Everyone feels bloated from time to time. But what really is bloating? Bloating is a term that is commonly tossed around, but it means different things to different people. The clinical definition of bloating refers to gas trapped in the abdomen. For some people, bloating means passing gas or belching, or it can refer to the appearance of having swallowed a watermelon. For most people, bloating is directly related to something they ate, or how they ate. In some cases, bloating is mistaken for belly fat, in otherwise thin people who have excess weight around the middle. This type of bloating is usually caused by smoking or alcohol consumption.
Food sensitivities, such as a sugar intolerance, is a common cause of bloating. FODMAPs are food groups that can also trigger bloating. To help you and your doctor determine the cause of your bloating, keep a food diary that lists everything you eat and drink, your symptoms and your bowel movements. Be sure to write down everything from the bite you tried off someone else’s plate to your glass of wine that you drink to unwind after a long day. By tracking what you eat, you can figure out if certain types of carbohydrates, such as lactose or sucrose, are causing you to bloat. By following a select diet, you will be able to eliminate bloating from your system and the pain, gas and digestive issues that can come with food intolerance.
An undiagnosed condition, such as sucrose, wheat or gluten intolerance, can also cause bloating. If you have a digestive disorder, then your gut may not be breaking down food properly, which causes gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea and discomfort.
You can also be dehydrated and not know it. Sometimes bloating is the body trying to hold on to the water that it needs for digestion. Staying hydrated and aiming to drink eight glasses of water a day can help.
An overgrowth of abnormal bacteria can also cause bloating. Your gut should have a balance of bacteria that aid in digestion. After taking a course of antibiotics or eating poorly, abnormal bacteria can take over in your gut leading to bloating and other symptoms. Food sensitivities can also cause bloating because food is not going through the digestive tract the way that it should, and it is fermenting in the gut causing gas.
Avoid foods that can cause bloat, such as beans and legumes, carbonated beverages and artificial sweeteners. Try adding probiotics to your diet in the form of supplements, yogurt or fermented products, such as pickles and kimchi. Enjoy fruits and vegetables that have a high water content, like watermelon and cucumber. Sipping herbal teas and using spices in your dishes can also help bloating.