Bloated Stomach: Common Reasons and How to Treat Them
Bloating is an unpleasant fact of life and it may be a result of a number of reasons. Bloating happens to us all from time to time and is a common complaint amongst people of all ages. The symptoms of bloating vary and can range in severity from extremely mild to severe enough to cause pain. They commonly include feeling excessively full after meals. For some people the bloating can be so bad that it leads to flatulence and burping, abdominal noises and swelling.
Why Bloating Happens
Bloating is the result of excess gas in the digestive tract. It happens for two reasons:
Firstly, the digestive process itself releases gas from the food as it is broken down.
Secondly, certain habits can cause you to swallow air. When the two combine, it can be an uncomfortable experience.
You Eat Too Much Or Too Quickly
Eating too much food is one of the most common causes of bloating. The gas created by the digestive process is unable to disperse and just sits in the gut. Try serving yourself smaller portions but allow yourself more time to eat it. It takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to recognize the body’s signals that it has had enough, so if you eat more slowly you are less likely to overeat. Taking the time to savor each mouthful has other benefits as well. Chewing your food more thoroughly helps get the digestive process underway (saliva is a digestive juice which helps to break down food). Finally, people who eat too fast often gulp air along with their food adding to the gas in their bellies. Preventing this can help to ease bloat.
You Are Swallowing Air
It is not only eating too fast that can lead to excess air in the abdomen. The following habits can lead you to swallow air:
Using a straw
Drinking sodas or other fizzy drinks
Chewing gum or sucking on a hard candy
You Are Stressed
Stress or anxiety causes physiological changes in the body. Among those is the reaction which diverts blood from the digestive system and into other parts of the body. This makes the digestive process less efficient which can lead to bloating. In some people the response to stress also causes changes to their breathing which results in them gulping air. If you are nervous or anxious try some simple breathing or relaxation exercises to help you feel more in control.
You Are Eating Gassy Foods
Some foods are more likely to cause bloating and excess gas than others. Fat is the hardest food group to digest, so very rich meals and can lead to bloat. Fat takes longer to digest than protein or carbohydrates, so it keeps the stomach full longer. Examples of gassy foods include beans and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). Some people are more susceptible to certain vegetables and fruits than others. Whole grains which are very high in fiber are also a common cause of gas problems. These foods have incredible health benefits but you may need to eat them in moderation if they cause bloating.
You Don’t Drink Enough Water
Most people fail to drink enough water. Insufficient fluid intake can lead to dehydration which prevents bodily systems and functions, including the digestive system, working at peak efficiency. The foods mentioned above are all a key part of a healthy diet. When you do eat, particularly meals which contain a high percentage of high fiber, you should aim to drink more water. This will help maintain motility within the digestive system and prevent bloating and constipation.
You Use Sweeteners
In an effort to cut down on sugar, many people turn to artificial sweeteners (which can make you sick and diabetic) or an alternative such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) (which is also added to many processed foods such as ketchup, bread and even to your coffee). In many people fructose is not easily absorbed by the body. Fructose is usually absorbed in the small intestine, but for those with fructose intolerance, some travels to the colon, where bacteria ferment the fructose. This causes the release of hydrogen and methane gases, which cause pain, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Dairy Consumption May Cause Bloating
Some people have an undiagnosed lactose intolerance. If you notice that you are susceptible to bloat after consuming dairy then you might need to search for an alternative to traditional milk.
Your Medications Cause Bloating
According to WebMd, many non-prescription and prescription medicines and supplements can cause gas and bloating. A few examples are:
Diarrhea medicines, such as Imodium, Kaopectate, and Lomotil.
Narcotic pain medicines
Fiber supplements and bulking agents, such as Citrucel, Fiberall, and Metamucil.
Natural Remedies For Bloating
Bloating is usually fairly easy to control if you know what to do. Also making the changes outlined in this article should see a drastic easing of symptoms. If you still experience the odd bout of bloat and want relief, you can use home remedies:
Herbal Teas For Bloating
Herbal teas have several advantages when it comes to digestive problems: they adsorb gases, reduce stress, help blood flow to the digestive system and eliminate various pollutants.
Foods To Prevent Bloating
There are certain foods such as ginger, papaya and pineapple that can prevent bloating but there are many other foods that are helpful as well.
Abdominal Massage For Bloating
Abdominal massage is a technique that has been used by multiple cultures since the time of the ancients. Performing abdominal massage can help to regulate metabolic function and reduce the build-up of wastes in the body (which contribute to bloating), leading to relief from uncomfortable bloating.
Bloating is rarely serious, but if you are unable to get it under control by following the suggestions in this article, you should consider making an appointment to see a medical professional. If bloating is accompanied by blood in the stools, vomiting, persistent diarrhea, weight loss or heartburn that gets progressively more painful, you should make an appointment to speak to your doctor. While some abdominal discomfort is not uncommon with bloating episodes, any severe and prolonged abdominal pain should also be cause for investigation. In the time leading up to the appointment maintain a food diary noting everything you ate and the time of the meal and the timings of any bloat episodes. This should help you and your doctor to pinpoint potential causes and avenues for investigation.