What is bloating?
Sometimes bloating is associated with fibre and we're often asked questions about it, so we've created this page to provide you with some more information.
Bloating is one of the most common digestive problems. Many of us will experience this uncomfortable swelling in our abdomen at some point in our lives, some people more often than others.
When you’re bloated, you know about it. Bloating is often 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 affect anyone, no matter what age they are or lifestyle they follow.
You may 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 tummy 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. Associated 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.
You shouldn’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 sprouts. 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
- Bread and pasta
- 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. An intolerance of foods containing gluten can also be a major trigger of bloating.
The bacteria lining your large intestine play a vital role in helping your body digest food. You 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 other aspects of health.
Tips for dealing with bloating
Here’s the good news: in many cases, bloating after a meal doesn’t have to be something you have to live with.
Good bacteria in your gut helps with 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).
A healthy balanced diet, rich in fibre containing foods such as wholegrain carbohydrates and a wide variety of vegetables and fruit can help achieve an optimally balanced gut, high in good bacteria. However, if you are unable to tolerate these foods, you can add fibre to your diet. A high fibre food supplement feeds your good gut bacteria, Bifidobacteria encouraging it to thrive. Having good levels of Bifidobacteria in the gut can be particularly helpful as these bacteria do not produce gas when they ingest food (carbohydrates). In addition, this type of healthy balanced diet will add bulk to your stool, therefore potentially producing less gas and reducing transit time.
If you have any concerns about your health, you should contact your GP or healthcare practitioner.
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