Bloating. We have all experienced it at some point. It is uncomfortable, sometimes painful and is often accompanied by gas and unusual bowel movements. While bloating can be a sign of some serious gut issues (Eg. Coeliac’s disease, IBS, Crohn’s disease), sometimes it can be just a result of a few simple things that you might be doing every day. Listed here are four of the most common reasons you might be experiencing bloating and what you can do about it…
CULPRIT- Antibiotics, the OCP, alcohol and stress (to name a few)
HOW? Beneficial gut bacteria are like the security guards or the “good guys” that keep all the bad guys out of your gut. They protect your gut from pathogens and viruses, therefore keeping your digestive system happy and also making your immune system healthy. Exposure to things like antibiotics and the OCP can cause an imbalance between good gut bacteria and bad gut bacteria. When the bad bacteria crowd out the good guys, this is called dysbiosis, which can cause a bacterial overgrowth (and not of the good kind). This can lead to infections such as Candida Albicans (thrush) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) which presents with symptoms such as bloating, pain, nausea and fatigue.
WHAT CAN YOU DO- Put the good guys back in!! Including probiotic rich and fermented foods into your diet such as whole milk kefir, pot set Greek yoghurt, kombucha and sauerkraut can help to naturally increase your beneficial gut bacteria. Also including a good quality probiotic into your daily routine is a simple way to see results. However, if you think your suffering from SIBO or Candida speaking with your holistic practitioner to find the right protocol for you will provide you with the best results J
Eating on the go-
CULPRIT- Doing too many things whilst eating- I blame you Facebook, Netflix and being in a rush
HOW? Eating meals on the go, while your standing up or whilst focused on something else doesn’t allow our body enough time to prepare for an incoming of food. Our digestion only works at an optimal level when we are relaxed and mentally ready to eat. This is called parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activation or otherwise known as “rest and digest” mode. Sounds silly to be mentally prepared to eat I know, but if your brain isn’t aware that your about to eat a meal how is it meant to signal to your gut to release digestive enzymes in preparation of food break down? In addition to this, when we are busy doing everything other than focusing on what’s going in our mouths we aren’t chewing properly, meaning that by the time food lands in our stomachs, the digestive system is already behind it’s A-game causing food to be only partially digested. When food sits in the gut waiting to be fully digested, it begins to ferment and produce gas… Cue bloating and flatulence.
WHAT CAN YOU DO- Slow down and actually enjoy meal time! That means putting the phone down, taking time to eat before jumping in the car and being mindful of what your food actually looks, smells and tastes like. Giving yourself more time to enjoy food doesn’t sound like too evil of task hey? And on the plus side being mindful of what you eating actually helps signal to your body when your full, meaning you’re not over eating, meaning not putting on the sneaky few kg’s (win win!!).
Low stomach acid-
CULPRIT- Drinking water with meals, prolonged exposure to stress, medication use, low protein intake (particularly in vegans/ vegetarians) and B12 deficiency
HOW? Drinking liquid such as water with meals actually dilutes your stomach acid making it harder for you to break down your food which can cause bloating. Stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCL) is required for the break down of food so it can either be absorbed as nutrients or digested and excreted. Not only does a lack of stomach acid slow digestion, it also means the pancreas wont be triggered to release enzymes to support food breakdown, and the liver wont secrete bile to emulsify dietary fats. And what does that leave you with? You guessed it, partially digested food stuck in your stomach= BLOATING.
WHAT CAN YOU DO- Increase your natural production of stomach acid by starting your day with a warm glass of lemon water with apple cider vinegar (see thebalanceofbeing_ Instagram for recipe), relaxing at meal times so your body isn’t stressed and your parasympathetic nervous system is activated, chewing your food thoroughly and eating wholesome, real foods! If you have really low levels of HCL, supplementing with betaine HCL may be advised by your holistic practitioner.
CULPRIT- Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), ovulation, poor oestrogen clearance, stress
HOW? Hormones, you love to hate them right? They drive your sexual urges and help you fall pregnant, but at the same time they can make you gain weight (oestrogen loves to gather around your hips/ thighs), give you cramps before/during your period, make you moody and irritable, and of course they can make you BLOAT. How they do this you ask? The luteal phase of your menstrual cycle begins right after ovulation and lasts for about two weeks. At the beginning of this phase, oestrogen takes a nose dive and the slowly rises again and remains high, and progesterone also kicks in. This can cause bloating in two ways-
- High oestrogen- more water retention= bloating and feeling puffy and “fluidy”
- High progesterone- during luteal phase causes a delayed gastric transit time meaning food is moving more slowly through the digestive tract causing constipation and bloating. However, once menstruation begins progesterone rapidly drops which increases bowel activity and can cause diarrhoea and bloating.
WHAT CAN YOU DO-Improving oestrogen metabolism can help reduce PMS symptoms such as sore back, bloating and sugar cravings through increasing the sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) blinding capacity to oestrogen, thereby improving liver detoxification of oestrogen and clearance from the body. This can be done by increasing your intake of brassica vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale) which help support liver detoxification and therefore oestrogen clearance. Other simple ways to help balance your hormones include minimising caffeine and sugar intake and looking after your gut health! Achieving hormonal balance often requires the help of a holistic practitioner because the root cause of the imbalance can be multi-factorial (stayed tuned for blog post on hormones coming your way soon).
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the things that can contribute to bloating they are just a few simple things to be mindful of!