Bloating is one of the most common digestive complaints I see in my practice. Athletes are getting bloated before, during or after exercise. Women are feeling bloated during or just prior to their period. Men are suffering from bloating every time they eat. Most people think bloating is a sign of a food intolerance, allergy or sensitivity. While this CAN be true, it's not the ONLY reason for bloating.
The best way to get rid of your bloating is to figure out what's causing it. Here are some possible causes for this uncomfortable symptom.
1) Digestive Damage - Chronic use of certain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (advil) and/or naproxen for pain management can cause damage to the stomach and intestines. This damage can lead to ulcers, altered stomach acid secretion and impaired digestion. When your stomach doesn't produce the correct amount of acid, you don't break down proteins and fats very well. This can lead to gas and bloating. To fix this, we need to work on managing pain without NSAID medications to prevent further damage to the gut. We need to repair the damage caused and improve your ability to breakdown and absorb nutrients.
2) Eating on the run - If you're scarfing down breakfast in the car, or inhaling your lunch during a conference call you need to slow down. Chewing your food is the first step of the digestion process. Your stomach does not have teeth. You may notice an improvement in your bloating by simply slowing down and spending at least 20 minutes eating each meal.
3) Unhappy Hormones - For women, some degree of bloating is normal prior to menstruation. This occurs because the womb (uterus) has actually increased in size and volume due to the accumulation of a lining layer intended for providing nutrition for a newly conceived fetus. If you are not pregnant, you'll shed this lining when you bleed with your period and will naturally feel lighter and less bloated. The normal amount of bloating prior to menses is usually located below the belly button and is only slightly troublesome. If you have bloating throughout your abdomen, or are bloated for a week or two before or during your period, there could be a hormonal imbalance especially if you have other symptoms of PMS. Severe bloating combined with heavy bleeding, breast tenderness, painful cramping and mood changes can indicate a hormonal imbalance that can be treated.
4) Not Enough Good Guys - If you've needed antibiotics in the last year for an infection of any kind you may have an issue with your gut bacteria. An overgrowth of bad bacteria and/or yeast in the bowel can cause bloating. This can be aggravated by antibiotic use (as antibiotics kill a lot of the bacteria in the gut, leading to opportunity for bad bacteria to grow), and it can be caused by eating a lot of sugary foods. Good bacteria are fed by fibre, bad bacteria are fed by sugar. You can impact the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut by changing what you eat. If you're bloated after a big weekend of drinking, that can be due to the sugar content in alcohol feeding the bad bacteria in your gut. Eating fruits and vegetables is the best way to get lots of fibre to feed the good bacteria in your gut. You can also consider taking a probiotic supplement. Based on your unique needs, your health care provider will recommend specific strains and dosages of probiotics to help with your concerns.
Bloating can be caused by one or all of the above issues. Once we figure out why you're bloated, the treatment becomes clear. Instead of just covering up your symptoms we will get to the root cause of the issue to get you feeling better!