Nearly all of us are familiar with over indulgence and festive bloating, but for many this can be a year-round concern. In fact, the most common of all digestive complaints is abdominal bloating.
Sufferers will know it well – you wake up with a beautiful flat stomach and as the day progresses the stomach muscles expand just like in pregnancy and allow the build-up of gut toxins. You may also have associated heartburn, abdominal pains and wind.
Medically the term for bloating is abdominal distension, which refers to an increased stomach size and circumference. We always assume that belching, passing wind or opening your bowels helps, but this is not always the case.
Understanding what causes stomach bloating will help you to ride the Christmas and New Year frenzy of over-indulgence.
In general terms, most of us look for food intolerances such as gluten, sugar or fibre. But there is no doubt that the way we eat our food has a direct correlation the natural digestive processes. Food intolerances are specific triggers to bloating, but the truth is, almost anyone can be intolerant to almost anything and whilst we can cut out of the diet these triggers, we should also look at the mechanics of how we eat. Belching is a consequence of swallowed air during mastication (chewing) so is a simple indication of your own mechanics of the way you eat.
Eating too fast, not chewing for long enough, gorging, drinking straws and fizzy drinks increase air intake whilst eating. Leaving a gap of 30-60 minutes before a desert will allow the stomach enzymes to digest the already ingested food and will reduce the amount that you eat. You may even find that leaving this gap will prevent you from eating that dessert.
Passing wind is usually an indication of a combination of swallowed air and gas created by bowel enzymes that break down your food in particular undigested carbohydrates.
The most common foods that cause bloating are carbohydrates and they can be both simple and complex. Complex carbohydrates are foods that naturally ferment and are easily broken down by gut bacteria causing bloating and wind. Simple carbohydrates are sugars and some fibres. Usually fibre in the form of breakfast cereal will cause bloating. Consequently, eating cereal in the morning can start you off on the wrong foot. However, fibre in the source of beans (all beans) also causes bloating and gas, as does fatty and greasy food.
A good source for fibre is insoluble fibre such as bran, seeds, fruit and vegetable skins which will relieve bloating. Alka Seltzer relieves gas build up in the stomach.
In some people, these foods can cause bloating;
- High-fibre cereals, wheat and snack foods
- Onions, garlic, bananas, leeks, artichokes and asparagus
- Lactose, fructose, alcohol, apples, mangos, pears, cherries and watermelon
- Cow’s milk, yogurt, soft cheeses, cream, ice cream, butter, custards and puddings
- Kidney beans, black beans, baked beans
- Fatty, greasy foods anything in batter or deep fried
- Salt increases fluid retention
- Fizzy drinks
How to relieve bloating;
- Lose weight
- Reduce smoking and alcohol intake
- Alka Seltzer / Magnesium supplements
- Keep a food diary
- Get an accurate test to indicate food intolerances
- Increase water intake
- Eat slowly
- Don’t use straws
- Take probiotics
- Exercise – take a short walk after every meal
- Reduce portion sizes
- Leave an hour between main course and dessert
- Get a test for H Pylori
And if all of this fails, a gastroenterologist visit should be the top of your list to rule out any underlying medical concerns.
Eat well this Christmas and be happy!