10 Tips for Eliminating a Bloated Belly
Editors Note: We welcome Suzanne Perazzini, a nutritional therapist specializing in irritable bowel syndrome and certified by Monash University on the low FODMAP diet, as a guest contributor. You can learn more about her here in our interview with her.
In this article she is sharing with us her view on eliminating bloat. We strive to bring you different points of view in reference to the low FODMAP diet as one dietitian or nutritionist’s experiences and words might resonate with you and help you on your way to health.
Always consult a professional to work with to assess your own individual needs as they may differ from experiences shared by others.
Bloating is Natural
Most people hardly even notice it, and they eliminate the gas that causes it from their digestive systems in small burps and farts throughout the day.
However, it becomes an issue when you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The average person passes wind 15 to 25 times a day, and those with IBS fall within those parameters. The problem is that they feel the from the gas more acutely because of the increased sensitivity of an IBS sufferer’s gut.
On top of that, the gas seems to accumulate in pockets in the intestines instead of being distributed throughout the gut. This is what causes the bloating.
10 Ways Gas Enters Your Digestive System
Let’s have a look at ten different ways that gas can enter your digestive system and what to do about it.
In healthy people, FODMAPs are absorbed through the lining of the small intestine. When an individual has difficulty with this, as in those with IBS, excess FODMAPs pass to the large intestine, where the resident bacteria cause them to ferment.
This fermentation produces hydrogen or methane, which causes bloating. Following a strict low Fodmap diet will reduce the fermentation in the bowel and so reduce the bloating.
To understand the relationship between FODMAPs and IBS this video from Monash University provides a simple explanation.
Fat can be a gut irritant due to its ability to increase colonic hypersensitivity. All the cells in your body require fat, so you can’t cut it out of your diet completely. You need to eat enough fat to stay healthy and feel well, without triggering your symptoms. It’s a fine line and the tolerable level will be different for each individual.
You have to find out where that line is for you. For instance, a drizzle of olive oil on a small salad might be okay, but perhaps deep-fried chips or French fries will cause bloating and other IBS symptoms. Consuming too little dietary fat can aggravate constipation among other things, so do get as much as possible within your individual limits and find that balance that will keep you bloat-free. (https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/does-fat-play-role-in-management-of-ibs/)
Fibre can also be a gut irritant, but you do need it for “normal” bowel function. Around one ounce (28 grams) is the recommended daily fibre intake for the general population. As an IBS sufferer, you may need to eat less in order to prevent fibre-induced symptoms, like bloating.
The exact amount of fibre you should consume is highly individual, and trial and error is the only way to find out what works for you. It’s a fine balance, but it’s important to experiment in order to get as much fibre into your diet as possible without triggering your bloating. (https://www.ibsfree.net/news/2014/4/24/getting-enough-fiber-on-a-low-fodmap-diet)
Everyone is busy, busy, busy these days and so food is no longer a moment of quiet pleasure when you sit down and focus on the act of eating. More often than not, it is consumed in a rush while working, driving, applying makeup or getting the kids ready for school. Or perhaps with a group of friends laughing and talking with the focus on anything but eating.
And so, air is gulped down with the food through eating too fast, talking while eating, or mindless eating with the mouth open. Go back to the basics of why we eat, which is to survive, and eat calmly, slowly and as much as possible with a closed mouth.
The bubbles in carbonated drinks are gas pockets that get introduced into the intestines when consumed. This can build up and cause bloating. This includes any sort of fizzy drink like soda or sparkling water. None are exempt. Another way to contribute to your bloating while drinking is to drink through a straw.
A considerable amount of air is swallowed during this process. Avoid carbonated drinks and straws to eliminate this possible cause of your bloating.
Smoothies are not a good idea because they often contain too many fruits and/or vegetables all together, which makes the drink high FODMAP, and hence fermentation in the colon becomes an issue with the resultant bloating.
But, even if the contents are a good low FODMAP combination, you are introducing air into the drink when you make it into a smoothie, and that air has nowhere to go but straight into your digestive system, causing bloating. Avoid all smoothies.
When you chew gum, you swallow more often and some of what you’re swallowing is air. This air enters your small intestines, placing pressure on the abdomen and surrounding areas. Digestive gases mix with the swallowed air, causing increased pressure. Also, the artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, that are found in some gums can give you gas through fermentation.
Chewing gum fools the body into thinking it is about to receive food and so the gut enzymes and acids are activated which can cause an overproduction of stomach acid, and can affect your ability to produce enough digestive secretions when you need them, contributing to your IBS symptoms, including bloating. Avoid chewing gum.
Stress and anxiety can lead to bloating through hyperventilation because you are taking in more air than you need. But even without hyperventilation, you will possibly breathe faster and shallower, swallowing air in the process, which will cause bloating.
But most importantly, many studies show that stress throws off the balance of the gut microbiome, causing IBS symptoms including bloating. Stress is unavoidable, but when it strikes, take even, rhythmic breaths down into your abdomen as opposed to your chest to convince the body that the stress doesn’t exist.
This simple exercise alone can interrupt the messages of stress that travel from your brain to your gut, where they create the chaos of IBS symptoms.
Reflux can cause bloating in the upper abdomen under the ribs. One of the causes of this bloating is that with reflux, you swallow more frequently in an attempt to wash the acid flow back down into the stomach or to clear the throat of any protective mucus that has formed. This excess swallowing can include air.
Avoiding acid-producing foods like tomatoes, citrus fruit, peppers and spicy food can prevent the reflux in some people and so eliminate this type of bloating.
Many medications are life-saving and should never be stopped or even altered without a consultation with your health practitioner, but it’s important to be aware of the side effects of any medicines you are taking because many of them can cause bloating.
This may go unnoticed by someone without IBS, but an IBS sufferer will always be affected negatively by any bloating because of their hypersensitive gut. If possible, avoid any non-essential medicines since many contain high FODMAP ingredients like sorbitol in cough remedies and mannitol in antacids.
Occasionally, excess gas and bloating may be caused by a more serious medical problem, so never ignore it. Put good practices in place where the above ten points are concerned but if your bloating continues, then seek help from your doctor.