Common Causes of Bloating, Helpful Foods and Supplements

Common Causes of Bloating, Helpful Foods and Supplements

What Is Bloating?

bloating

Bloating, characterized by the uncomfortable and sometimes painful feeling of heightened pressure in the abdomen, is a common occurrence for many individuals, especially following a meal abundant in beans and other foods notorious for producing gas. However, for some people, bloating happens frequently, and its impacts can be inconvenient or disabling. This article explores the primary reasons behind bloating and investigates the evidence endorsing natural remedies.

Causes of Bloating Beyond Excessive Gas

Causes of Bloating Beyond Excessive Gas

Bloating, commonly attributed to excess gas, possesses a more intricate explanation. While gas certainly contributes, various other factors can induce uncomfortable bloating.

Fermentation

Have we ever pondered over the origin of gas in our digestive system? While a portion might be ingested, mainly through the consumption of carbonated beverages or chewing gum, the majority of gas responsible for troublesome bloating originates from the gut microbiome. This intricate community of bacteria residing in our large intestines thrives on the undigested remnants of our meals through a process known as fermentation, producing gases like methane as a byproduct.

Constipation

Picture a traffic jam on the highway. When the digestive process decelerates significantly, resulting in a backlog, it can exert pressure on the stomach or intestinal wall, eliciting a sensation of bloating.

Sensitization

In certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating transcends mere pressure. The visceral nerves transmitting sensations from the gut to the brain can become hyperresponsive, triggering discomfort even without excess gas or waste.

Foods for Bloating Relief

Foods for Bloating Relief

Now that you comprehend the reasons behind the bloating sensation let's delve into its typical causes and explore strategies for alleviation.

The myriad bacteria inhabiting your digestive system coexist within a sophisticated ecosystem with you and each other. Each species adapts to digest very particular compounds, and your breakfast choices shape the subsequent generation of bacteria hosting lunch.

Even a slight alteration in your diet can disrupt this community, leading to heightened gas and bloating. To bolster your gut against the discomfort of an unprepared microbiome, prioritize diversity. Much like an ecosystem on Earth, a decrease in diversity renders the system delicate and susceptible to imbalances.

To nurture a robust microbiome, consume a wide array of fiber-rich plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The crucial aspect here is variety. Unlike a monotonous fiber supplement, diverse fibers support a variety of bacteria. Introduce these fiber-rich foods gradually, allowing your microbiome to adjust and flourish.

Despite the usefulness of a plant-based diet in fostering a diverse bacterial community, increasing fibre intake does not replenish bacterial species that have already vanished.

While probiotics can aid in bloating reduction when consumed daily, they do not enhance microbiome diversity over the long term. Instead, a diet rich in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, yogurt, kombucha, and kefir shows the most promising evidence for repopulating the gut with a variety of bacterial species. If purchasing these items from the grocery store, seek out products that still need to undergo pasteurization and still contain active live cultures, or contemplate fermenting your own at home.

The Role of Stomach Acid in Bloating

The Role of Stomach Acid in Bloating

Your reliable gut microbiota often detects what escapes notice by your digestive system, so any issues leading to an increased passage of undigested food particles through the small intestine can cause excess gas and discomfort. Inadequate stomach acid is a primary culprit, often overlooked.

About a quarter of the global population takes heartburn medication that reduces stomach acidity, putting them at risk of compromised digestion. In a study, 43% of individuals on a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) experienced bloating within eight weeks of treatment. Age is also a factor, as older adults take longer to restore stomach acidity after meals.

To naturally enhance stomach acid levels, consider incorporating digestive bitters. The bitter taste profile stimulates the stomach to produce more acid. Similarly, bitter foods like dandelion greens can be included in meals to aid digestion. However, suppose you're on a PPI like omeprazole (Nexium). In that case, it may be worth exploring methods to increase stomach acidity directly before meals. Betaine HCl is an encapsulated acid that temporarily boosts stomach acidity when taken prior to eating. However, caution is necessary, as individuals with stomach or intestinal ulcers should avoid betaine HCl. Also, consult with your healthcare provider before adopting any treatment plan.

Lactose Intolerance and Bloating Relief

Lactose Intolerance and Bloating Relief

One of the more recognized causes of bloating is lactose, a sugar exclusive to dairy products. Roughly 68% of the adult population worldwide lacks the enzyme needed to digest this sugar properly. This leads to potential diarrhea and bloating when their microbiome encounters a lactose-rich feast.

Managing bloating triggered by lactose involves careful consumption. Limiting dairy intake to approximately 2 cups of milk per day, or its equivalent in other dairy products, spread throughout the day can alleviate symptoms. Opting for dairy products like Greek yogurt or hard cheeses, which are lower in lactose but still rich in calcium, can also be beneficial.

However, the temptation of a glass of milk or a scoop of ice cream is irresistible. In that case, supplementation with lactase enzyme may be helpful. Lactase, the enzyme responsible for lactose breakdown, can be ingested as a pill or liquid to predigest this challenging sugar into a more absorbable form. While solid evidence supports lactase's efficacy, outcomes can vary significantly between brands, necessitating some trial and error.

Periods and Bloating Relief

Periods and Bloating Relief

Bloating often accompanies the menstrual cycle and may persist after menopause, primarily due to hormonal fluctuations, though the precise mechanism remains unclear. Addressing this type of bloating can be challenging.

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus) is a promising option in herbal remedies. While studied primarily for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), chaste berries have shown effectiveness for bloating in some studies, though results have been inconsistent.

The encouraging news is that Chasteberry consistently demonstrates efficacy for other PMS symptoms and is generally well tolerated. This makes it a valuable option to consider, especially for those seeking relief from various PMS symptoms.

The Hidden Role of Stress in Poor Digestion

The Hidden Role of Stress in Poor Digestion

Stress often goes unnoticed within the broad spectrum of bloating causes yet plays a significant role. Both directly and indirectly, stress hormones contribute to gut slowdown, heightened sensitivity of visceral nerves, and alterations in the gut microbiome, creating favourable conditions for uncomfortable bloating. Stress could also underpin the bloating experienced by individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In this common condition, stress-reduction techniques have shown benefits.

Addressing stress-related bloating involves tackling stress itself and its downstream effects. Incorporating gentle exercise, practising diaphragmatic breathing, and maintaining good posture are simple yet effective daily practices that promote food passage through the intestines and counteract the sluggish motility of stress-induced bloating. Yoga, a holistic exercise form, also meets these criteria and is an effective stress-reduction tool. Clinical studies indeed support yoga as an intervention for alleviating IBS symptoms.

Supplements for Bloating Relief

Supplements for Bloating Relief

Psyllium Husk 

Gradually incorporating the fibre supplement psyllium husk presents another viable option for alleviating bloating associated with a sluggish digestive system. Unlike many other fibre sources, psyllium husk is non-fermentable by gut bacteria and, thus, less likely to cause excessive gas. It can help solidify loose stools and address constipation by attracting water into the intestines. Its distinctive characteristics may also enhance tolerance to fibre sources that nourish beneficial gut bacteria by moderating fermentation and gas production.

Peppermint Oil 

A blend of peppermint oil (menthol) and caraway oil demonstrates the potential to address bloating linked to indigestion in herbal remedies. With its extensive history of use in traditional medicine as a digestive aid, Caraway finds support in modern scientific research. Taken together before meals, this combination shows promise in reducing spasms and pressure in the stomach and small intestine, offering relief from post-meal bloating. To minimize the risk of acid reflux, opting for an enterically coated peppermint oil supplement is advisable, preventing premature release near the oesophagus.

Conclusion

Understanding the multifaceted nature of bloating is crucial in identifying effective treatment strategies. Whether addressing dietary factors, hormonal influences, stress-related triggers, or other underlying causes, a personalized approach guided by medical advice is essential. By discussing symptoms and concerns with a healthcare professional, individuals can navigate through the array of remedies available, finding relief and improving their quality of life. Remember, taking proactive steps towards managing bloating can lead to a happier, healthier you.

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