Ever find yourself feeling a little distended after a particularly large thanksgivings dinner or one too many amuse-gueules at that swanky party? We’ve all been there! But what if you’re part of the unlucky 30% of Americans for whom bloating happens on the regular? For whom this issue leads, at the very least, to embarrassing situations and, at the very most, to a constant feeling of discomfort? If this is you, read on to find out how to get rid of bloating once and for all. The following tips might be just what you need!
Bloating and gas are pretty close to the top when it comes to the list of most uncomfortable topics to discuss. Yet, although they may feel like a curse only you suffer from, they’re actually quite common. And luckily, equally avoidable. But before we get into the details of how to prevent these pesky symptoms from ruining your swag, it might be useful to start with why they occur in the first place.
Many factors can encourage bloating, gas being the first of them. Gas is actually a byproduct of digestion. It is produced by bacteria in the colon, which feast on undigested food materials, as a result, releasing gas. Some foods produce more gas than others and, as you will see below, the trick is not necessarily to completely avoid gas-producing foods, but rather, to find a balance that works for you.
Then, there’s constipation. Constipation can make you feel bloated for two reasons. One’s because food stuck in your intestines inevitably makes your abdominal region look larger. The second is because the longer undigested material sits in your colon, the longer it serves as a buffet to your colonic bacteria, increasing bloat-inducing gas production.
Another common cause of bloating is the swallowing of air. Air can be swallowed by eating too fast, talking while eating, drinking through a straw and even through chewing gum! Two ways to avoid this from happening at mealtime are to eat more slowly and to chew your food well. Aim to chew approximately 20 times per bite (or for as long as it takes for your mouthful to turn into an easily-digestible paste). This not only reduces the chances of air being inadvertently swallowed, but will also help food pass through the body with more ease, decreasing digestion time and thus, the risk of bloating. As for straws and gum, use with caution (especially if bloating is a big issue).
Finally, your bloating may be caused by a food intolerance or allergy. When it comes to food intolerances, main offenders include wheat, gluten, dairy products and fructose. Your best approach to finding out if your bloat is caused by these nutrients is to talk to your doctor about taking a test. Once identified, the culprit food should be either greatly avoided or cut out completely. Another way to identify the culprits is to keep a food diary for a couple of weeks, noting down everything you eat and drink as well as when bloating causes the most trouble. Then it’s simply a matter of giving the instigators the boot!
If none of the causes above resonate with you, you may have what is known as irritable bowel syndrome. This chronic digestive disorder often causes symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain and bloating, especially in the evening. In this case, bloating doesn’t appear to be linked to excess wind, but rather down to erratic propulsion of contents through the digestive system.
Cutting down on caffeine-containing, fatty or high-fiber foods and drinks can provide some well-needed relief. Another thing that may help is to avoid fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (also known as FODMAPs). A heap of studies show that FODMAP-containing foods such as wheat, onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, artichokes and beans (to name a few) can drastically worsen symptoms such as bloating and cramping in patients with irritable bowel syndrome whereas a low FODMAP diet can lead to major reductions in symptoms. Click here for a comprehensive low FODMAP list.
What Are Some Other Culprits?
Ok. Now that you know the principal causes bloating, here are some additional foods to keep an eye on if you’re looking to deflate.
We’ve all heard of the many benefits of fibre, but being too enthusiastic about incorporating it to your diet can lead to some unpleasant surprises. For instance, suddenly going from eating an average of 10-15 grams per day (as most Americans do) to the recommended 25-35 grams, will likely have you experiencing less-than-pleasant symptoms such extremely soft or extremely hard stools, gas and bloating.
That’s because the bacteria in your colon are influenced by what you eat and thus need, as with any type of change, time to adjust to the increased influx of fiber. Give your gut flora some slack by slowly increasing your fiber intake by 5 grams or fewer every week until you reach a level you’re happy with. Over time, these little beasts’ population will reach a new baseline and your body will adjust to the volume of gas produced without experiencing discomfort.
Also known as chicory root extract or chicory root fibre on food labels, inulin is a type of fibre naturally found in wheat, onions, bananas, garlic, asparagus, sunchoke and chicory. This soluble fibre is famous for its prebiotic properties, meaning it not only helps reduce cholesterol but can also stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in your colon. For these two reasons, as of late, you can easily find a wide array of foods supplemented with inulin. But before you rush out to stack up on such foods, take a step back as this may not be as great as it sounds. And especially not if you commonly experience bloating.
That’s because on the one hand, the refined, isolated form of inulin now commonly added to foods may not operate in the same exact way as the inulin naturally found in nature. If you need and example, think of the difference between the healthy fructose naturally found in corn and the man-made refined high fructose corn syrup identified as a large contributor to several chronic diseases. On the other hand, inulin remains a fermentable fibre, meaning it retains the ability to cause gas and bloating when consumed in large quantities. Basically, when it comes inulin, more may not actually better! To prevent it from exacerbating your symptoms, make sure to scan labels carefully!
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