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:
Poor digestive function – insufficient pancreatic enzyme and hydrochloric acid production
Constipation / incomplete emptying of the bowel
Food intolerances / sensitivities - commonly gluten and cow's dairy
Processed foods and artificial additives including preservatives and flavours, including MSG, artificial sweeteners
Yeast - contained in bread, beer & wine
Imbalanced gut flora colonies
Fructose Malabsorption Syndrome
Bowel or ovarian cancer - although not the most common cause, chronic bloating can also be an indication of bowel or ovarian cancer, so if in doubt, check it out with your GP immediately.
Bloating does not always result from eating ‘unhealthy foods’ as it can also occur from eating very healthy foods, such as high FODMAP foods found in certain fruits and vegetables and grains. When our food is poorly 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 Albicans - 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 probiotics, 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 loose bowels - IBS, sinus, hay fever, headaches, even fatigue and mood changes.
So the real key to eliminating bloating is to avoid any foods that you can identify as leaving you feeling bloated and produce excess gas - most commonly gluten, cows dairy, yeast, sugar and artificial additives and processed foods, in combination with healing your gut - using my 4 step program, contained in my book, Love Your Gut.
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 potato, pasta or rice, with high protein foods like meat, fish or chicken
Avoid over eating or eating 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