The phrase to be ‘feeling bloated’ has become ubiquitous in our day and age… sometimes I wonder how many times this was said in times where whole food and sitting down to dinner were the only options available to us.
It’s become evident that poor digestive function, and bloating, is a common symptom of our fast-paced, stressed, and packaged-food lifestyle. But its underlying mechanisms usually come about from the impaired ability to metabolize food properly and our body’s way of naturally eliminating waste.
What is actually happening when we feel bloated?
Bloating basically means there is an increased volume of gas within the gut. This can be directly caused through a number of reasons including gas accumulation due to the fermentation of unabsorbed food residues, constipation, changes in microbiota or gut flora, and poor gut motility.
Feeling a bit flatulent?
Bloating and excess wind sometimes go hand in hand, so although the passing of intestinal gas is normal, disrupted digestive function can often cause an increase in this process – becoming an uncomfortable, and at times embarrassing issue.
So What Can Help? ... The best tips to beat the bloat!
Maintaining adequate hydration is very important for a healthy digestive system, and although it can make you feel a little bloated on an already full-feeling stomach at first, it does help to flush the stomach and rehydrate your cells.
Excess salt in the diet is often linked to water retention, so getting some more potassium in your diet (and less sodium) can encourage cells to let go of stubborn fluid. Bananas aren’t the only food rich in potassium, sweet potato, pumpkin, tomatoes, and apricots are not only naturally high in potassium but are less energy-dense than bananas, but also deliver a whole host of other nutrients including beta-carotene, vitamin B6, lycopene, and fibre.
Although you’ve no doubt heard it a million times, exercise is incredibly important, but it still tends to be linked solely to its beneficial effect on weight loss when really its benefits go so far beyond that. As humans, we just weren’t meant to sit still for long periods of time! Being active can help improve bloating by increasing circulation, lymphatic sluggishness and digestive function.
Abdominal distension can often be a sign of bacterial imbalance in both the small and large intestine, as fermentation of certain foods by certain bacteria will naturally produce gas as a by-product.
In a way there is actually no such thing as ‘good’ bacteria, most of our gut bacteria is good when they are in correct proportions. So what is referred to as supplementing with Probiotics to increase ‘good’ gut bacteria basically means restoring populations of certain microbes that are diminished due to an overgrowth of others – it’s all about balance and a probiotic can help with this.
FODMAP’s (an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyol’s) are a group of specific carbohydrates that have been found to ferment in the gut due to the presence of bacterial overgrowth - which is actually extremely common!
Symptoms often include bloating and digestive discomfort, so limiting these foods can provide some much needed relief.
Whether it be due to increasing age, bacterial imbalance, or even medication use – there are many reasons why we do not produce as much hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes in our stomach as we should.
We really need these crucial enzymes to break down our proteins, fats, and carbohydrates properly. When we don’t we are more likely to experience digestive issues such as bloating and flatulence as food arrives at the small and large intestine only partially digested. You can increase your digestive capacity by supplementing with enzymes, or increasing stomach acid by taking a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in some water 15 min before meals.
Use Tea as Medicine
Not only a great way to hydrate through-out the day - tea is a wonderful way to incorporate herbs that are calming to the digestive system. Peppermint is one of the most popular digestive herbs and is renowned for reducing bloating. But Chamomile, Ginger, and Fennel are also wonderful digestion-promoting herbs that help food move smoothly through the intestines, there-by improving bowel movement regularity and proper absorption of nutrients.
Bloating is a common and uncomfortable part of life, but when it becomes a chronic occurrence it can really affect quality of life. Although simple measures should make some in-roads into addressing excess intestinal gas, if it doesn’t, do not hesitate to get it investigated further. Bloating can be a symptom of a large range of conditions, and most certainly warrants attention whether it is linked to poor digestive function or otherwise.