Bloating is a digestive complaint experienced by many people. You may be bloated if you feel your pants are too tight after meals, your gut feels like there are tiny “explosions” occurring or if you experience an uncomfortable fullness after consuming a meal. Digestive concerns are very common these days and this is due to many factors including the North American diet, lack of movement, stress, and not prioritizing time when it comes to preparing and eating meals. More often than not, people are eating on the go or eating out.
Overall, there are many reasons why you could be experiencing bloating.
First, the foods you eat can cause bloating. There are a couple of reasons this can happen. One is that the foods you eat are not properly digested before getting to your colon. When the poorly digested food reaches the bacteria in the colon, the bacteria ferment the food and release by-products that can lead to gas and bloating. Another reason can be that you are consuming foods that are causing low-grade inflammation in the gut, called food sensitivities. Food sensitivities can also lead to other symptoms including headaches, brain fog, and chronic pain. The best way to figure out what foods you are sensitive to are through an elimination diet or food sensitivity testing.
Another reason you could be experiencing bloating can be due to a functional disorder. This will include:
- Infrequent bowel movements, the food you consume sits in your gut longer. In this case, bacteria continuously feeds on and ferment the grains, which lead to bloating.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a functional disorder, where your bowel movements alternated between constipation and diarrhea and associated with bloating and pain. A diagnosis of exclusion and correlated with stress and the foods you consume.
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. SIBO is a condition where there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. The abundance of bacteria in the small intestine feed on the food you eat and create by-products that lead to bloating. If you have SIBO, you may feel worse with probiotics and fibers . A breath test interpreted by a professional can help determine if you may have SIBO.
Lastly, dysbiosis or infections can potentially be a cause of gas and bloating. Dysbiosis occurs when there is an imbalance of the types of bacteria in your gut. As a result, there may be more suboptimal bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, that are feeding on the foods you eat, leading to less favourable symptoms including bloating. At times, pathogenic bacteria or parasites can also reside in your gut and feed off the foods you eat, leading to symptoms of bloating. The recognition of these pathogens may need more complex laboratory testing with a professional.
So Where Do I Start?
Bloating could be as simple as changing your diet or it could require a bit more work to figure out what the root cause of the bloating may be. As you can see, there are so many factors that can contribute to bloating.
First and foremost, an important concept to implement is mindful eating. Most of us are eating on the go and not allowing our body to create the digestive juices required for optimal digestion. One great way to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is important for digestion, is to actually sit and eat. Mindful eating involves no other distractions and focuses on chewing food slowly and properly. A great way to encourage mindful eating is to have a communal mealtime at home with family or housemates.
Other things you can consider to improve your symptoms of bloating could be to:
- Limit wheat and dairy as they are common food sensitivities. In order to confirm or determine what other foods are contributing to bloating, food sensitivity testing may be necessary.
- Drink peppermint or chamomile teas when feeling bloated.
- Take probiotics to create a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.
In the end, there are many potential reasons as to why bloating occurs. Finding the solution to bloating can be as simple as changing your diet or may require extra support from a professional including a naturopathic doctor, medical doctor or nutritionist.