Many people come to us complaining of bloating. But, is bloating normal? Or something to be more concerned about? For many people, bloating can be a normal part of the digestive process and nothing to be too concerned about. Let’s unpack what bloating actually is, what it is and some tips on how to reduce it.
What is bloating?
Bloating can be an ambiguous term used to describe a feeling of fullness, gassiness, tightness in the stomach area or abdominal distention. It may range from mildly uncomfortable to painful. By definition, bloating is actually caused by fermentation in the GI tract which causes gas production. This usually happens when we eat readily fermentable carbohydrates (like high FODMAP foods) and prebiotic fibers (like bananas, asparagus, oats, or artichokes). Our probiotics (beneficial bacteria in the microbiome) use these fibers for fuel, breaking them down into short chain fatty acids. These in turn help protect the cells of the colon and reduce inflammation. However, many people often associate fullness or fluid retention as bloating, too.
What Causes Bloating?
Besides the normal digestive process, there are several other reasons why you might feel bloated. During a menstrual cycle, some women experience fluid retention which may lead to feelings of fullness or “bloating”. Other reasons might be eating too quickly, overeating, not chewing your food well, smoking, drinking carbonated beverages, eating a lot of fiber rich foods in one sitting or eating foods that may promote bloating (see list below).
Foods that may cause more bloating:
- High FODMAP foods (easily fermentable carbohydrates like wheat, lactose,
- Cruciferous vegetables (Kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc.)
- Chia and Flaxseeds
- High fat foods
- Fiber rich foods (Seeds, veggies, some fruits, grains like oatmeal or quinoa)
Other more serious reasons for bloating that necessitate a trip to the doctor may include celiac disease, IBS, SIBO, PCOS, acid reflux/GERD, gastroparesis, thyroid dysfunction, Leaky gut, or IBD. Sometimes food sensitivities may cause bloating and other gastrointestinal issues. Identifying food sensitivities can help pinpoint other foods that may cause bloating that may not be as intuitive as those listed above.
Occasional bloating is a normal part of digestion as long as it’s not after every meal, painful or accompanied by other digestive symptoms. So, when is bloating not normal? If bloating is painful, chronic or accompanied by any of the symptoms below, it is worthwhile to go see a doctor to rule out any of the more serious issues above.
- Blood or undigested food in the stool
- Nausea after eating
- Unexplained weight loss
How to reduce bloat
If you experience bloating from time to time and it’s uncomfortable, try one or two of these gentle things to help support digestion and relieve bloating.
- Chew your food well and slow down while eating
- Avoid drinking a lot of fluids while eating
- Drink peppermint or ginger tea
- Try 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in warm water
- Take a short walk
- Stress management
- Do some yoga or gentle stretching
Sometimes lifestyle modification is all that is needed to help relieve bloating, and sometimes there is a more complex underlying cause that needs addressed. If you suffer from chronic, painful bloating and have tried some of these modifications to no avail, feel free to reach out to us for more individualized support!