When you work hard to look your best, there is nothing worse than some bloating to ruin how your favorite clothes look. Or worse, it knocks your confidence.
However, if you have ever felt bloated, you know it can ruin your training and daily life! An outbreak can be unpleasant, disruptive, and in some cases can be a symptom of illness or food sensitivity/ intolerance.
You’re not alone if you’re someone who regularly feels bloated. Bloating is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the US with around 20% of Americans suffering every week. You may benefit from speaking to a doctor or changing your eating habits to fight it. Sadly you may not be able to avoid it altogether.
Why does bloating occur?
Bloating refers to the fullness, pressure or gassiness in the stomach. If widening of the abdomen is visible, distension can sometimes occur alongside it, but this is another problem.
Many factors can cause bloating, though! From your eating habits to the bacteria that live in your gut. Even things like the location and time of your bloating, as well as other symptoms, can provide information about what is causing your bloating.
Eating too quick and swallowing air
If you eat regularly on the go, you will likely swallow large amounts of air with each bite. This can also happen if you eat a large meal, do not eat regularly or drink a lot of carbonated drinks.
Also Read: 13 tips to trim down – backed by science!
The ingested air is normally expelled before it enters your gut (causing bloating) by burping. So if you notice that you’re burping a lot after a meal and you feel bloated after a few hours, eating the meal a little slower may help you.
Gas from gut microbes
Fun fact for you – did you know that there are trillions of microbes in our gut? Their main function is to produce energy via the process of carbohydrate fermentation which then results in gas production. There are some carbs that are more fermentable than others, therefore leading to more gas.
It’s not just gas that can cause bloating. It can also be caused by incomplete or infrequent bowel movements. Much like bloating, constipation can also be caused by a variety of factors from low fiber intake, stress or pelvic floor dysfunction.
If you’re suffering from chronic bloating, this may be a symptom of a bowel disease such as Celiac disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
The cause of this is still mostly unknown, although researchers seem to believe that these bowel diseases could be due to abnormal contractions of the gut wall, an altered nervous system, imbalance of gut microbes or perhaps even a combination of these.
Can certain foods cause bloating?
If you’ve been looking into ways to manage the bloat, then you’ve probably already come across the phrase low-FODMAP. FODMAP is fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides and polyols.
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We lack the digestive enzymes we need to break down most FODMAP carbs to be absorbed. So, instead, they pass through the small intestine still mostly intact before reaching the large intestine and gut microbes then ferment them. Bloating and loose bowel movements can also be caused as these carbs can encourage water into the gut.
Fruit, vegetables, grains, and beans
Foods that contain a lot of fiber also tend to be high in FODMAPs. Some of the highest FODMAP foods are:
- Dried fruits
- Apricots and other pitted fruit
- Milk and other dairy containing lactose
Although it might be tempting to avoid these foods, you don’t want to be removing them from your diet completely, as they’re vital sources of energy for your gut microbes and are beneficial to your health.
Protein shakes, bars and diet foods
Some protein bars, shakes and meal replacement bars contain ingredients such as whey protein concentrate and Inulin, which can cause bloating. Many of the products that are low-sugar, low-carb or sugar-free tend to be sweetened with sugar alcohols, creating a laxative effect.
Whey concentrate also contains laxatives which can lead to gastrointestinal problems, especially in people who already suffer from lactose intolerance.
Additionally, Inulin is highly fermentable and is considered a prebiotic, this means that it’s a functional fiber and is helpful to microbes. Although, it can cause bloating and gassiness as it is so fermentable.
Xylitol and sorbitol are the often used sugar alcohols to replace sugar in protein bars, meal replacements, chocolate, ice cream and syrups. They all belong in the polyols group, the P of FODMAP.
Should you be worried about bloating?
It depends on how much the bloating affects you. If it’s rare and you think it may be related to something like swallowed air, it’s probably nothing to worry yourself about.
However, if it is so often and so bad that it affects your livelihood, something else may be wrong. If your bloating is accompanied by other symptoms, such as frequent diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, unwanted weight loss or bloody stools, it is time to see your doctor.
How to curb bloating
Unfortunately, there are currently no medications or treatment options for bloating. From time to time everyone experiences some floating and gas. However, if you notice that your diet or lifestyle can contribute to your bloat, here are some changes you can make.
Eat at more regular times
If you don’t have your meals until you’re starving then you’re likely eating too quickly, meaning you’ll be taking bigger bites and swallowing lots of air. You may find that eating at regular times rather than just when you’re starved might help.
Get light exercise
If you’re someone suffering from bloating, chronic constipation, IBS or other symptoms of GI, you might find that some light exercise like a bike ride or brisk walk may reduce some of the symptoms.
Eat fiber and drink plenty of water
Fiber plays an important role in bowel movements and in some cases, a lack of fiber in your diet can be the cause of your bloating. It is recommended that women eat 25 grams of fiber per day. If you have not yet reached this goal, gradually increase your fiber intake to avoid GI problems.
Also Read: How to fight off sugar cravings
Also, how hydrated you are can affect your fiber intake and how it is digested. Even mild dehydration can increase the chance of bloating and constipation.
Try a gut health supplement
There are many bold claims made by gut health supplements. However, there are some options out there that are supported by evidence, for example, digestive enzymes and probiotics.
If you experience symptoms of IBS or bloating, then trying a low FODMAP diet is one way to alleviate the symptoms as much as possible. However, it is not intended as a long-term diet or lifestyle.
The diet includes three phases in which you temporarily reduce your FODMAP intake and systematically test your tolerance for each FODMAP group before gradually introducing FODMAP. If you are interested in the FODMAP diet, seek the advice of a fully trained dietitian or nutritionist.
As with any strict diet, long-term adherence to a low FODMAP diet can be a challenge in meeting your nutritional needs.
There are many possible causes of bloating and it is often considered a normal part of the digestive process. However, it may indicate that something else is going on and if you experience bloating along with other symptoms, consult a doctor.
If you feel a little uncomfortable, a few changes in food choices, eating habits and adjusting your water intake can save you from that horrible bloated feeling.
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