In the year to February 2016, Mintel research found that 86% of all British adults had experienced some form of gastrointestinal (GI) issue. These GI issues cover a wide range of everyday complaints and include gas, bloating, flatulence, indigestion, diarrhoea, heartburn, acid reflux, stomach ulcers, nervous stomach, constipation, stomach cramps and IBS to name a few.
Overall, the agency found that the top three digestive symptoms were gas, bloating or flatulence (62%), indigestion (53%), closely followed by diarrhoea (50%).
Since gas (or wind) and flatulence often go hand in glove with bloating, let’s talk bloating. If you’re prone to eating meals and bloating to the point where you look eight or nine months pregnant, this article will help you uncover what’s behind this.
What is bloating?
Bloating happens when there is a build-up of gas in the digestive tract, and you’ll know when you have it as the abdomen becomes distended and enlarged.
You’ll experience feeling full and may find yourself unbuttoning that top button on your jeans as your tummy expands and your clothing feels more restrictive. Bloating may also be associated with abdominal pain, discomfort or cramping.
Bloating following a meal is a vital sign of an impaired digestive system, and any attempt to prevent or reduce bloat should involve looking at the underlying cause.
Why am I bloated?
Now that we know that bloating is a build-up of gas in the digestive tract, we can probably appreciate that there are several possible reasons why you may experience bloating.
When the microbes in your gut make a meal of undigested food, they produce and release gases as a by-product.
Anything that impairs the digestive process can lead to undigested food making its way into the intestines. This includes a lack of or low digestive enzymes, as in lactose-intolerant people. Stomach acid is an essential factor in protein digestion in our bodies. Low stomach acid can lead to undigested food.
In addition, infections with a parasite, an overgrowth of microbes in the small intestine (known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO) or an imbalance in the bacterial populations of the microbiota (known as dysbiosis) can also lead to bloating.
Finally, hormonal imbalances, stress, eating too quickly and eating on the go are all factors that can contribute to poor digestion, increasing the likelihood that bloating will occur.
Foods that may contribute to bloating
Some food may also make some individuals feel more bloated because they are more likely to produce gas. These include foods in the beans and legumes family such as chickpeas and lentils, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and Brussel sprouts and sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol, commonly found in sugar-free foods.
Fizzy drinks and beer may also increase bloating.
If you’re looking for remedies to address your bloating concerns, here are a few solutions:
- Pick the right environment – For proper digestion to occur, you should be in a relaxed and calm state to eat. Eating on the go and being stressed or eating in a stressful environment will pull you away from the “rest and digest” state that your body needs to be in to properly digest and absorb the foods you’ve eaten — increasing your risk of bloating during or following the meal.
- Chew your food – Alongside eating in a more mindful state, you’ll also want to chew your food thoroughly. Thorough chewing, at least 30 times for each mouthful of food, makes it easier for digestive enzymes in your mouth to work their magic. As they have a smaller surface area on which to act, allowing for a more efficient breakdown before the food matter makes its way down into the stomach.
- Investigate food sensitivities and intolerances – If you find that certain foods you eat are causing you to bloat. It might be time to investigate whether you have any sensitivities or intolerances. This can be done safely and conveniently at home using the gold-standard elimination diet. An elimination diet is a short-term approach that helps you zero in on foods that may be causing specific digestive reactions and other health issues by eliminating particular types of food. An elimination diet is something we help our clients with at The Thrive Practice and forms the basis of our gut transformation programme. This short-term dietary intervention should be completed under the supervision of a health professional. Alternatively, it’s also possible to run food sensitivity tests to assess food intolerances and sensitivities.
- Eat more fibre – eating foods higher in fibre can help slow the transit time of food through the GI tract. This allows more time for digestive enzymes and juices to act on the food, reduces the risk of undigested food in the digestive tract and as a result reduces bloating. But go easy when increasing fibre in your diet, and remember to stay hydrated.
- Choose your drink wisely – the bubbles in fizzy drinks, beer, Prosecco and Champagne are by their very nature a gas. So if you’re trying to avoid gas in your digestive tract, it would make sense to reduce or stop drinking sparkling drinks.
HOW THE THRIVE PRACTICE CAN HELP
You may still struggle with persistent bloating even after trying some of the above remedies. If that’s the case, there may be a need to address other digestive issues, a hormonal imbalance or dietary or lifestyle practices that may be worsening bloating.
At The Thrive Practice, we work with our clients to help them uncover any underlying issues exacerbating their digestive concerns. Through an extensive dietary and lifestyle assessment, a comprehensive stool analysis and other functional gut health tests, we can help identify parasitic infections, bacterial imbalances and impaired digestive function. We then work with clients to design a programme using a proprietary protocol that incorporates dietary recommendations, stress management, antimicrobials, supplements and probiotics so they can resolve these issues and take control of their life again.
Watch the masterclass to discover the 5 step framework we personalise for use with our clients to resolve digestive issues.