Intestinal bloating is often caused by or goes together with belly gas, abdominal pain, physical swelling of the tummy and constipation. Approximately 10% of Americans report being sufferers of the dreaded bloat, with or without eating a large meal. Bloating and passing gas (flatus) excessively, along with constipation, cramps and/or diarrhea are also symptoms of Irritable Bowel Symptom (IBS), which affects up to 20% of American men and 24% of women.
Factors influencing bloating (with or without pain and gas) are often down to diet, lifestyle habits such as not chewing food properly and/or digestive ails. These digestive issues could include inflammation of the colon due to the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut, which stops the good bacteria from being able to assist with digestion.
Certain enzymes are required to break down the various food groups such as dairy, carbohydrates, and protein. Consequently, a lack of these enzymes could result in food lying in the tract longer than it should and consequently fermenting. This allows the body to store it as sugar and ultimately fat.
Here are some bloat-beating remedies that work quickly.
1. Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics help the body greatly with digesting certain food groups, along with enzymes, as they repopulate the gut with the good bacteria required for this function. As there are many probiotic supplements on the market, finding the right one for you can be tricky as not everyone has the same base level of probiotics, and so finding what you’re missing is no small thing.
However, what you can do is to look for a multi-strain probiotic with a high culture count. Multi-strain supplements are a better bet than single-strand ones, not least because not every strand survives the same pH level in the body. The last thing you need is your pH barrier stopping these probiotics from being effective. One of the most studied strands is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), so a product containing this is a good start. Your supplement should also preferably contain prebiotics. You should be to be more regular and see permanent results within a month at most.
2. Enzyme Supplements
Instead of missing good bacteria, you good be lacking certain important enzymes. The enzymes lactase and amylase, for example, break down dairy and complex carbohydrates respectively. Once these foods are broken down, they can then be taken up in the body as nutrients, with whatever not being needed to be discarded as waste.
When foods cannot be broken down, they simply languish in the gut, where they have every opportunity to ferment. Fermentation often results in sugar and its byproducts. If these are not used by the body thanks to activity, they are ultimately stored as fat.
Enzymes are produced naturally by the body but as with all bodily functions, this is affected by age. From about the age of 40 onwards, the body starts producing less and less of this important digestive tool. If you are older and suffering from bloating, you may specifically be lacking important enzymes.
3. Avoid Fast, Fatty Foods
It may be that, if you have been bloated for a while you could actually be rather hungry despite this. Not all bloating is due to excess food lying in the gut awaiting expulsion. You may be feeling sorry for yourself and tempted to ingest your favorite junk meal treat. Resist this temptation.
Greasy, oily and salty foods such as burgers and fries can upset your tummy. These are not the kind of good fats such as Omega-3 or Omega-6 that you want to be infesting. These bad fats are saturated and contain trans-fatty acids that inflame your digestive tract. When your digestive tract becomes irritable, it will try to expel the food. It will also rebel in the ways it knows how often by going into cramp mode or emitting large amounts of gas.
We are naturally attracted to junk foods at times of feeling low because unfortunately certain compounds in these foods also mimic the effect of the feel-good hormones in the brain. It helps to remember that the brain’s reward system is only stimulated while you’re eating, often causing you to overindulge and making your bloat symptoms even worse.
4. Readily Available Over-The-Counter Remedies
Sometimes, especially if you’re experiencing bloatedness as a one-off symptom and feeling uncomfortably swollen, you need a very quick, one-time remedy. For starters, over the counter antacids tend to work well. They not only neutralize the stomach acids that cause heartburn but work with the stomach acids to speed up digestion as well.
If you suspect your bloat is due to dairy, use Lactaid or Dairy Ease to help break down the lactose. Many individuals also find simethicone-based products such as Gas-X and Mylanta Gas to be very helpful, while others have experienced little to no relief.
If you are having a reaction to beans, you could also try a product such as Beano. Products such as Beano may decrease the gas that is emitted when certain legumes and beans are broken down. An easy way to know if your bloat is due to something you ate, is if you’re uncomfortable and you’ve eaten something that’s not normally in your diet.
5. Eat Mindfully
One of the biggest causes of excessive belching and bloating is due to swallowing too much or ‘extra’ air. Turns out, mom wasn’t nagging for no reason when she said, ‘Sit up straight at the table and eat with your mouth closed!’.
Today, slouching in front of the TV while you eat or scrolling through your social media feeds on your smartphone is the norm. This leads to what is called aerophagia, or swallowing air. Yes, that air accumulates in the tummy where it is trapped until it is expelled – unfortunately, the next time you eat you take in the air again, leading to the same cycle.
The same is true if you have allergies that force you to breathe through your mouth because your nose is blocked perpetually. You could also suddenly feel side cramps after a workout or bloated because you inhaled excess amounts of air while exercising. This is why those breathe-in, breathe-out exercises are so vital. Coming back to talking while you’re eating or hunching over your plate: chew your food properly and keep your mouth closed.
6. Is There A Link Between Your Depression and Bloating?
There may well be. Firstly, it is important to note that the nervous systems in the brain and digestive tract are separate, but communicate with each other. There is a huge link between low serotonin levels in the gut and depression. This means if you’re not eating well and digesting poorly, it certainly impacts your mood or lack of a good one.
But the link goes further. Many drug remedies used to treat depression have bloating as a side effect. This is a bit of a double whammy. How then do you relieve depression if it’s causing your bloatedness and lack of digestion, which is linked to lowered serotonin and feeling down?
Consider using psychotherapy instead of taking pills, and you could try switching from traditional drugs to natural serotonin supplements. The best thing you can do is to get moving, even if it’s a brisk walk, as nothing stimulates the feel-good hormones like exercise.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
This natural, high-acid liquid is rich in nutrients and compounds such as acetic acid which kill off overgrown bad bacteria population in the gut faster than almost anything else. It also does so in a side-effect free manner, an added plus. In addition, it has a high nutrient value and contains compounds that help to break down food stored in the gut. Many celiac disease and wheat allergy sufferers have seen their symptoms of bloat and gas greatly reduced by ACV, even when accompanied by the foods that irritate the colon.
It is a total-effects cure as it also promotes regularity. Because it breaks down food so effectively, it promotes the removal of waste from the body. Because it regulates blood-sugar so well, it programs the body to fully satisfied for longer. This means less snacking between meals and less of a chance to feel bloated.
8. Stay Hydrated
Many people inadvertently make the mistake of drinking less, not more, when they are bloated. Even worse, they may take diuretics, all in the mistaken belief that their bodies are retaining water. The fact is that water retention is often the body’s cry for help for more fluids – the body will retain water precisely because it feels it is not getting enough water in the first place.
Not only do you have to drink more; you have to drink more water or lemon water in particular. Lemon is a natural antioxidant which will flush out any toxins which could have accumulated in the gut, contributing to the bloat. Avoid coffee and alcohol. The problem with these two drinks is that they dehydrate the body, rather than saturating it with liquid. When the intestines lose liquid and the lubrication required to function properly, this is one of the big triggers for bloating.
You may have woken up as a child one day in excruciating abdominal pain and being diagnosed with a ‘burst’ appendix. The appendix has to be taken out in this situation as it can be life-threatening if not removed.
Unfortunately, as an adult, there is a big link between bloating and the missing appendix. As it turns out, this little organ is where the body’s reserve of good gut bacteria is hiding. The body is ready to deploy this reserve in the event of an emergency, such as the onslaught of infection. This is why if you’re minus your appendix you may feel very bloated right after an infectious disease or something similar.
The first favor you can do your body is to ditch as many antibiotics if possible. These upset the bacterial flora balance in the gut further. Supplement your diet with probiotics that contain the good bacteria you’re missing from that underrated organ, the appendix.
10. Don’t Eat Too Much or Too Little Fiber
How much fiber you need depends on your symptoms, and how regularly your bowel is able to move on its own without, for example, the need for a laxative. Fruits that are not overly sugary, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are some of the best sources of fiber or roughage. Fiber stimulates the bowel into moving, a process during which waste is propelled out of the body. It goes a long way, if not all the way, to relieve the feelings associated with bloat. When your bowel does not move, it accounts for the feeling of feeling full or heavy in addition to being bloated.
If you suspect that fiber is the problem, increase your fiber intake little by little, along with decreasing your white flour intake. Too much fiber can be a shock to the system and have the opposite effect by inflaming the digestive tract. If you have IBS, celiac disease, or diverticulosis, you need to manage your fiber intake as too much fiber can be just as disastrous as too little fiber.