When your body feels bloated and uncomfortable it can really put a downer on your mood; Clothes might fit differently and those comfy pyjama pants may turn into your new BFF.
Not only does being bloated feel uncomfortable and often painful, bloating can also make us feel sluggish and it can affect our activity levels. Who wants to work out when they feel like they are smuggling a balloon in their gut?
So what causes our belly to bloat? Bloating can be caused by excess gas in the large bowel. This gas pushes out our stomach and makes it distended. Severe bloating can be extremely painful and unfortunately the only way to resolve this is to let the air out, or stop so much going in.
When you're constipated you may get that bloated feeling. This could be for any number of reasons including medication and lifestyle factors. Constipation may also be caused by a lack of fibre in your diet: Fibre helps to keep your bowels regular. It comes in 2 forms; soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre helps to bind the stool together in the gut (it helps it to gel together and essentially smooths the passage through the gut to help keep you regular (oats are a great source of this type of fibre). Insoluble fibre, adds bulk or 'roughage' to the gut, it is not digested by our bodies and passes through with other waste material. If we do not get enough fibre, we may become constipated which can cause us to become bloated and possibly have other health implications.
Not drinking enough water and being dehydrated can also lead to feeling constipated. A dehydrated gut is a sad gut. Adults should aim to have 6-8 glasses of non-alcoholic fluid per day, and even more in the summer months when it is hotter.
Taking in excessive air has to go somewhere -
when we have an excess of air in our stomach, this can exit back out of the mouth or, once it has passed the stomach, the gas takes the scenic route out to the other exit in the form of flatulence. Fizzy drinks contain carbon dioxide and can lead to you taking in excess air when you swallow. If you're finding that you're bloated often, you may want to rethink your beverages.
Chewing gum usually contains a sugar alcohol (Sorbitol) which can ferment in the gut and cause gas production when it mixes with bacteria in the large bowel which can cause bloating. In addition to this, similarly to fizzy drinks, chewing gum often leads to swallowing excess air with your saliva which leads to... you guessed it.. bloating.
Leaving long gaps in-between meals
If you're leaving long gaps between eating you may find that your bloating and abdominal symptoms get worse. If you skip a meal, you may be more inclined to overeat at the next meal, this larger volume of food gives the gut a lot of work to to and can
eating regularly pushes waste through your system so if you are skipping meals or
You may notice that your bloating is slightly worse with particular foods such as garlic, onion and brussel sprouts. This is because excess gas may be caused by fermentable carbohydrates. Some carbohydrates are more fermentable than others and can be high in "FODMAPs". These foods can wreak havoc if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
So what are they? FODMAPs Are short chain carbohydrates that are not absorbed very well in the small intestine. FODMAPs can be found in a range of different foods:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Oligo-saccharides: e.g. fructans (found in wheat, rye and also some vegetables) and
Galacto-oligosaccharides (found in pulses and legumes)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Di-saccharides: e.g. lactose (found in mammalian milk)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Mono-saccharides: e.g. free fructose (found in honey, some fruit and also fruit juices)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Polyols: e.g. sorbitol and mannitol (found in some fruits and vegetables).
Foods fermenting in the gut can lead to uncomfortable side effects that mimic or magnify IBS symptoms. Some foods ferment more easily than others. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If someone has a confirmed diagnosis of IBS then a low FODMAP diet can be helpful in some cases after first line treatment is trialled. There may be some simple actions to take without the need for an exclusion diet.
If you have IBS and are considering undertaking a low FODMAP diet - you should always do this under the expert guidance of a dietitian with IBS experience this is to make sure that you get the best possible result and ensure your diet is balanced diet during the elimination phase. Many information sources online are not adequate to ensure a balanced diet. It is worth noting that some people with IBS will not experience any benefit from a low FODMAP diet. One study in 2011 showed a 76% improvement in the symptom of participants who followed a low FODMAP diet.
In summary - having a healthy balanced diet, with adequate fibre, broken down into smaller, more regular meals in addition to having adequate fluid intake can help ease that bloated feeling and help you on your way to a happier gut. For some free gut health support, check out the Gut Instinct Community Facebook page or drop me an email if you would like to work with me to help ease your symptoms.
If your bowel symptoms have been ongoing and you have experienced: Abdominal pain or discomfort, Bloating and a Change in bowel habit, consider visiting your doctor who may assess you for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Please note that any abdominal pain, change in bowel habit, blood in stools, weight loss or iron‑deficiency anaemia especially in adults over 40 should be flagged to your doctor straight away to rule out other more serious conditions.
Please note The information provided on this page is for informational purposes only, it is not a substitute for professional medical or dietetic advice. Please see the website disclaimer for more information.
Staudacher HM, Whelan K, Irving PM, Lomer MC. Comparison of symptom response following advice for a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) versus standard dietary advice in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2011;24(5):487–495.