Eating is one of life's daily pleasures; food not only tastes great, it fuels our bodies to power through each day. However, sometimes our gut may not wholly agree with what we put into our bodies, which can cause us a fair bit of pain. One common digestive issue is bloating.
In our guide to bloating below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about belly bloat, including the common causes and how to relieve bloating through lifestyle changes, diet, and supplementation.
Bloating is an uncomfortable feeling in your tummy where it feels stretched or overly full, often after a meal. Those who suffer from bloating describe their tummy as feeling extremely full, tight, or stretched often due to gas.
Bloating occurs when the organs within the digestive system are stretched due to an increase in gas, liquids or foods, and you won’t be surprised to hear that your diet can have a significant impact on the symptoms of bloating.
Symptoms of bloating include burping, cramps, constipation, and diarrhoea.
To understand how to avoid and get rid of bloating, we must first understand what often causes it. Stomach bloating may occur when food moves too slowly down your GI tract. It may also be the result of the muscles in the wall of your stomach being weak or when the muscles in your diaphragm do not relax.
Flatulence, or farting, is caused by gas in the bowel. Air builds up in the digestive system in different ways. It comes from the air we swallow from eating food (especially high-fibre foods) and air generated by gut flora.
While flatulence is normal, with people passing gas an average of 15 times a day, a person may suffer from excessive gassiness. Flatulence in excess is often accompanied by abdominal discomfort and rumblings in the lower abdomen.
Excessive gassiness may be due to eating certain foods or suddenly switching to a high-fibre diet. Other conditions like lactose intolerance and suffering from irritable bowel syndrome may also cause excess wind and leave you with that bloated feeling.
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, affects the large bowel or the colon. It is a common condition, affecting 3 out of 10 people, with women more likely than men to be affected.
The symptoms of digestive issues, such as IBS, include stomach bloating, abdominal discomfort, and alternating between diarrhoea and constipation. A person has IBS if they experience recurrent abdominal pain at least once daily over several months. Pain-related bowel motions and a change in the frequency or appearance of bowel movements are other signs of IBS.
IBS can be triggered by being under stress or suffering infections. Some medications may also affect IBS, including antibiotics, antacids, and pain medicines. IBS may also be caused or exacerbated by certain "trigger foods", although these foods vary from person to person.
The bloating that arises because of IBS is not due to excess wind. Instead, it may be because of the unusual movement of your food and waste products through the bowel.
Constipation occurs when you pass dry, hard stools. A constipated person may feel like they don't need to go to the bathroom often, have trouble passing stools, or sit on the toilet for longer than usual. Constipation is often accompanied by the feeling that your bowel hasn't completely emptied, and you may experience a bloated stomach and abdominal cramps.
Constipation is due to a low-fibre diet and lack of hydration. Fibre adds bulk to the faeces, making it easier to travel through the digestive tract. Without fibre, faeces become more challenging to push out. However, the fibre in faeces needs to absorb water to pass more quickly. Without water, a low-fibre diet may cause constipation.
Constipation may also occur due to a lack of regular exercise, routine changes affecting one's regular bowel motions, and certain medications such as calcium-channel blockers and non-magnesium antacids.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) may also cause bloating due to an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine that is otherwise not found in that area.
SIBO may occur due to intestinal surgery or having suffered IBS with diarrhea. Structural problems in the small intestine may also lead to SIBO. In these situations, the passage of food and then, later, faeces through the digestive tract is slowed, creating an environment for bacteria to grow.
People with SIBO experience bloating and feeling uncomfortably full after eating, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, and unintended weight loss.
For women, problems with their ovaries or uterus may also lead to bloating. During your menstrual period or menopause, hormones may also cause bloating.
Hormones released when you're stressed may interfere with regular digestive function. They may also negatively affect the gut flora or the ecosystem of microorganisms that live in the gut.
Under stress, your digestion may slow down, causing constipation, pain, and stomach bloating. Conversely, stress can also cause your digestion to speed up, resulting in diarrhoea.
There is a condition wherein your small intestine becomes inflamed when it comes in contact with gluten. Gluten is a protein in many foods, including grains and oats.
Gluten intolerance may result in bloating and other symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, nausea, and tummy discomfort. You may also experience non-digestive system-related conditions such as irritability, joint pain, skin rash, and easy bruising.
While the causes of this disease are unknown, it is known to run in families. Environmental factors such as gastrointestinal infections or a person's childhood diet may also trigger it.
Certain foods likely to cause gassiness and bloating include:
Eating plenty of salty foods, carbohydrates, or fizzy drinks may also result in feeling bloated or swallowing air when you eat too quickly may also cause you to be gassy; avoid this by eating slower and enjoying your food.
Methods for getting rid of bloating largely depend on what is causing the condition. In the case of underlying conditions such as gluten intolerance and gynaecological disorders, it may be necessary to seek medical advice.
Regarding digestive conditions, getting rid of bloating rests on changing up your diet and practising lifestyle changes to promote healthier digestive system function. Here are some practices you can roll into motion today to help relieve bloating and discomfort:
In the case of constipation, eating foods with more fibre and drinking plenty of fluids can help your digestive tract run more smoothly, helping address the feelings of bloatedness. Fibre-rich foods also help address IBS.
Adults should aim to consume 25-30g of fibre daily, and on average, Aussies only ingest about 20g, putting us at significant risk of developing IBS. There are two types of fibre - soluble and insoluble. Both help improves your digestive system.
Soluble fibre helps the digestive tract run more smoothly by soaking up water and adding bulk to faeces. Soluble fibre includes fruits and vegetables, soy milk and soy products, legumes including dried beans, lentils, peas, and oat bran, seek husks, flaxseed and psyllium.
Insoluble fibre helps mitigate the digestive system's tendency to slow down, which may result in bloating. Insoluble fibre also helps in adding bulk to faeces and preventing constipation. Sources of this kind of fibre include bran such as wheat, corn or rice bran, the skins of fruits and vegetables, dried beans, whole grain foods, and seeds and nuts.
Foods that contain resistant starch may also act similarly to high-fibre foods. These foods include unprocessed cereals and grains, potatoes, lentils, and unripe bananas. Resistant starch also benefits gut health by contributing to the well-being of good bacteria in the large bowel.
It is best to take it slowly when switching to a high-fibre diet. A sudden switch from a low to high-fibre diet may result in increased flatulence and abdominal pain. A high-fibre diet may also decrease nutrient absorption necessary for your overall health, including zinc, calcium, and iron.
Being sedentary encourages digestive problems, meaning a common tip for how to get rid of bloating is being more active. For instance, a simple twenty to thirty-minute brisk walk several times a week can help support better bowel function so find your exercise of choice and get that body moving.
Regular exercise also helps strengthen the muscles in the gut. It also stimulates the digestive system to help food pass through. Exercise may also help mitigate stress, negatively affecting digestion.
Avoiding certain foods can play a large part in getting rid of bloating; steering clear of foods that cause gassiness and high FODMAP foods can help, while steering clear ofrocessed and fatty foods, as well as alcohol, may also help decrease stomach bloat.
Foods that contain a lot of sugars, even artificial sweeteners, may be poorly absorbed by the small intestine, triggering symptoms of IBS, including abdominal bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea. These foods are high in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols).
Some of the most commonly eaten high FODMAP foods to consider avoiding include:
On the other hand, it helps to eat low FODMAP foods to help improve digestive function and avoid the bloat. Some great low FODMAP foods to consider include:
Supplementing with various probiotics and minerals may be helpful when trying to get rid of bloating and may also aid in improving your digestive health.
When paired with a healthy lifestyle and diet plan, vitamins and minerals can help support your gut health to naturally reduce bloating. Along with a low FODMAP diet, you may want to consider adding the following supplements to your daily routine:
Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote various health benefits. They help restore the balance of bacteria in the gut, especially after being disrupted due to infection or certain medications, like antibiotics.
Probiotics are in fermented foods, including kefir, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, miso, and sourdough bread. Probiotics also come in the form of a supplement. The right probiotic supplement can change the bacteria in the gut and help promote healthy bacteria, limiting the risk of IBS.
Zinc is essential for many of the body's functions. The body cannot naturally produce zinc, so it must be consumed through a well-rounded diet or supplementation.
Inflammatory bowel conditions may give rise to zinc deficiency due to malabsorption issues. Due to inflammatory diseases, low dietary intake, or other reasons, Zinc deficiency further leads to a compromised gastrointestinal epithelial barrier function. The intestinal epithelial barrier plays a role in nutrient absorption and protection against harmful bacteria.
Zinc supplementation is a strong recommendation for those with zinc deficiencies or individuals not consuming enough zinc in their diet.
Curcumin is an active constituent of turmeric, a common, bright yellow curry spice. Dating back to ancient times in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, it has historically treated poor digestion and abdominal pain.
Curcumin maintains a healthy digestive system function by acting as an anti-inflammatory. It suppresses inflammation by acting like a switch that can turn off pro-inflammatory enzymes.
Studies have looked at the effect of curcumin in helping manage inflammatory bowel disorders. Several studies have found that taking curcumin improves symptoms.
Stomach bloating is unpleasant, but a well-balanced diet can help to promote better digestive function. You may consider complementing your healthy diet with supplementation to increase your intake of certain nutrients.
A supplement subscription from Vitable Australia can help put you on the path towards better digestive function. Choose a vitamin pack made only up of the personalised vitamins that are most helpful to you. And, the best part is, our service even comes with vitamin delivery right up to your doorstep.
Take the quiz and build your own vitamin pack today. Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.