While we all love to indulge in good food, for some of us, bloating can be an unfortunate and embarrassing side effect we could do without. In some cases it can be nothing more than a passing and minor discomfort, but for other people it may become chronic and extremely painful. The good news is, there are as many ways to find relief as there are causes of this irritating problem.
What is bloating?
Abdominal bloating is essentially any condition causing the abdomen to become abnormally distended, enlarged and swollen. It can range from a minor feeling of tightness around ones’ middle causing clothes to fit too tightly, through to painful, cramping gas pains and flatulence accompanying the feeling of fullness that can become quite crippling.
What causes the dreaded bloat?
There are myriad causes of bloating. The most common are poor diet and food intolerances – particularly lactose and fructose – as well as hormonal imbalances such as PMS, dysbiosis in the gut where undesirable bacteria dominate and produce abnormal amounts of gases within the gastrointestinal tract, constipation, and other gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Coeliac disease. Certain foods are also notorious for producing abnormal amounts of gas within the gastrointestinal tract, which often leads to bloating. These include cabbages, certain legumes and some artificial sweeteners.
How to get rid of bloating?
The most important thing is firstly to isolate the cause. If bloating that follows eating is a common occurance, it may be worth keeping a food diary. This involves writing down all foods and drinks consumed throughout the day, for several weeks, and noting down any undesirable symptoms. This way a pattern may emerge in which you’re able to identify trigger foods in order to avoid them. Ensuring a proper whole-food diet with plenty of fibre-rich vegetables, as well as fruit, eggs, nuts and seeds and meat is consumed, and avoiding the consumption of processed foods devoid of any nutritional value will go a long way to preventing bloating for many people.
There are numerous ways to help prevent bloating from occurring in the first place when consuming known ‘trigger foods’, however. One of the most useful is taking either digestive bitters such as traditional Swedish Bitters-type formulations, or eating bitter herbs prior to eating such as dandelion leaves, rocket, or mustard greens. These all help stimulate the production of stomach acid, which is required to break down foods adequately. This may help relieve gastric upsets or help prevent them from occurring in the first place, leading to less intense gastrointestinal symptoms.
In a similar vein, the use of digestive enzymes can further help with the efficient breakdown of foods in the gastrointestinal tract. These can be taken either in food form through the consumption of enzyme-rich foods such as bromelain-rich pineapple, or papain-rich papaya, or as multi-enzyme food supplements. Certain enzymes are available that can help the body to break down and digest specific problematic proteins and sugars such as lactose and gluten, which may be useful for people who are intolerant of these substances.
A number of herbal medicines may also be helpful for the prevention or relief of bloating and other similar gastrointestinal symptoms. These include carminative herbs such as chamomile, fennel, peppermint and licorice, as well as ginger and the New Zealand native kawakawa, which are both warming and traditionally used to settle nausea, dyspepsia and upset stomachs. Slippery elm may help soothe and assist digestion, as can aloe vera juice, both of which are high in the polysaccharide substance known as mucilage – a natural ‘slime’ that coats the gastrointestinal lining and may protect against irritants.
Probiotics are also very useful for the prevention and relief of bloating, particularly that caused by intestinal dysbiosis. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir are important to include in the diet where overgrowth of undesirable bacteria is suspected, and probiotic supplements may also be helpful for those who dislike these foods or who need specific strains to help alleviate their particular issue.
HealthPost carries a wide range of products that may assist in the relief of bloating, including fermented foods, probiotics, enzymes, and herbal medicines, as well as specific digestion formulations designed to help with the relief of symptoms and function of the entire gastrointestinal tract.
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