Bloating is something we have all experienced to differing degrees, maybe it was the feeling you got after eating too much thanksgiving dinner or after a night out trying so many new foods your digestive system didn’t know what to do with. For others, bloating is a DAILY occurrence. It can begin from the moment they wake up and for some, increases with each meal they consume. While bloating may be your “normal”, it doesn’t always have to be! Believe it or not, bloating tells us information about what is happening inside your body and what your digestive tract is (or is not) doing! You may feel like “you’ve tried everything” – every old wives’ tale, and you’ve followed the internet’s top 7 steps to stop bloating - but nothing seems to help! That might be because you aren’t actually treating the reason WHY you are getting bloating, which may be different from someone else. Below are some of the top reasons that I see cause bloating, as well as heartburn, constipation/diarrhea, and many other digestive disturbances.
1. Stomach acid or enzyme deficiency
Many people are all too familiar with the signs of too much stomach acid and the havoc it can wreak on your digestive system, but what about not enough? Stomach acid and enzymes are so important, they help to digest the foods that we eat and absorb the nutrients we need. Some foods can put up more of a challenge for our digestive system and some people just need a little bit of extra help to break them down.
2. HOW you eat
We often put so much emphasis on WHAT we are eating we sometimes forget to think about HOW we are eating. Is it in front of the TV, in the car on the way to work, or do you take bites between running around the house getting ready to leave? When we eat while preoccupied or on the go, we can be in more of a FIGHT or FLIGHT state which puts more stress on our digestive systems. When we actually sit down and focus on just eating, it puts our nervous system into a REST and DIGEST phase – helping us to digest our foods better.
3. Food allergy or sensitivity
Food allergies like lactose intolerance or celiac disease often present not just with bloating but a myriad of other symptoms immediately after you consume food with these proteins in them. These conditions can make it difficult for us to absorb the rest of the nutrients we are eating and are important to go see your doctor about. A food sensitivity however can cause similar symptoms but often times less severe, and can be a delayed reaction that can present from bloating to headaches and even fatigue!
4. Bacterial overgrowth
Our gut is filled with a ton of different bacteria that all help to create our microbiome, but it all needs to be in the proper balance. Abnormally large overgrowth of bacteria in the wrong places can cause major digestive issues. Bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting - you name it! These bacteria feed on simple fiber and sugars so it can seem like you are sensitive to SO MANY foods, when in reality it is unwelcomed guests that are causing all of the trouble!
5. Rule out more serious causes
Although less common, it is important to rule out more serious causes like colon or ovarian cancer or GI infections which may also cause bloating. Make sure you talk to your doctor about any new or alarming symptoms that you may have to rule out these first.
Sugerman D.T. Abdominal Bloating. JAMA. 2013;310(15):1637