It appears many of us are suffering from the ‘bloats’ as I like to call it. I’m talking about that most uncomfortable of sensations experienced within our abdomen or gut after eating. Pretty much every patient I treated over the past 13 years suffered bloating to some degree, sadly more often than not.
So is bloating a normal symptom when it comes to digestion and if not what does it indicate?
Bloating is a phenomena associated most commonly with the western diet. The US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, are apparently feeling the pinch from the bloat more so than countries who do not adhere to the common western diet. So why is this happening and how can you stop it? Well the good news is relief is close at hand, providing you follow a few simple tips!
Bloating is most commonly experienced after consuming a meal and for some, almost every meal is followed by bloating, lasting up to a few hours. For others it may be experienced more sporadically, depending on what foods have been consumed. The trick in this case is to pay careful attention to what foods you have eaten when it occurs, so you are more likely to identify the culprit and make an effort to avoid it.
The cause of bloating can be attributed to a variety of factors including:
- Over eating
- Poor digestion processes – insufficient production of pancreatic enzymes and hydrochloric acid and sluggish bowel movements
- Eating foods that we may be ‘intolerant’ or sensitive to, such as gluten containing grains – wheat, rye, oats, barley, kamut and spelt
- Eating processed foods and artificial additives such as preservatives and flavours, including MSG, artificial sugars and yeast – contained in bread, beer & wine
- Insufficient intestinal flora colonies – I’ll explain more about this later in the post.
However bloating does not always result from eating ‘unhealthy foods’, but also seemingly healthy foods, such as grains and vegetables can contribute to this issue. When our food is ineffectively digested, it can end up fermenting or ‘rotting’ within our intestine. The fermentation process produces gas, resulting in abdominal distension / bloating and even more embarrassingly…flatulence. So you could say you are literally brewing your own alcohol within your intestine in the case of undigested, fermenting food!
The undigested or ‘rotting’ food also promotes the growth of Candida – a naturally occurring fungus that resides within our intestine. The more Candida growing within our intestine, the less space on the intestinal wall for our good intestinal flora or pro biotics, to inhabit. Inadequate pro biotic or intestinal flora colonies will impact on the function of virtually EVERY cell, within every organ and body system, causing a detrimental effect on our overall health and wellbeing.
In addition to the links with ineffective digestion and bloating, the consumption of foods containing ‘allergens’ – substances which the immune system interprets as being ‘ foreign’, can trigger an inflammatory immune response. This inflammatory immune response can result in a variety of symptoms, including bloating, flatulence, constipation or lose bowels – IBS, sinus, hay fever, headaches, even fatigue and mood changes.
So the real key to eliminating bloating is to avoid foods that our immune system will react to, most commonly gluten, cows diary, yeast, sugar and artificial additives and processed foods as well as to maintain effective digestive function and healthy probiotic colonies within our intestines.
My top tips for eliminating bloating…
- Avoid foods containing gluten, yeast, sugar and artificial ingredients
- Chew your food slowly and in a relaxed environment, not on the run, standing or whilst multi-tasking like working at your desk or stressed
- Avoid drinking water 20mins either side of meals to avoid diluting stomach acids
- Combine your foods correctly – avoid combining high starch foods such as grains with dense protein foods: eg meat or chicken with potato or rice
- Avoid over- eating or within 3 hours of going to bed
- Eat smaller, more regular meals
- Take a quality digestive enzyme to aid digestion
- Replenish your intestinal flora colonies with a quality probiotic