Bloating and Gas
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That annoying feeling of bloating. A big filled stomach with gas and continuously feeling the pressure. If you experience bloating and gassiness on a regular basis, you’re probably very done with it. Read on to find your solution!
Bloating is a very common digestive symptom that Nearly everyone has experienced. Almost 30% of the population have experienced bloating at some point in their life. Often it’s one of the symptoms of a disorder like irritable bowel syndrome but it can also stand on its own, better known as functional bloating. Functional bloating may sound like it has a function, but it basically means that there is no diagnoseable trigger for the bloating.
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The Symptoms of Bloating
Bloating is quite straightforward when it comes to symptoms. If you experience bloating, you’re likely to feel any of the following:
– a feeling of trapped gas (bloating)
– increase/swelling of the abdomen (distension)
– a feeling of fullness
– feeling tenseness in the abdominal area
– rumbling sounds in the stomach
– the feeling of having to go to the bathroom, often without having to
Often people who experience bloating notice a worsening of the bloating during the day and after meals. During the night the bloating usually lessens. To start all over again in the morning.
The Characteristics of Bloating.
The ROME criteria are used to diagnose gastrointestinal symptoms.
Must include both of the following:
1. Recurrent bloating and/or distention occurring, on average, at least 1 day per week; abdominal bloating and/or distention predominates over other symptoms.**
2. There are insufficient criteria for a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, functional constipation, functional diarrhea, or postprandial distress syndrome.
*Criteria fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months prior to diagnosis.
**Mild pain related to bloating may be present as well as minor bowel movement abnormalities.
As made clear in the ROME IV criteria, for the bloating to be functional, it needs to be the most noticeable and biggest symptom you have. If you have other digestive symptoms, there is a big chance that there is another trigger or reason for your bloating.
Do you suffer from bloating or gassiness? Would you like guidance from a specialized dietitian? Then schedule an online consultation at my online dietician’s practice Darm diëtist, and I will help you with all your questions!
Reasons for Bloating
As mentioned, bloating can be either functional or non-functional. But for this article, I’ll try to cover as many reasons and solutions as I can. Regardless of whether or not they’re functional or non-functional.
Being constipated actually blocks the gas and prevents it from flowing freely through your intestines. This causes it to accumulate in your gut, causing you to feel bloated. For the 12 best solutions for constipation, read on in my article about that.
If the bacteria in your colon (your microbiota) change, this can lead to increased production of gas. Some bacteria in the gut produce gas, and others don’t. If you get more of the gas-producing bacteria, you might experience bloating. Consuming enough fiber and prebiotics will help promote the non-gas producing bacteria, thus helping to relieve bloating.
Some people swallow quite a lot of air during the day. For example during talking, eating or as a result of incorrect swallowing.
When we talk, we can ‘gulp’ in some air, which will get stuck in the stomach and will try to find it’s way out. Until it comes out, for example like a burp or fart, it will be present in the digestive tract and can be the reason for pressure or fullness.
Eating and drinking can also be a cause of swallowing air. When we eat or drink fast, and don’t chew our food enough, we swallow air with the food that we’re eating. To prevent this, it’s important to chew your foods properly (preferably 20-25 times per bite) and eat slowly.
Make sure you only swallow once the food or drink has reached the back of your mouth. When you chew or drink, your mouth and tongue will automatically start to move food to the back of your mouth once it’s small enough. Once it’s there, you can swallow it. If you swallow sooner, there’s a big chance you’re adding extra air to your food. That extra air can lead to a feeling of bloating.
So take your time, have a seat and chew properly. You’ll notice a difference.
SIBO is an abbreviation of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. If you want to read the full explanation, check my article on SIBO.
In short, SIBO means that there are more bacteria in the small intestine than there should be. These bacteria will start to ferment and break down the food in the small intestine. When bacteria break down food, they produce gas and other substances. This gas can leave you feeling bloated.
Diet high in FODMAP’s
If you’ve been reading my website, you probably have seen me mention the word before. FODMAP. The abbreviation for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are found in, for example, wheat, garlic, onion, avocado, cauliflower, milk, mango, and many other products. All of these carbohydrates we can’t break down. As a result, our gut bacteria will. And this can cause gas and other abdominal discomforts. To read the full explanation on the FODMAP diet, check my article.
For some people experiencing bloating, it may not be as bad as you think. If you’ve had gut issues for a longer period of time, you might have become more sensitive to them.
Where other people wouldn’t really notice bloating. You might notice the smallest amounts because you’re already feeling so much.
Of course, this doesn’t make it any better. But often finding a distraction can help get your mind off your gut.
Abnormal Movement of the Gut Wall
Recently, studies have found that some people have abnormal muscle movements of the abdominal wall and diaphragm. This movement moves the gas in the bowel around and creates visible bloating.
Stress has not yet been proven to increase the amount of bloating that is experienced. But often it is seen that higher levels of stress also result in higher levels of bloating. Although it is unclear whether the stress or the bloating came first. Reducing your stress levels might help to reduce your bloating.
Celiac disease is a condition where gluten is not broken down properly. Eating gluten is harming your body when you have celiac disease, but one of the symptoms can also be bloating. If you want to read more about celiac disease and gluten, click on to my article.
Lactose is the sugar found in milk. And it’s also a FODMAP. In some people, lactose can’t be broken down and it’s traveling through the digestive tract, waiting to be broken down by the gut bacteria. If you want to read more about lactose intolerance, click this link to my article.
Fructose is a sugar found in fruits. And it’s also a FODMAP. Not everyone can break fructose down. And once it travels through the digestive tract, your gut bacteria can start to ferment it. They produce gas while doing so.
Gastroparesis is a condition where your stomach is not emptying fast enough. Usually, the food leaves the stomach about 3 hours after ingesting it. With gastroparesis, the stomach muscles are affected, and they move less. Causing the food to stay in the stomach for longer, this can cause a bloated feeling.
Medical conditions that cause bloating
There are more medical conditions that cause bloating, that are not food-related. I will mention them here, but will not go into it much further. If you have any worries about these or other health issues, please consult your doctor.
Solutions for Bloating
Below you can find effective ways to try and limit or solve the bloating you have. If you have any questions regarding your personal situation, please consult your doctor or dietitian.
Physical activity can help reduce gas and bloating. By moving, your intestines move with you. When your intestines are moving, gas has the opportunity to move through the digestive tract and out through the anus. By eliminating gas that way, you reduce the bloating.
Especially bouncing movements have a bigger impact on gas transit. When you walk, run or jump the impact and ‘shocks’ make it easier for gas to move through the digestive tract.
Also, yoga is a good way to reduce bloating. The twists in yoga have a relaxing and massaging effect on your digestive organs. This can help move the gas through the intestines and relieve the tension.
Reducing the intake of carbonated beverages
This might be one of the easiest things to try if you want to reduce bloating. Any type of gas you take in is going to have to come out somehow. Until you excrete it, it’s going to be stuck in your intestinal tract and possibly causing you pain. Lower your intake of carbonated drinks (and, if you drink it, beer) and notice the difference.
Eliminating Food Intolerances
When fighting bloating and other stomach issues, the elimination of food intolerances can often provide quick relief. Elimination means you cut certain foods out of your regular food pattern, this way the foods can’t cause bloating anymore.
Be careful when eliminating too many foods though. Taking too many foods away and lowering your fiber intake, can actually cause your gut bacteria to change. And usually, that is not for the better! So if you’re planning to start an elimination diet, make sure to keep a wholesome food pattern or contact your dietitian if you have any questions.
Other food intolerances can be for example histamine, nightshade or sulfates.
There are billions of bacteria in your gut, they can be either good or bad for you. In the case of bloating, it’s possible that the gas-producing bacteria have taken the upper hand. By taking probiotics you can help nudge your gut bacteria towards the more non-gas producing kinds.
Probiotics that have been proven to be effective with bloating and gas are lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium lactis, bifidobacterium bifidum and lactobacillus plantarum. Try and find yourself a probiotic that contains (either of) these strains, and see if they affect your symptoms.
As mentioned above, whenever gas can’t move freely through the digestive tract, it can get trapped and cause symptoms. Solving constipation issues can help to get the gas moving through your intestines again. This way you can eliminate it and it won’t cause any trouble anymore. To find a solution for your constipation, read on in my article about constipation.
Having the correct posture while eating can make a big difference in the gas transit through the intestines. Make sure you sit up straight to reduce the risk of gas getting trapped in the digestive tract. Research has shown that the gas transit through the digestive tract is faster when sitting up, than lying down or being hunched over. So changing your posture can help get rid of gas and bloating faster.
A small study has found that the supplementation of Alpha-Galactosidase during a meal could improve bloating. Alpha-Galactoside breaks down fructans (a carbohydrate and a FODMAP). This way it can not be digested by the gut bacteria to produce gas. A brand that contains Alpha-Galactosidase is Beano.
Multiple studies have shown peppermint oil supplementation helps decrease bloating and reduce abdominal pain.
Peppermint oil can be bought in the form of capsules and should be taken before a meal.
The only downside to peppermint oil is, that some people taste the peppermint when they burp. But that is something to test for yourself. This is usually less outstanding when the supplement is taken before a meal.
IBgard is a supplement that contains peppermint oil.
As mentioned above, the small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can cause bloating. The solution to this is to try and limit the number of bacteria that are present in the small intestine. This can be done through changes in your lifestyle and food habits, or in severe cases antibiotics prescribed by a specialist. To read more about the SIBO protocol, click here for my article.
Do you have any bloating or gas symptoms? And what solution works for you? Let me know in a comment!
Hi there, I’m Manon.
In my daily life I work as a registered dietitian in the Netherlands with a special interest in gut health.
During my workday I get loads of questions about healthy food, recipes and lifestyle to make it a little easier to get healthy. On Positive Gut I collect my best recommendations, tips and recipes to make your healthy lifestyle a little easier!