For some people, bloating is occasional and mild. For others, it’s a more daily affair. It can make you feel gassy, ‘stuffed,’ or heavy, especially after meals. It can be visible or simply a feeling but for most, the reason for bloating is too much intestinal gas, which can be caused by a number of things.
WHY DO YOU FEEL BLOATED?
Many times, helping people beat bloating requires a bit of digging to find what’s creating the issue in the first place. It’s also important to acknowledge that bloat can be a symptom of certain conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, and other functional gastrointestinal disorders—for which you would want to seek the advice of a health care practitioner.
That said, after helping hundreds of individuals, I’ve pinpointed a few lesser-known culprits of bloat you’ll probably want to note:
1. You Might Be Eating Foods That Cause Irritability
Many bloating problems come down to food. Overeating can certainly create bloating, along with consuming fried foods, too many carbs, and processed foods.
Overdoing fibre can also create bloating. While dietary fibre is great for your gut, but increasing the amount too quickly can be a problem. If that’s the case, slow down and add fibre gradually.
Certain foods including dairy and legumes can also create bloating in some individuals. Many people have intolerances to these foods, or the inability to fully break down that food with digestive enzymes, which further leads to irritation. Introducing an elimination diet is one way to remove potentially problematic foods, and then carefully reintroduce foods one at a time to pinpoint what is contributing to the bloating.
2. Your Gut Bacteria Might Have Balance Issues
Underlying many of these gut disorders is an imbalance of the gut microbiota, between favourable and unfavourable microorganisms in the digestive tract. Your gut contains about 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria, and the tiniest shifts in the relative predominance of these bacteria can affect how your gut works.
An overpopulation of bacteria in the small intestine can increase fermentation of sugar in the carbohydrates you eat, and bloating can occur from this gas production. As a result, people with this issue should limit carbohydrates, including starches, sweets, and sugars. To address this unique need, I use a carefully designed nutrient plan and implement an elimination diet, which cuts out all sugars, including sneaky sweet sources.
In a different situation, the small intestine can become imbalanced, or overpopulated with too much yeast or fungi. One type of fungus, a yeast called candida, can wipe out other friendly, symbiotic bacteria, and the imbalances in your gut bacteria may lead to gas and other digestive challenges. Interestingly, a diet rich in sugar and simple carbohydrates is also often the culprit here.
3. You Could Have Low Stomach Acid
Some individuals experience bloating within minutes after eating a meal that contains protein. They may also find they belch a lot. “After I eat, it feels like I’ve got a brick sitting in my stomach for an hour,” one person told me.
Low stomach acid–not too much—can cause issues after eating. When you don’t have enough stomach acid to adequately break down protein, food sits undigested in the stomach for longer.
The most common sign of low stomach acid is a feeling of bloating or stomach expansion after eating a protein-rich meal. If you experience this on a regular basis, you might benefit from supplementation. I often recommend hydrochloric acid supplements as a targeted approach, but be sure to consult with your health care provider before giving this a try.
How To Beat Bloat
Sometimes pinning down what creates bloating can require some trial and error. Carefully tracking what you eat, when you eat it, and any accompanying ‘gut feelings’ in a journal can help better pinpoint the problem. This is an important step in developing food-gut intuition—your ability to tell which foods personally disagree with you and which ones lead to a happy gut.
Once you identify what contributes to the bloating, the diet should be personalised to limit specific problem foods and create a plan that supports overall gut health. I also often recommend lifestyle modifications, including stress management and regular exercise.
Choosing the right foods can go a long way toward creating a healthy nutrition foundation for your gut health to reduce bloating. But so can how you eat. I encourage patients to slow down while they eat.
So many of us speed through meals, eat while working, and don’t give mealtime due consideration.
Instead, try to be mindful during meals – it might help to start off with deep breaths, prayer, gratitude, or whatever helps you be more present while you eat.
A high-quality probiotic may also be helpful. Among probiotics’ numerous health benefits, research shows the microorganisms provide beneficial bacteria and help improve bloating, while promoting digestion and other GI functions.
Finally, consider intermittent fasting. Giving your gut a break can do wonders for bloating and other targeted gut needs.