3 in 4 Americans experience some sort of digestive dysfunction with bloating being one of the top symptoms. What is bloating? What causes it? And how do you stop it? All these answered here.
WHAT IS BLOATING?
Bloating is technically defined as trapped gas inside the digestive tract. Like holding your breath for a long time—with no room or release of air, the same thing happens inside your gut.
Gases fume inside with no where to go.
Hello tummy protruding, gas, feelings of inflammation (and often the inability to think much about anything else because you feel so uncomfortable)!
WHAT CAUSES IT?
How does the trapped gas get there in the first place?
While WEBMD chalks bloating up to “swallowing too much air” that gets trapped in your stomach, bloating is actually a byproduct of many other underlying triggers.
Although it’s nearly impossible to go through a lifetime of eating without experiencing a belly bloat at least once in your life, for individuals with an underlying “gut issue” or “digestive imbalance,” bloating can become a chronic, near daily (or meal-to-meal) occurrence.
Common “triggers” to bloating and “digestive issues” include:
- Low Stomach Acid
- Thyroid Dysfunction
- Eating Fast or On the Go
- Not Chewing Your Food
- Food Intolerances
- High Starchy Foods
- Too much of any one food at once (ie. too much protein in one setting, too much fat or carbs to digest)
- SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
- Intestinal Permeability
- Poor Sleep & Restorative Rest
- Low Water Intake
- Overtraining or Sedentary Lifestyles
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Nutrition Bars & Shakes
- Medications & Antibiotic Use
The long of the short?
When something is “off” with your digestion or gut health—such as a “leaky gut,” fungal or parasitic infection, low stomach acid and GERD, or bacterial overgrowth—then bloating (or for others, constipation) is often a natural side effect.
In fact, bacterial “overgrowth”—or “SIBO” (“Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth”) is one of the most common culprits of chronic bloating for those who experience it on a regular basis.
BACTERIAL OVERGROWTH 101
While we ALL have bacteria in our gut (and we NEED bacteria to keep us healthy)—we want a balance of bacteria strains.
When we have “SIBO”—or “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth”—we have MORE gas-producing types of bacteria running wild and free in our gut.
In a normal, healthy gut, the majority of our gut bacteria are found in the colon or large intestine.
However, if there is a “back up” in digestion or our complete elimination of our foods, over time, these bacteria begin to overgrow first in the large intestine, then make their way up to the small intestine.
Once in the small intestine—the organ where the MAJORITY (6-8 hours worth) of digestion happens—these bacteria end up further stalling healthy digestion from happening.
Like an army of hungry ants at a picnic, these SIBO bacteria roam around in your gut, awaiting the next feast or foods they can devour.
Come meal time, these bacteria swarm upon foods consumed, and have a hey-day especially if our meal had any hint of sugar or ketone properties (ie. carbs or fatty acids).
Our bacteria instantly light up, and fight the otherwise “normal” flow and breakdown of these nutrients for our digestive process.
Bloating is worse for some folks than others—depending on their gut bacterial composition.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?
Although bloating may seem like a “normal” factor life, it doesn’t have to be.
If you experience bloating regularly, here are 7 hacks to curb the bloat.
1. Be a Food Detective.
Keep a mindful food log to note and record what you eat and how you feel—specifically paying attention to bloating symptoms. Bloating is typically an early onset symptom triggered when we eat something our body (or digestion) does not agree with.
Be a sleuth. Common culprits include: Artificial Sweeteners, Protein Powders and Bars, Soy, Fructose, FODMAP foods (i.e. apples, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), Grains and Wheat, Conventional Dairy (lactose sugar), and some Proteins (ie. low stomach acid is typically the reason why proteins aren’t digested well).
2. Herb & Spice It Up.
Ginger, Turmeric, Garlic, Aloe, Peppermint, Oregano and Licorice can all calm a bloated belly. Drink ginger tea or chew on fresh peeled ginger. Mince garlic and eat in a spoonful of applesauce. Swig back some aloe vera juice. Take Oregano Oil capsule or sub-lingual Oregano Oil or Peppermint essential oil. Iberogast is another commercial formula with a power punch of herbs in one.
3. Atrantil & Digestive Enzymes.
Two amazing supplements for “in-the-moment” relief, Atrantil is an “antimicrobial” herb-based supplement that blasts methane producing bacteria in the gut. Unlike probiotics that specifically target the large intestine, Atrantil helps with instant relief from the top down. Digestive enzymes are capsules to take with meals that help further break down food—like Pac-Mans.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar.
Another instant-action relief, ACV quickly boosts stomach acidity to assist in your natural digestive process and breakdown of food. Take a tablespoon in 2-4 ounces of water before or after meals.
5. Move It.
One of the worst things you can do for bloating is lay down after a meal. If you are super bloated after eating, consider taking a walk, doing a few sun-salutations (up dog/down dog), or even getting on all fours (hands and knees) and putting your rump in the air.
May sound silly, but moving the gas around a bit can help release. That said, an intense workout when you’re feeling bloated is probably not the best either—as working out increases cortisol (stress) and stress further inhibits digestion and proper food breakdown when you need it most.
6. Figure Out the Root Cause.
Working with a functional medicine practitioner, nutritionist or other healthcare practitioner familiar with looking to the root causes of body imbalances and disease is a game-changer. Although GI doctors are trained in the gut, many typically look to just treating the primary symptoms—the bloating, GERD or IBS itself with medications—rather than digging into what keeps causing the bloating in the first place (i.e. bacteria overgrowth, low stomach acid, food intolerances, etc.) in the first place.
Connect with Dr. Lauryn today to get to banish the bloat today.