Surprising reasons you might be bloated – DR.VEGAN
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Surprising reasons you might be bloated

Surprising reasons you might be bloated

There are various causes of bloating and whilst the careful exclusion of organic disease is important, it’s also good to understand what could be causing your bloating, and how to support yourself. We recently explained the 7 best foods to help you debloat and here DR.VEGAN's Registered Nutritionist, Dora Walsh (mBANT CNHC) talks about some of the less well known reasons you might be bloated and tips to reduce bloating

Less known causes of bloating


Psychological or social stress can lead to bloating. It can trigger the fight or flight response which can turn off, slow down or stop digestion.

Hypnotherapy and CBT are commonly offered to patients with common and unusual symptoms of IBS, and may also be effective in patients with functional abdominal bloating disorder. 

Imbalanced gut bacteria

The gentle balance of gut bacteria can be disrupted by poor food and antibiotics. The subsequent imbalance and alteration of colonic microbacteria can cause increased gas in the colon from fermentation and lead to bloating.

The imbalance in gut bacteria can also lead to gut sensory and motor dysfunction which may also contribute to bloating.

Learn more about the common & unusual symptoms of IBS.

Undigested carbohydrates

The poor digestion and absorption of carbohydrates (simple, complex carbs and fibre) is commonly associated with bloating and gas. Unabsorbed carbohydrates reach the colon where bowel bacteria feed on them, thus liberating hydrogen gas and causing 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.  

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 be interested in 'What does your poo say about your health'.

Wheat intolerance

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.

Discover 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. 

Hormone fluctuations 

There are various studies showing hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle and menopause can affect gut motility (movement) and lead to bloating, and that bloating is a regular symptom of menstruation.  You may be interested in our blogs: 12 most common symptoms of menopause or Nutrition for PMS symptoms.

How to reduce bloating

Chew well

Prepare your food well in the mouth and ensalivate (produce saliva) by chewing each mouthful up to 30 times before swallowing (think how long horses and cows chew grass for before swallowing). This aids digestion further down the digestive tract. Try to eat in peace 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.

Adopt a hormone balancing diet

For hormonal bloating from PMS, perimenopause or menopause, support your hormonal cycle with phytoestrogens from flax seeds, sesame seeds, celery and berries, as well as liver supporting foods including broccoli and cabbage.

Dora Walsh is a Registered Nutritional Therapist mBANT CNHC and Registered Nutritionist mBANT. She runs Nutriheal specialising in nutritional therapy and lifestyle medicine for women's various health concerns, hormonal health and weight management.

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Mari, A., Abu Backer, F., Mahamid, M. et al (2019). Bloating and Abdominal Distension: Clinical Approach and Management. Advanced Therapies, Vol 36, pp 1078 -7079. 

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