Bloating is the experience of a distended abdomen after meals or at random times throughout the day. The stomach can feel large, tight and sometimes painful. Reducing bloating is often easy when the cause is known.
The benefits of reducing bloating are a general feeling of being lighter, a reduction in abdominal pain and gas can come to a halt.
The way I normally look at bloating in my practice is as a general sign of maldigestion, as a symptom pointing to something larger and more important taking place. It is a common symptom of IBS and usually will contribute to an overall feeling of unwell.
10 Steps to Reducing Bloating (& Feeling Lighter)
Below are 10 steps you can actively take to reduce your bloating. Most of these are centered around a potential cause of IBS.
Follow this guide to feel leaner and lighter but also experience the benefits of proper digestion including improved detox, absorption of nutrients and immune function.
Have you tried each of these and still found no benefit? Consider advanced medical testing such as a SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth test), Food Sensitivity Test or Fecal examination (contact me for more information about any of these tests).
When is it occurring? – Track
The first step in reducing bloating is tracking when it occurs. Is it after meals, when you wake up, in bed, certain days and not others?
This information is very important because it can help us determine what the potential cause might be (I’m thinking foods or stress related).
Does anything make your bloating better or worse? Many people feel better when they reduce their caloric intake or simply avoid wheat. Some improve when they stop drinking liquids with meals and others when they cook for themselves and quit restaurants for a while.
Get to know your digestion and learn from it.
Note other digestive symptoms
The next investigative step is to note associated symptoms. Most important is your stool examination.
We can determine a lot from the texture, color and consistency of stool. Have you noticed undigested food other than corn in your stool? This could be a symptoms of low digestive enzymes.
- Is there red blood in the bowl? This could be an injury like a hemorrhoid or fissure in the lower colon (unless you recently ate beets).
- Is the stool black? This can be a more worrisome symptom of a bleed higher up in the colon (unless you took a high dose of iron recently).
- Is there any mucous in the stool? This can be a sign of inflammation from infection, autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease or diverticulitis (as well as others).
- Do you experience stomach pain? When bloating causes pain it is usually gas but occasionally inflammation can be the culprit. There is a list of serious potential causes that need to be ruled out if pain is severe so see a physician.
- Do you burp a lot? This can be a symptom of dysbiosis (overgrowth of gas-forming bacteria), high or low acidity or too much carbonated product intake.
- Do you experience gas? Does it smell? The smell can be a poor digestion of protein or sulfur containing foods.
- Do you experience heartburn? These symptoms could be due to high or low stomach acid depending on the situation and symptom picture.
Look at your health holistically
When looking to reduce bloating from a holistic perspective we have to take into account all potential causes:
- Increased stress lately – stress can reduce digestive function leading to delayed gastric emptying and reduced peristalsis – in other words, everything slows down. This gives the bacteria of the digestive tract a longer time to create gas (which leads to bloating).
- Hormone function – do you get bloating with your cycle? When estrogen goes high in the second half of the cycle water retention is common and bloating follows.
- Alcohol, treats, sugar – has your lifestyle fallen off track lately? Things like increased alcohol intake, sweets, junk food and high sugar beverages can cause water retention, changes in gut flora and even intestinal inflammation and immune responses.
- Change in diet – have you adopted a new diet or added in new foods recently? On the flip side – have you been consuming the same food a lot lately? Mono food eating can be a major cause of bloating.
Avoid possible inflammation creating food sensitivities
Now that we have done some investigation we should have a better idea of where to begin with respect to treating the cause. More generally avoiding the usual suspects is usually helpful.
Tracking IgG antibody responses we see frequent reactions to wheat, dairy and eggs. Research has shown these responses could possibly be implicated in headaches, depression and IBS among other symptoms.
There are many reasons to manage consumption of wheat and bloating is one of them. Immune sensitivities to gluten, gliadin and/or negative effects from too much yeast exposure are all possible.
As we age we lose the ability to digest dairy. When undigested food making its way through the small and large intestines our beneficial bacteria will often form gas when exposed to these molecules. Inflammation can also occur.
Eggs have high sulfur and trialing a period of avoidance can be helpful in reducing bloating.
Avoid possible gas producing foods
There are many foods that have been identified as gas producers when eaten too frequently or in abundance (or if digestion is impaired).
The short list is as follows:
Did you have undigested food in your stool? Do you suffer from heartburn?
Determining which enzymes may be helpful for you should be left to a physician. Broad spectrum options can occasionally be successful but I like to be specific in this circumstance.
We use HCL for protein and heavy meals, broad spectrum for carbohydrates, fruits and veggies and ox bile for fats. We now have access to specific enzymes for gluten, dairy and beans if needed.
Are you having a bowel movement every day? Reducing constipation is just as important as optimizing enzymes in reducing bloating. Make sure you are having daily movements that are fully formed.
Balance the microbiota
Balancing the flora of the digestive tract has been proven beneficial in IBS and is especially useful when there is diarrhea.
Probiotics aren’t always indicated especially when there is an overgrowth of beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus can sometimes do this). If you take them and feel worse simply stop.
When there is an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria probiotics are incredibly useful. For many, probiotics are the answer to their bloating (others need anti-bacterial herbs such as berberine to help rebalance the population).
Avoid gas producing processed foods
Processed foods are never recommended and bloating is no exception. Artificial sweeteners, soda and high sugar foods such as candy are all potential causes of bloating.
Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is very important in reducing bloating. Bloating has been associated with eating too quickly and talking while eating. The extra air that gets into the digestive system is the culprit.
Eating too quickly means food isn’t broken down as well as it should be when it hits the digestive tract. This can set off the bloating cascade.
Keep anxiety low around meal time to step into parasympathetic (rest and digest) response. This can help with enzyme release, inflammatory modulation and peristalsis.
Reduce your consumption
Finally, one of the major causes of bloating is overeating. We have spoken about some of the different foods implicated in bloating but in general greasy, fried foods and high carb, heavy meals like pasta will usually cause bloating and upset stomach.
Consider eating smaller portions, intermittent fasting for 12-13 hours per day and avoiding late night eating.
Track your symptoms and figure out what works for you.
Use this guide to feel leaner in 2017 by cutting bloating from your life for good. When you find out what works for you let us know!
Have you had success reducing your bloating using one of the above mentioned methods or something different? Let us know in the comments below.