What is Bloating?
We’ve all suffered from bloating at one point or another. The symptoms are easy to recognize, from a tight pain in the stomach to gas and abdominal gurgling.
According to the University of North Carolina, 10-30 percent of people suffer from frequent bloating. This results in more than just general discomfort: it can cause frequent sick days and an overall loss in productivity.
So what causes bloating? And how can you prevent it?
Causes of Bloating
Gas and Indigestion
Gas is the most common culprit for bloating. When you eat and drink, you also swallow air. During your digestive process, gas builds from broken down foods and swallowed air.
When this air is not passed through the system, it causes bloating. Other factors can lead to gas, as well, including eating and drinking too rapidly or chewing gum and smoking.
Medical Causes of Bloating
Bloating is also a symptom of many different conditions including:
Giardiasis (an infection caused by drinking contaminated water)
Other factors that may lead to bloating:
Changes in bacteria levels in the GI tract
Digestive motility problems
Poor absorption of carbohydrates
Serious Causes of Bloating
These are all fairly mild to moderate symptoms and are possible to treat via diet and lifestyle changes. However, more serious causes of bloating include:
Reduced digestive enzyme production GI tract perforation, which causes gut bacteria to escape into the abdominal cavity and lead to bloating
Food Allergies and Bloating
Food allergies or food sensitivities frequently cause bloating. The following foods commonly lead to bloating:
Lactose: Found in dairy products like milk and cheese, lactose can cause indigestion and bloating, especially in those with lactose intolerance–a condition in which the stomach doesn’t produce enough enzymes to digest lactose.
Wheat/Gluten: Gluten is found in a wide range of grains including wheat, barley, and spelt. Some people are allergic to gluten, a condition called Celiac disease. Others do not have Celiac disease, but are still sensitive to gluten. When they eat gluten, it causes severe stomach upset and bloating.
Eggs: Like lactose and gluten, eggs can sometimes cause bloating and gas in those who are sensitive to them.
How to Treat and Prevent Bloating
Diet and Lifestyle
In most cases, diet and lifestyle changes can reduce and even prevent bloating. Take the following precautions to stop bloating:
Reduce your intake of carbonated beverages like soda
Don’t chew gum, which causes you to swallow extra air, leading to bloating.
Avoid excessive consumption of foods that cause gas, like dried beans, lentils, and certain vegetables in the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower and kale)
Eat and drink slowly, and avoid using straws while drinking.
You can also add a probiotic yogurt to your diet; in one study seventy percent of participants reported relief from bloating after eating probiotic foods like Greek yogurt and kefir.
Massage to Relieve Bloating
Medications for Bloating
If dietary and lifestyle changes do not relieve your bloating symptoms, then talk to your doctor. The bloating could be a sign of another disorder that may require specific treatment. Depending on the condition, your treatment may require antispasmodics, antibiotics or other types of medication to improve your gastrointestinal health.
When Should You See a Doctor?
If you experience the following symptoms along with bloating, seek medical care immediately; they could indicate a more serious underlying medical condition:
Severe, prolonged abdominal pain
Unexplained weight loss
Severe allergic reaction
Supplements to Prevent Bloating
Several different supplements will not only prevent and reduce the symptoms of bloating, but also improve your overall digestive health. They include:
Lactase Enzyme: For people suffering from bloating due to lactose intolerance, you can take this enzyme before meals so it’s easier for your body to digest lactose. The typical dosage is one 6000-9000 IU tablet with no adverse side effects.
The Bottom Line
Bloating is generally caused by problems in your digestive system, and while it’s unpleasant, you can prevent it by making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle. If you have food allergies or intolerances, avoid foods that can trigger bloating. Supplements and medications can also ease discomfort and create the balance your body needs to facilitate healthy digestion.