foods
  • fruit drinks
  • prunes
  • oily foods
  • onions
  • pan fried foods
  • root vegetables
  • wheat products
  • whey products
  • whole grains
And donít over eat, overeating is a common cause of bloating.

Refined carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice, are common causes of bloating. These foods break down into sugar quickly, and sugar, when worked on by acids, ferments and creates gas. Highly refined sugars cause bloating the same way that carbs do because sugar is easily fermented by bacterial and intestinal organisms, and that produces gas. Studies show that as many as 61 percent of patients who suffer from chronic bloating have detectable levels of alcohol from carbs and sugars that arenít well digested and absorbed.

Changing Your Diet

When you alter your diet you are re-training your digestive system. Altering the balance of what you normally eat can also get you bloated. If you switch to a vegetarian diet, for example, which usually means more carbs, your digestive juices and gut flora need time to adjust their output and work on the new foods you're feeding yourself.

Bloating can also be caused by a sudden increase in fiber in your diet. If this is the cause of your bloating, you might ease up on these foods and reintroduce them more gradually into your diet.

If you find a particual food that is causing bloating then the obvious answer is to give it up. But some foods are hard to give up. In such cases it is important to find a suitable substitute. If you give up wheat, for example, try eating rye bread, rice, millet, oatcakes or porridge. You can experiment with foods by cutting out a certain food for a short period (1 month) to see if that helps.

It may come as a surprise to some but you can actually loose your taste for a particular food in more ways than one. Frequent stomach bloating may be a sign that a certain food no longer agrees with you. Or that from now on your body will have a problem digesting it. When we eat foods that are not suitable for us the body still tries to process it but the waste products are not the same. Different gases may be produced, in larger quantities and at higher temperatures than usual resulting in bloating.

Regular consumption of a limited number of foods can contribute to food sensitivities, so it may help to widen your diet with other foods and rotate them in your diet.

If bloating is the result of constipation, increase your water and fiber intake. Attempt to drink at least eight glasses of water daily. Water helps to soften stools, which relieves constipation and abdominal bloating.

A simple reflex like swallowing could be the cause of bloating. Some people swallow more air as a result of stress (gulp!), or simply when they eat! Pay attention to the tilt of your head when eating. If you are looking down when you swallow, you are probably swallowing air ahead of that food. Chewing gum and smoking can also make you swallow more air, aggravating your discomfort. And avoid talking while youíre eating to prevent bloating.

Medications for Bloating

The most common over-the-counter products for bloating and distention relief are;
  • Alka Seltzer
  • Beano
  • Flatulex
  • Gas-x
  • Midol
  • Mylanta
Most bloating medicines work by providing your body with enzymes that help digest the sugars in carbohydrates. A lack of these digestive enzymes can cause problems for people, causing indigestion, gas, and bloating.

Doctors believe that bloating is usually the result of an intestinal disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Although the cause of IBS is unknown, it seems to involve abnormal movements and contractions of intestinal muscles and increased pain sensitivity in the intestine. IBS can give a sensation of bloating because of increased sensitivity to gas.

There are also natural remedies or home remedies you can try for bloating.

Have a cup of Tea for Bloating

Many of these teas are antispasmodics that can ease digestive distress. Sip a cup after each meal. You might want to avoid foods that are too hot or too cold. When eating or drinking foods that are extreme in temperature you may unconsciously draw in and swallow more air.

Exercises for Bloating

Exercise may help release hormones that encourage bowel activity. The mind/body connection between exercise and digestion is well documented. That age-old wisdom of going for a walk after a meal really does work wonders. Other exercises work too, massage and some Yoga movements can relieve bloating or at least make you feel more comfortable. They can work directly on the stomach and intestines. Any of the twist poses massage the digestive tract. Here's a couple you can try:

A simple yoga twist is to sit on a straight-backed, armless chair, facing sideways, with both feet flat on the floor. Twist your torso to face the back of the chair, keeping your pelvis square to the side. Exhale during the twist. Then do the other side. Do the twists two hours before or after eating.

Another exercise to relieve bloating is to lie flat on your back and bring your left knee to your chest and hug it to the count of 20. Release and repeat with your right knee. Alternate knees for 5 times or more, depending on the severity of symptoms.

Try to take regular exercise. Even a 20-30 minute brisk walk four times a week can improve your bowel function.

Women and Bloating

For pre-menopausal women, bloating is often related to the menstrual cycle and the level of hormones called Pre-menstrual Tension (PMT). Bloating is common in women but if the problem is persistent, itís advisable to seek medical advice because it could be early symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Women over 50 need to be especially cautious and consult a doctor about any chronic bloating.

Many women think that drinking too much water will make them puffy but just the opposite is true. Although itís common to associate water with being bloated, drinking more water can flush sodium salts from the body, and that reduces bloating.

Notes on Bloating

If home remedies and over-the-counter products don't give you relief, your doctor can prescribe a stronger medication to prevent bloating.

Reducing stress is an effective means of easing the bloating caused by IBS.

Sometimes the contractions of your digestive system do not synchronize properly and can cause your intestinal wall to be pulled one way or another.

Eating small regular meals ensure that the stomach never gets overloaded. Irregular meal patterns and an unexpected large meal with a lot of fluid can end up stretching the stomach muscles causing it to expand and bloat. Skipping breakfast and then eating a large lunch can have the same effect. For best digestion, meals should be in a relaxed environment. Eat slowly with your mouth closed and chew each mouthful thoroughly, especially if the food is high in fiber.

A common mistake people make is thinking that popping antacids will relieve bloating (and gas). Thatís not always the case because the symptoms of insufficient acid are identical to those for excess acid (heartburn). If you gulp antacids, you could actually worsen the acid imbalance by sending food that isn't broken down into the small intestines. That leads to bloating, cramps and diarrhea. By reducing the proper amount of acid in your stomach you lose the ability to kill off the germs and unfriendly bacteria you consume along with your food. If you think you're low on stomach acid, you can supplement them with a vegetarian digestive enzyme (available in health food stores).

And finally, if you canít figure out the cause of your bloating, you can get a stool test at your doctorís office. This will identify any imbalances and your doctor can tell you what to do about them.

Read feedback about gas and bloating

Last post January 26, 2014


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