Digestion | November 18, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
If you’re struggling to do up the top button on your pants because of a full abdomen you could be suffering from bloating. Some people suffer from tummy troubles so severe it can have a serious impact on their lives— leading to severe discomfort and embarrassment. Here are some reasons why you have a bloated stomach as well as some natural options to provide fast relief.
Bloating is caused by the gases produced when we eat or drink. These gases are usually produced in the colon (sometimes in the small intestine) and ideally travel through the body to be absorbed or emitted. However, for some people this doesn’t occur, and the gases get stuck – causing discomfort such as a swollen tummy and pain.
There are so many different causes of bloating—from how we eat, what we eat and of course underlying medical conditions. It is always best to not self-diagnose and speak to your doctor or naturopath if you have any concerns.
Bloating is one of the main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as alternating constipation and diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Usually there are certain foods that are triggers, and stress plays a huge role as well.
Underlying infection will often result in persistent bowel symptoms in people with IBS so that’s why visiting a health professional is a must.
Other digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, dyspepsia and chronic constipation can be a cause of bloating too.
There are so many foods that can lead to bloating. Common intolerant/allergenic foods that promote bloating include dairy, wheat and fructose (a natural sugar found in fruit). People with Coeliac disease who have an autoimmune reaction to gluten found in wheat, rye and barley can have severe bloating. Having a diet with processed foods high in salt, fat and sugar can play a huge role.
If there are high levels of anxiety our body isn’t really interested in digesting food. If our ‘fight or flight’ response is activated our digestive system basically turns off and instead our heart rate, breathing and blood flow to our muscles is increased. Learning how to reduce stress can ultimately improve digestion and reduce bloating.
We have trillions of healthy and unhealthy bacteria that inhabit our digest tract. When the levels become unbalanced this can lead to a bloated stomach, excessive gas and changes in bowel habits. An overgrowth of pathogenic microbes in the small intestine referred to as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can cause bloating after eating as one of the main symptoms.
Our stomach produces acid that is important to break down foods and absorb nutrients. With inadequate acid, food sits in the stomach and putrefies instead of being digested properly. It is a common misconception that people have high stomach acid, especially in reflux, but this is usually not the case.
Digestive enzymes needed to break down our foods are primarily produced in the pancreas and small intestine, and to a lesser extent our saliva and stomach. Our food must be broken down into nutrients such as amino acids and fatty acids and our digestive system requires enzymes to achieve this. A lack of digestive enzymes can result in gas and bloating after meals, a feeling off fullness and undigested food in stools.
Natural therapies can work really well in reducing bloating but getting to the root cause. Sometimes you may need to utilise a few different suggestions to obtain better results.
Having a healthy microbiome and adequate colonies of healthy bacteria in the gut can improve many aspects of digestion.
It can help to normalise healthy bowel function and decrease abdominal bloating and pain.
Depending on what your health concerns are there are specific strains for food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhoea or infection.
Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut can be added to the diet for a natural source of healthy yeasts and bacteria.
Herbs that help to settle the muscles in the digestive tract can work very quickly to provide relief. Digestive herbs that achieve this include chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, fennel and more. They can be combined with other herbs like gentian to help increase stomach acid and dandelion root and globe artichoke for liver support. Aloe vera, slippery elm, marshmallow, glutamine and turmeric may also be beneficial in improving gut lining and function—therefore reducing bloating.
Enzymes that help to break down lactose (a sugar found in cow’s milk), carbohydrates, proteins and fats can be supplemented by taking a vegetarian digestive enzyme formula. They are safe to take with each meal and long term if required. Natural enzymes can be found naturally in a range of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially pineapple, kiwi fruit and papaya.
What you eat plays a major role in reducing bloating!
Avoid processed foods low in fibre and start eating a variety of fresh, wholesome foods that are a lot easier for your body to digest.
Eat until you are 80% full and in a relaxed manner away from the TV.
Chew your food well so that it is easily broken down in the stomach and small intestine. Individual food intolerances and allergies can play a role too.
Even those that are considered ‘healthy foods’ could be causing continual abdominal distention. In these instances, a visit to your GP or naturopath can help to identify problematic foods.
In some cases, avoiding certain kinds of carbohydrates called FODMAPs may be beneficial.
If you feel overwhelmed, your digestive system could be too! Exercise—either aerobic or for relaxation could be the key to releasing some of your anxiety. Supplements such as a good quality B complex, magnesium or herbs including withania, valerian, passionflower or lemon balm can help act as mild sedatives—easing stress and anxiety.
Kwiatkowski L, Rice E, Langland J. Integrative Treatment of Chronic Abdominal Bloating and Pain Associated with Overgrowth of Small Intestinal Bacteria: A Case Report. Altern Ther Health Med. 2017 Jul;23(4):56-61
Iovino P, Bucci C, Tremolaterra F, Santonicola A, Chiarioni G. Bloating and functional gastro-intestinal disorders: where are we and where are we going? World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct 21;20(39):14407-19