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Bloating 101: Why Your Stomach Swells Up and What You Can Do About It

Bloated Stomach

| Bloating can occur for a variety of reasons; from simply eating too much to having an undiagnosed medical issue.

Bloating: nothing can seemingly make it go away; not that new fad diet or even trying to not swallow as much air while eating.

It's estimated that between 10-25% of healthy people experience the feeling of being bloated at some point in their life, and it's even more common for those who suffer from something like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation

The "funny" thing is, though, we're not actually completely sure what causes the bloating.

 

Dr. Rebecca Reynolds, who's a nutrition lecturer at the University of New South Wales, says that "bloating can involve a sense of gassiness or a sense of abdominal distention, but measurable distention does not necessarily occur."

 

"Bloating can be accompanied by other things such as pain, nausea, flatulence, burping, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea and more," Reynolds says.

But what is excessive gas actually? Your intestines produce around 25 litres of gas on a daily basis (written by gastroenterologist Terry Bolin in a piece for The Conversation.

"On average, men fart 12 times a day while women fart seven times – portions of 30 to 120 millilitres. The total is the equivalent of a blown-up party balloon," Bolin writes.

 

The cause of bloating could be almost anything

Reynolds also notes that while bloating is often explained by sudden changes in the diet (e.g. a big Christmas dinner), the cause can be of many different factors.

"It might be stress, swallowing air, consuming fizzy soft drinks, eating too much in one sitting, or you may have an undiagnosed or poorly managed medical issue going on in your gut," Reynolds advises.

"Medical gut issues include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), coeliac disease, Morbus-Chron's disease, lactose intolerance etc."

 

If bloating happens to you regularly, consult your doctor

Charlene Grosse, an accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Australian Dieticians Association, says that it's not all bloating is not necessarily food-related.

"It's important to avoid self-diagnosing - your first call of action for regular bloating should be going to see a licensed healthcare professional such as your general practitioner", Grosse says.

"If it turns out that it's food-related, bloating can occur for a whole number of various reasons; it could range from suddenly eating too much dietary fiber to being lactose intolerant or coeliac."

 

A major cause of gases in the stomach are fermentable carbohydrates, which are sugars that ferment in the large intestine and release gas during the process. Fermentable carbohydrates are found naturally in foods such as apples, pears, dried fruit and high fibre vegetables like baked beans and lentils.

 

Reynolds says that foods that are high in dietary fibres are often the culprits.

"These foods reach the large intestine and are fermented by the living bacteria in there, and that process is what produces stomach gas", Reynolds says.

"This is usually a good thing, except when these bacteria receive an excess amount of fuel, hence why they overproduce gas."

Here are Dr. Reynolds' tips for minimising bloating:

 

DO-NOT'S:

 

  • Going overboard with how much you eat - your large intestines is unable to cope with the added load
  • Using straws for drinks - they can sometimes cause you to swallow more air than necessary
  • Tobacco smoking. It's also a contributor to ingesting an excess amount air (yet another reason to quit smoking)
  • Consuming an excessive amounts of fizzy drinks like beer and carbonated soft drinks such as soda.
  • Eating foods that contain artificial sugars like xylitol

 

DO'S:

  • Allow yourself to burn and fart - quite simply! It's human nature! (Be cautious of when and where, however)
  • Sit down and take your time to eat your meals, and consume food and drinks slower
  • Perform exercise on a regular basis to reduce stress leves
  • Eat foods high in dietary fibres and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation
  • Try dietary supplements that can aid in digestion and relieve abdominal discomfort like Gasex by Himalaya Herbal Healthcare