Why Do I Feel Bloated?
Bloating is one of the most common digestive problems. Most of us will experience this uncomfortable swelling in our abdomen at some point in our lives, some people more often than others.
Symptoms of Bloating
When you’re bloated, you know about it. Bloating symptoms are uncomfortable and can ruin the pleasure of enjoying a meal. Your stomach feels bigger than normal or tight—as if a balloon is being inflated inside your abdomen. It can effect anyone, no matter what age they are or lifestyle they follow.
You might find that the area around your waist, between your hips and your ribcage, actually increases, too. This swelling is known as distension.
Bloating and gas often go hand-in-hand. You may get hiccups and need to burp and pass wind more often. Your belly may rumble and gurgle as your digestive system tries to do something with all the gas lingering in your digestive tract.
Stomach pain and bloating are fairly common problems. The symptom of pain can vary from a mild tummy ache to sharp, intense cramps. This discomfort and other bloating symptoms often ease up after you’ve been to the toilet.
If you experience stomach bloating regularly, you’ll know that it puts you off your food, and eating less can cause tiredness and fatigue.
Don’t ignore a bloated stomach. Bloating after eating may not just mean you’ve overindulged—it could be a key sign that your digestive health isn’t as good as it could be.
Causes of Bloating
As you eat and drink, you gulp back more air than you’d imagine. This gas collects in your digestive tract. Hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide—produced by your digestive system and the bacteria lining your gut as they break down your meal—are also added to the mix. This is all normal. But sometimes, too much gas builds up inside your body.
Some foods are known for being especially ‘gassy’. And it’s not just the ones you’d expect, like beans, cabbage and Brussels sprout. Other foods which cause bloating include deep fried and fatty foods, sugary foods and those containing artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol. The list goes on:
- Processed breakfast cereals
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Foods containing fructose
Other causes of bloating are related to food intolerances. Lactose intolerance is very common. This means your body struggles to digest the sugars in cow’s milk. Coeliac disease—an intolerance to foods containing gluten—can also be a major trigger of bloating.
Even if you think you’ve identified foods that cause you to bloat or whether you think swallowing a lot of air might be the issue, too many high gas producing bacteria in your gut will stop you solving the problem completely. As with all things it’s about achieving the right balance.
The bacteria lining your large intestine play a vital role in helping your body digest food. You probably have over 500 different types of bacteria in your gut, and scientists now think that the balance between these different types of bacteria affects digestion and indeed other aspects of health.
Having plenty of the good bacteria in your gut ensures you have effective digestion and keeps your gut cells working efficiently. Having good levels of bifidobacteria in the gut can be particularly helpful as these do not produce gas when they digest food (carbohydrates), lowering the overall level of gas in the gut.
But other types of bacteria produce more gas and are less efficient at digesting your food. If your gut is lined with more of these bacteria than good bacteria, excess gas will gather and you may find it more difficult to beat the bloat
Treatment of Bloating
Here’s the good news: in many cases, bloating after a meal doesn’t have to be something you must live with. There are many things you can do to tackle the problem.
Simple lifestyle changes can often ease your symptoms, too. Try eating more slowly and avoiding habits that cause you to swallow air into your stomach, such as drinking through a straw or chewing gum.
However, if you still cannot get rid of your bloating, it could be time to address the problem at its source: the bacteria lining your large intestine.
Everyone is different. You might naturally have a large proportion of bacteria that produce a lot of gas. Or the normal balance of bacteria in your gut may have become unbalanced—perhaps by a poor diet, high sugar levels, stress or antibiotics.
As research continues, increasing amounts of evidence are showing that by increasing levels of beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacteria in the gut, you can help tip the balance back towards optimal digestive health.
A particularly effective way to help rebalance the gut is by incorporating the latest generation of food supplements, like Bimuno®, into your diet. These selectively feed and increase the good gut bacteria while supressing the growth of less helpful types. Bimuno® Daily can be taken by anyone aged 4 years and above, so it is suitable for most members of the family who are suffering from bloating.
Stomach cramps and bloating combined with weight loss, fever, severe or sudden pain—especially when accompanied by nausea or vomiting—vaginal bleeding or seeing blood in your stool are all issues that you should discuss with your doctor.
Please seek advise from your GP or healthcare practitioner if you are suffering from chronic bloating, especially if it gets worse.