Abdominal bloating is an inconvenience for many as it causes your stomach to look bigger and it is accompanied by physical discomfort. Bloating is not associated with weight gain but with sudden, temporary abdominal distension affecting men and women alike.It may sometimes be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
However, more often the cause will be less severe and the remedies will include something as simple as reducing the amount of fizzy drinks you consume. Although it is a temporary condition, you may want to look at ways of beating it, which depending on the cause should be very easy. So what causes belly bloat and how do you beat it?
This could be the cause if you notice that you often experience flatulence without any other symptoms. Whilst it is normal to produce gas on a daily basis, it is possible to reduce it considerably. Certain foods are known to cause wind and bloating and cutting down on them is one way of tackling this issue. These foods include broccoli, onions, milk, prunes, beans, cabbage and cauliflower. However, it is not advisable to avoid these completely.
The above foods are very nutritious, high in fibre and part of a balanced diet, which should only be limited to a certain extent. Your body will usually react negatively to them only if it is not used to them. Adding them to your diet gradually should limit excess flatulence. It is also possible to reduce bloating by consuming foods, which have the opposite effect to the ones named above. Foods such as ginger, probiotic yoghurt, peppermint and pineapple will help you de-bloat.
Some of the causes of constipation include low-fibre diet, not enough fluids and too little exercise. This, in turn, will cause stomach bloating, which can easily be avoided by increasing the amount of fibre in your meals, drinking plenty of fluids (at least 6-8 glasses of water per day) and daily physical activity such as walking your dog for 30 minutes per day.
However, it is more advisable to do this gradually in order to allow your body to adjust.
Allergies and intolerance
Certain food allergies and lactose intolerance could be the reason for excess gas and stomach bloating when you are not emptying your bowel properly, too much gas is produced or if the food causes trapped gas. However, before you eliminate any ingredients, such as wheat, gluten or dairy from your diet, it is important to consult your doctor so he can confirm the condition. Self misdiagnosis can lead to an imbalanced diet, which could lead to other conditions.
Keeping a food diary of what you eat and when you experience bloating will give you an idea of whether there is any correlation. If your doctor confirms that you are suffering from allergies or lactose intolerance, it may be possible to replace the food in question with other products, or to simply limit the amount you consume.
Swallowing too much air
Not chewing your food properly and eating too fast will cause you to swallow too much air, which will contribute to bloating. As we eat, we swallow the same amount of air as food and so eating quickly will increase that amount even further. Other factors causing you to swallow air are chewing gum, talking during a meal, eating whilst standing or walking, chewing with your mouth open and drinking fizzy drinks. Every meal you eat should last at least 30 minutes, which could also make you enjoy your food more. Reducing carbonated drinks will also have a great impact as the fizz contained in them causes gas to be trapped in your stomach. Also, sugar contained in carbonated drinks may not digest properly and so it is better to reduce or eliminate them from your diet.
You should replace them with lemon water or de-bloating drinks such as herbal tea. Similarly, chewing gum will cause you to swallow more air, which should be avoided by limiting it even if it is a habit difficult to eliminate. Try substituting it with fruit or popcorn. If you find it difficult to stop chewing gum, avoid the sugar-free options, as these contain ingredients which may cause further bloating. This is similar for sugar-free drinks.
Numerous women complain about bloating during their menstrual cycle, which is normally down to hormonal changes happening in their bodies, namely the increased level of progesterone. Whilst it is difficult to control the hormonal fluctuations, it is possible to reduce the bloating by adding more fibre to your diet. In order to keep your hormones in balance, certain foods and a specific lifestyle are required.
In order to alleviate the bloating and balance out your hormones, you should reduce the consumption of tea, coffee, alcohol, cut out refined sugar, avoid soya and increase your intake of dark green vegetables and complex carbohydrates. Also, even though this may be the last thing you feel like doing in that moment, exercising will flush out any excess fluids, which can contribute to menstrual bloating.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If the bloating occurs frequently and you also experience other symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation or pain, you may be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 80%-90% of IBS sufferers report bloating as one of the symptoms. This is associated with erratic propulsion of contents through the bowel. As the gut is more sensitive in IBS sufferers, this can cause side effects associated with the syndrome, such as bloating. For those with IBS, excessive gas is rarely the reason behind bloating and distension. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for IBS but there are ways of managing the symptoms.
Increasing your intake of probiotic yoghurt and peppermint tea, and eliminating fatty and high-fibre foods will ease the bloating to a large extent. However, seeing your doctor is advisable as IBS is a condition, which can interfere with your daily life. The effects are more severe for IBS sufferers than with common bloating, as it normally occurs in the evening and it can increase your abdominal size considerably, thus interfering with your social life. Your doctor will be able to prescribe medication, which will ease the symptoms even further.
Your bloating may be due to coeliac disease if you often feel tired, gain weight, lose weight despite a large appetite, or get diarrhoea, constipation or abdominal pain. The disease is described as intolerance for gluten, wheat proteins, barley and rye. It is advisable that if you experience symptoms such as bloating and any IBS-related symptoms, you should have your blood tested for coeliac disease. Unfortunately there is currently no known cure for the disease.
Reducing the intake of foods such as pasta, bread or any other products containing gluten will alleviate the symptoms of the disease and will decrease the bloating considerably. Although it may be hard to avoid all products with gluten, untreated coeliac disease is likely to lead to further complications, such as anaemia, lactose intolerance and pancreatic insufficiency.
As the gut and the brain are normally related, stress can be a major cause for bloating. This is even more common in IBS sufferers but it can also occur in those with no other IBS-related symptoms. Due to stress the colon may experience spasms, which will cause bloating and distension. If you notice that your stomach is normally more bloated during a more stressful period, it is advisable to practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga, which amongst other various benefits will encourage a mental calm, or using calming breathing techniques in order to boost oxygen to your brain and regulate your breathing patterns.
Herbal medicine is also known to have a calming effect, which may relieve your digestive problems and help you sleep. You should also increase your consumption of wholegrain options in order to directly reduce the bloating.
Lack of exercise
Lack of physical activity can encourage your body to absorb gas, slow down digestion and cause constipation. This can be easily changed with limited exercise for 30 minutes five times a week, which will improve your frame of mind and will allow gas to pass through the digestive tract more quickly.
However, even a 10-minute walk will have a great impact on your digestion and gas, not to mention numerous other health benefits associated with it. Exercise will also reduce the amount of water retention absorbed by your body and will flush out any salt. After the exercise make sure you consume a meal which is high in protein as this will further eliminate the trapped air and minimise the swelling.
If you are experiencing any signs of bloating, it is important to check with your doctor that there is no underlying medical cause. Once you and your doctor have established the cause of your temporary distension and bloating, there are numerous ways of treating it, which will not only alleviate the discomfort but may also affect your social life in a positive way
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