Bloating 101: from the Causes to the Solutions

That over-stuffed feeling is awful at any time, let alone when you haven’t even eaten a big enough meal for it to be justified!

Bloating is the “over-stuffed” sensation that we experience when our stomach is filled with air or gas.

It can be horribly uncomfortable.

To understand how we can get rid of bloating, we need to first understand why it happens.

What are the Causes?

Bloating occurs when our gastrointestinal tract becomes filled with air or gas. This may be due to ingested air, or through the production of gas internally by our gut bacteria. It may be triggered by the food you eat, especially if you have food intolerances (for example a lactose intolerance). Some other simple reasons for bloating may include:

  • Overeating
  • Reflux
  • Weight Gain
  • Menstruation (in some women)
  • Constipation
  • Swallowing air (such as when you chew gum, smoke or simply eat too fast)

More serious causes may include:

  • Infection
  • Inflammation of the gut lining 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Liver disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Blockage in your bowel or bladder
  • Cancer
  • Some medicines

It’s important to know that temporary bloating usually isn’t a cause for concern. However, if it occurs frequently it may be worth exploring with your dietitian or health care practitioner.

How to Prevent Bloating

There are a number of ways to avoid getting bloated. You want to address both the presence of excess air, and the production of excess gas to make sure you tackle the problem from both sides. 

Firstly, to avoid ingesting excess air:

  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Quit smoking 
  • Avoid using straws for drinking (bonus – benefit the environment!)
  • Avoid drinking fizzy drinks 
  • Slow down your meal times, and chew your food properly (15 – 20 times each mouthful)

To prevent excess production of gas in the stomach:

  • Avoid or reduce foods that are common culprits: cabbage, brussels sprouts, beans, lentils, sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower
  • Avoid eating and drinking foods that contain fructose or artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol or maltitol (these are often found in sugar-free foods)/
  • If your bloating is due to constipation, eat more foods that contain fiber. Some easy examples include oats, chia seeds or psyllium husks.
  • Avoid dairy products if you notice that these are triggering for you.

How to Treat Bloating

Some days you can almost guarantee that you’re going to be bloated by sunset. Christmas is a great example simply because you’re more likely to overindulge. Luckily there are a few remedies you can keep on hand to treat your bloating. 

  • Charcoal capsules: these work by absorbing excess gas so they’re great for quick relief.
  • Probiotics: bloating can be caused by an imbalance in your gut bacteria, so putting the good bugs back in may give you relief. These will also help if your bloating is constipation-related.
  • Herbal relief: herbal ingredients such as peppermint, chamomile, anise, caraway, coriander, fennel and turmeric have all been known to relieve bloating. Sipping some peppermint or fennel tea after a big meal is a delicious way to relieve your discomfort.

Say Goodbye to Bloating

A little bloating now and again is pretty common. If bloating is persistent and frequent then it is recommended that you consult your healthcare practitioner. When you want to avoid the discomfort of bloating entirely the best approach is to first identify your personal triggers. Then ideally avoid these triggers where possible. For those days when you just know you’re going to bloat, keep your natural treatments within reach.  

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