There can be lots of causes of bloating and whilst the exclusion of organic gut disease is important, it’s also important to understand what causes bloating so you can take steps to 'beat the bloat'. Registered Nutritionist Dora Walsh (mBANT, CNHC) shares some of the common and less well known reasons you might be bloated and tips to reduce bloating.
You may also enjoy '7 best foods to help you debloat'.
Common causes of bloating
Imbalanced gut bacteria
A common cause of bloating is when the gentle balance of gut bacteria is disrupted by poor food, diet or antibiotics. The subsequent imbalance and alteration of colonic micro-bacteria can cause increased gas in the colon as a result of fermentation, which leads to bloating.
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The impact of antibiotics on gut bacteria and bloating is well studied, and in many countries Doctors routinely prescribe prebiotics and probiotics whenever they prescribe antibiotics, to help counter the negative effect antibiotics can have on your gut bacteria. Find out more in 'What are probiotics?'.
An imbalance in gut bacteria can also lead to gut sensory and motor dysfunction, which can be another contributing factor to bloating.
Learn more about the 'Common & unusual symptoms of IBS'.
Poor digestion and absorption of carbohydrates is commonly associated with bloating and gas. This is true of simple, complex carbs and fibre, which are all important in our diet. Unabsorbed carbohydrates can reach the colon where bowel bacteria feed on them, which in turn liberates hydrogen gas and causes bloating.
Undigested carbohydrates can occur due to the lack of digestive enzymes in the intestines. Disorders such as celiac disease which is an intolerance to gluten can also lead to an inability to digest and absorb carbohydrates.
SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
People who suffer SIBO have excessive bacteria in the upper intestine between the stomach and the large intestine, which can lead to bloating, abdominal distention, abdominal pain or discomfort, and in some cases diarrhoea.
The frequency and severity of symptoms of SIBO reflect the degree of bacterial overgrowth, along with the extent of mucosal inflammation.
You might enjoy reading 'What your poo says about your health'.
Food intolerances to milk lactose and wheat or gluten
Milk lactose intolerance
Milk lactose intolerance can lead to bloating due to insufficient levels of the digestive enzyme, lactase. Lactase is an enzyme normally produced in your small intestine that digests the milk protein, lactose.
Other symptoms of milk lactose intolerance can include abdominal pain, gas and diarrhoea. You may enjoy 'What does your poo say about your health'.
Outside of the auto-immune condition of coeliac disease, wheat consumption is often associated with bloating, abdominal pain, and bowel habit abnormalities, with symptoms often classed as ‘non-coeliac gluten/wheat sensitivity’. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.
You can learn more here about the 'Signs of gluten intolerance'.
It’s important to ensure coeliac disease is definitively ruled out, so check with your GP if you're uncertain.
Bloating is a common symptom of menopause - 60% of women going through perimenopause or menopause experience bloating - and it's also a common symptom of PMS. Indeed, hormone changes are the cause of what's commonly referred to as 'period poo' - learn more about period poo.
Studies show hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle and menopause affect gut motility (movement in your gut), leading to bloating, and that bloating is a regular symptom of menstruation.
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Psychological or social stress can lead to bloating. It can trigger the fight or flight response which can switch off our digestive function or slow it down.
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How to reduce bloating
It sounds obvious, but it's the best first step! Prepare your food well in the mouth and salivate by chewing each mouthful up to 30 times if need be before swallowing - think how long horses and cows chew grass for before swallowing. Chewing aids digestion further down the digestive tract. Try to eat slowly without feeling self conscious of over-chewing, or feeling rushed, and avoid gulping air or eating on the run.
Discover your food intolerances
A food intolerance test can help you understand which foods may be causing the bloating or other symptoms of IBS. Your local GP will be able to provide a food intolerance test. Eliminate the suspect foods for 6 weeks, and try to restore your gut function with foods high in Vitamin A and collagen rich foods. Then gradually re-challenge the suspect foods to see how you respond.
Prebiotics and probiotics
Good bacteria need nourishment from prebiotic foods like apples, berries, asparagus, bananas, chicory and onions. Taking probiotic supplements can also support the levels of good gut bacteria in the gut.
Probiotics are good bacteria in our body, in particular in our gut but they're also on most surfaces of our body. Lots of our body's functions rely on probiotics to function effectively, from our brain, concentration, natural detoxification, to our skin complexion, energy and immune health.
Our bodies also have bad bacteria including fungi and parasites, which cause illnesses, disease - and bloating. Good bacteria in the form of prebiotics and probiotics fight off bad bacteria, ensuring you have a healthy and balanced gut microbiome.
Discover the 'Best Probiotics for IBS'.
Adopt a hormone balancing diet
You can relieve symptoms of menopause, peri-menopause and hormonal bloating through your diet and supplements.
In your diet, you can support your hormonal cycle with phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen's) from flax seeds, sesame seeds, celery and berries, as well as liver supporting foods including broccoli and cabbage.
MenoFriend is a unique plant-based formula to relieve symptoms of menopause, including brain fog, hot flushes, night sweats, bloating, fatigue, mood swings, joint aches and others, and is recommended by 85% of customers. Learn more here.
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