In the last few years, many people have shifted toward healthier lifestyles, which include a lot of nutritional changes. Some of these changes include diets that restrict things like processed foods, sugars and especially dairy. These diets can be for weight loss, reorganising your system or even a general desire to be healthier. But even with the restriction of these highly processed foods, many people will experience something that isn’t as expected – bloating. Bloating can make the abdominal area appear larger than it would, while the rest of your body is experiencing weight loss. Why?
Bloating is a very real side effect of a lot of factors. Your belly may appear swollen, especially after eating. It can come with discomfort and feelings of being stuffed, when you haven’t eaten as much as you usually do. Water retention is sometimes confused with bloating and used in the same context as bloating. If you look at it from a simple standpoint, bloating is swelling from excessive amounts of solids, liquids and gasses in your digestive system. It can sometimes be the sign of a larger problem, but this is something that can easily be cleared up by visiting your doctor and asking for a referral to a nutritionist, since every body is different – and what will affect one, may not affect others in the same way.
Eating too much or too fast
If you’re bloated right after eating, the first cause may be that you ate too much in one sitting. Oftentimes, people may restrict eating to one or two times a day, and thus feel the need to overcompensate for the missed meals and feelings of hunger. A simple solution to this may be to eat smaller meals as well as adding in extra meals in your routine. For example, instead of just eating at lunch and/or dinner, add a breakfast meal to your day and space out the amount of food you consume in one sitting. If you already consume smaller meals and still feel bloated, try chewing food longer and eating slowly. This may not always be easy in a fast-paced lifestyle, but can greatly ease your discomfort.
Allergies or intolerances to common food
Food allergies don’t always show themselves in drastic ways like the production of hives or anaphylaxis, they can also come in the form of bloating. Common foods can take a very long time to digest and cause excessive gas and discomfort when being broken down by the body. Common foods that can cause intolerance can be anything containing lactose, fructose, eggs, wheat and gluten. Lactose and fructose are part of a larger group of indigestible carbohydrates and fibre, called FODMAPs. You can find out if you are allergic to any of these by visiting your doctors and requesting food allergy testing.
Swallowing air and gasses
Many people love carbonated, or fizzy drinks, as they may feel much more refreshing than drinking plain water or juice. However, they can create gas in your system once they reach your stomach; think about how you burp when you drink a soda or any other carbonated beverage. Another reason we ingest too much gas comes in the form of chewing gum. While it helps to freshen breath in between brushing and flossing, chewing gum increases the amount of ingested air and thus may lead to bloating.
Eating gassy foods
Some diets may include high-fibre foods like beans, lentils and some whole grains, which can produce large amounts of gas. Food diaries can help to track what you eat and how you feel after having eaten certain foods. Fatty foods can also slow digestion and emptying your stomach’s contents.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common digestive disorder. This can also be the cause of someone’s bloating. If the bloating is common and accompanied by abdominal pain, discomfort, diarrhoea and/or constipation, talk to your doctor about how to improve your diet and include foods better for your digestion. Common food causes are wheat, onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, artichokes, beans, pears and watermelon.
Consuming too much sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols are usually found in places like sugar-free gum. And although they are considered a safe alternative to sugars, they can cause a lot of digestive problems.
Not enough digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes break down the foods in our system; if we don’t have the right ones, the food we consume cannot be broken down and passed out. Certain over-the-counter products may also help with bloating, such as supplemental enzymes that can help break down indigestible carbohydrates. There are some that provide an enzyme that breaks down lactose, which is useful for people with lactose intolerance. Others contain the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, which can help break down indigestible carbohydrates from various foods. In many cases, these types of supplements can provide almost immediate relief.
Not passing enough food
Constipation is a very common digestive problem and can have many different causes and can often exacerbate symptoms of bloating. Getting more soluble fibre is often recommended for constipation. However, increasing fibre needs to be done with caution for people who have gas and/or bloating, because fibre can often make things worse. Various foods can also help.
Gas produced by the bacteria in the intestine is a major contributor to bloating. There are many different types of bacteria that reside there, and they can vary between individuals. Several clinical studies have shown that certain probiotic supplements can help reduce gas production and bloating in people with digestive problems. However, other studies show that probiotics can help reduce gas, but not symptoms of bloating. This may depend on the individual, as well as the type of probiotic strain used. They can take a while to start working, though, so be patient.
See a doctor to rule out a chronic and/or serious condition: If you have chronic bloating that causes severe problems in your life, or becomes a lot worse all of a sudden, definitely see a doctor. There is always the possibility of some serious medical condition, and diagnosing digestive problems can be complicated. However, in many cases, bloating can be reduced – or even eliminated – with simple changes in diet.