Bloating is a common occurrence.
In fact, 10 percent of Americans say they feel bloated on a regular basis, even when they haven’t eaten too much. But what exactly is bloating?
When your food reaches your stomach, stomach acids begin the digestive process. Majority of the work, however, is handled by the small intestine, where enzymes break down the sugars, protein and fat that you just ingested in order to help your body absorb them.
If some of the larger pieces of molecules make it past the small intestine undigested, they will be sent to the large intestine where bacteria will break those larger pieces down.
This bacteria releases gas, causing your intestines to become distended, making you feel full and bloated, and maybe even causing stomach cramps.
Bloat Is on the Rise
With all of the food additives we have in our processed foods, it’s no wonder bloat is on the rise. Sorbitol and fructose are hard for the body to digest, which results in bloating. Add that to the fact that Americans are exercising less (which keeps the gut from functioning correctly) and overusing some antibiotics (which kills off the “good” bacteria in the gut) and you have the perfect recipe for bloating.
Causes of Bloating and How to Avoid Them
So what is the cause of your bloating problem, and what can you do to alleviate it? Usually, bloating and gas are symptoms of what you eat and how you eat it. A few simple dietary changes can make a big difference in how you feel.
Every individual is different, so not every cause is dietary. In fact, some medical conditions can actually bring about bloat. It’s important to do your detective work and find out what’s causing your belly bloat. Here are a few common causes:
Many people find that their bloating ends when they take up a low-carb diet. This is usually because their diets before were full of carbohydrates that were not easily digested.
The big problem is figuring out what causes those symptoms to arise. Is it certain types of sugar (like sugar alcohols, lactose, fructose or even sugar substitutes), starches like those found in beans, or is it fiber? Figuring out your triggers can help you avoid them.
A lot of complaints about abdominal pain and bloating stem from needing to go to the bathroom. This is because intestinal gas, which is completely normal, gets trapped in the body, and the only thing that will relieve it is a bowel movement. The trick to getting rid of this type of bloat and pain is to make sure you are eating enough fiber. Remember to add extra fiber to your diet gradually because adding too much all at once can do more harm than good—giving you additional stomach pain.
Insoluble fiber is key here. Add bran, seeds (like sunflower or pumpkin), fruits and vegetables to your diet (leaving the skin on for extra fiber, vitamins and minerals) to help get rid of constipation. Soluble fiber, while still fiber, can actually produce more gas, which is not helpful.
If your upper belly is the area that feels bloated right after you eat, it could be acid reflux. If you feel uncomfortably full after you eat a normal meal, it’s usually a sign of indigestion (which is also called acid reflux). If you do have acid reflux, drinking fizzy water (carbonated) can help. Many people think that carbonated drinks cause bloating, but the opposite is actually true. The “fizzing” action of the water can induce a burp, and help relieve your bloated feeling.
If you find yourself severely bloated after eating certain foods, it could be Celiac disease, which is an intolerance to wheat and gluten. If you find yourself feeling the bloat after eating pasta, bread or baked goods, you may want to ask your doctor to order bloodwork for Celiac disease.
Overeating is actually the most common cause of bloating. Eating smaller portions is an easy way to avoid this type of bloat.
Additionally, eating the wrong foods can lead to bloating. If you eat rich, fatty foods and feel the bloat right after, you can almost bet that is your trigger. Fats take longer to digest than carbs or proteins do, which means your stomach stays fuller longer.
Eating too fast can also cause bloating, so even if you aren’t eating too much, eating too quickly might be the culprit. This is because when you eat too fast, you gulp in extra air…air which then stays in the stomach, causing bloat. Nearly 50 percent of the gas in our digestive systems is due to the air we swallow. The rest of the gas in our intestines comes from gut bacteria.
You may also be taking in too much air when you drink through a straw, chew gum or suck on candy. Avoid these things and see if your bloating diminishes.
GSID: Genetic Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency
GSID, A sucrose intolerance, could also be causing your bloat. GSID is an inability for your body to digest certain sugars and starch. It is also known as CSID, Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency. People who suffer from this often feel abdominal pain after eating foods containing sugars.
A food journal can help you figure out what’s causing your bloating. When you feel bloated, write down what you just ate or drank and see if you can find a common link. It may be as simple as slowing down your chewing, reducing portion size or eliminating one food or another.