Bloating 101: How to beat the bloat & When do you actually need to
We’ve all been there.
We’re enjoying one of our favourite meals or a dish we have been eating for years (sometimes it can feel like just about anything we put into our mouths) and then we are met with that all too common feeling of bloating – a swollen or distended stomach pressing onto the waistband of our pants and feeling firm to touch.
There is an overload of information out there on the best ways to ‘get rid of bloating’, with people touting different products, remedies and advice all over social media and the internet. It can be quite overwhelming trying to find the right answers.
But here is the thing…
It is perfectly normal to experience bloating.
Bloating happens when our digestive tract is filled with gas. The causes of bloating vary between people, but most of the time it is caused by our body’s natural digestive process.
Now, this isn’t to say that bloating is something to be ignored. Some people experience genuine food intolerances, which can be very painful and uncomfortable. So, if you experience persistent pain and other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, constipation/diarrhoea (or any changes to bowel movements) and weight loss alongside the bloating then it is important to speak with your Doctor.
What can we do to ease bloating?
If there is no pain or major discomfort associated with the bloating, then the best thing we can do is try and change how we think and feel about it.
It is helpful to remind ourselves that bloating is a perfectly normal process during digestion and it will pass.
And when you really think about it, when was the last time you noticed someone else’s bloating? I can almost guarantee a time won’t come to mind. It’s very likely that you’re the only person that will notice if you are bloated.
If bloating is an issue for you, then there are a few things you may like to explore:
Are you eating enough?
Have you been dieting or restricting the amount of foods you eat? Has the variety in your diet changed? Research tells us that food restriction can contribute and/or exacerbate bloating by slowing down digestion, lowering the production of important digestive enzymes, decreasing the production of healthy gut bugs and increasing stress.
We know that as dietary variety increases, our gut health and symptoms improve.
If the idea of increasing your food intake or variety sounds stressful, we are here to help support you.
Identify foods that might worsen symptoms
If you’re reading this then there is a good chance you have heard of the low FODMAP diet, where you eliminate foods that are commonly identified as triggers. It is a short-term experiment (emphasis on the short term) used to explore whether or not these FODMAPs may be contributing to your gut symptoms. It is one tool that can be used to learn more about your body.
But, the low FODMAP diet can be quite restrictive and should only be commenced with the guidance of a Dietitian that is trained in the area. This is because cutting out all the foods containing FODMAPs can cause us to miss out on a lot of valuable nutrients and has the potential to make gut symptoms worse.
To learn more about the low FODMAP diet, read our blog here written by our Gut Health Expert Dietitian, Danielle Bell.
In the meantime, you may like to keep a food and symptom diary to see if you notice any patterns in your eating and experience of symptoms.
Practice regular stress management
Studies have consistently shown that stress has a significant impact on our gut health. Specifically, it has been found to make the nerve endings in our digestive tract more sensitive, causing a greater level of discomfort in response to the distension in our gut that is associated with bloating.
Try and create some strategies that help you alleviate feelings of stress. Some examples include participating in enjoyable movement such as yoga, making time for leisurely activities or guided meditation.
Increase fibre & fluids
Slowly increasing your intake of fibre and fluids can help to prevent constipation. When we get backed up, the volume of gas in our digestive tract increases, leaving us feeling bloated. Try incorporating some additional vegetables, grainy breads and cereals, fruit and beans and legumes to keep your digestive system happy & healthy. Most adults should aim for ~30g of fibre per day and 8-10 cups (2-2.6L) of fluids.
Some people might find that having too much fibre can worsen their constipation and/or bloating. If this is the case, try going for a leisurely walk. Studies have shown that walking regularly, even 10-15 minutes can help to get things moving during digestion.
Take the time to enjoy your meal
Slowing down and chewing your food well can help to limit the amount of air we take in as opposed to eating quickly. Slowing down and chewing your food will also help with your overall enjoyment of food – enjoying the taste and texture of each mouthful.
Probiotics are living, beneficial microbes that contribute to a happy & healthy gut. They are naturally found in a range of foods including yoghurt with live cultures, kefir, fresh kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha. They all have varying strains and amounts.
Try slowly incorporating a source of probiotics and see if it is helpful for you. If you are considering supplementing, it is best to speak with your Dietitian or Doctor to choose a probiotic strain that will suit you best.
If all else fails, consult a professional! Find a Dietitian that specialises in Gut Health to help you get to the bottom of your concerns.
Our Gut Health Expert Dietitian, Danielle Bell is available for private consultations online and in-clinic. You can make an appointment by contacting us here or calling 0499 888 801.