Do you ever feel so bloated after a meal that you have to loosen your clothes or unbutton your pants? If so, know that you are not alone. In fact, studies show that up to one third of Americans regularly suffer from bloating.1
So, what is bloating exactly? Bloating (as if you didn’t know!) is when your belly feels full and tight. Being bloated may be accompanied by discomfort, pain or your tummy being distended.
Sometimes bloating may be caused by a serious medical condition. However, bloating is most commonly caused by diet, food sensitivities or intolerances, and lifestyle factors.
CAUSES OF BLOATING
Here are some common causes of bloating to help you figure out what might be causing your symptoms.
1. Swallowing air
1. Drink through a straw, or quickly slurp down liquids instead of drinking slowly from a cup.
2. Avoid sodas or other carbonated drinks.
3. Suck on hard candies instead of chewing gum (particularly if you chew with your mouth open).
4. Smoke less, or give up smoking altogether.
2. Large, fatty meals
Fat takes longer to be digested than carbs and protein, so a high fat meal will slow down gastric emptying and make you feel fuller.
3. Foods high in sugar & sugar-free foods
Whenever you eat food that’s high in sugar, the bacteria in your gut feed on it and produce gas. This can cause bloating, cramping, and diarrhea in some people.
Sugar alcohols are commonly found in sugar-free foods. They’re not easily digested, and can cause gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea in some people. So if you’re having trouble with your gut, it might be worth avoiding sugar-free foods.
4. Beans & cruciferous vegetables
Beans contain a lot of sugars that the body can’t digest, like raffinose and stachyose. These sugars pass through the small intestine undigested and go straight to the large intestine, where bacteria break them down and cause gas production.
Asparagus and other cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage contain sulfur and indigestible sugars like raffinose too, so they can also lead to gas formation.
Bloating can be incredibly uncomfortable and often happens when gas gets trapped during digestion because of slow-moving stool. If you’re struggling with bloating, there are a few things you can do to help. Start by drinking more water or doing some light exercise – both can help with constipation. If you’reStill experiencing bloating, talk to your doctor about other options that might be available to you.
6. Bacterial overgrowth
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition in which too many bacteria from the large intestine invade the small intestine. These bacteria then break down carbohydrates, leading to excess intestinal gas, bloating and abdominal distention, diarrhea, pain or discomfort, fatigue, and weakness. Learn more about how friendly bacteria can improve your health and what happens when your gut bacteria are out of balance.
7. Lactose intolerance
If the small intestine doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase, the body can’t properly digest lactose – which is the natural sugar found in milk. When this happens, the lactose moves to the large intestine without being digested and once it’s there, bacteria starts feasting on it. The gas produced by our gut bacteria can cause pain and bloating – depending on how severe the person’s lactose intolerance is.
If you’re lactose intolerant, supplements might help. One digestive enzyme, called lactase, can break down lactose. This may make it easier for you to digest dairy products.
8. Eating too fast
When we rush through our meals, we tend to swallow more air than usual and this can inhibit proper digestion. Digestion starts as soon as we see, smell or think about food – our mouth produces saliva, stomach acid is triggered, and the small intestines begin the peristalsis process.
Forcing our gastrointestinal tract to deal with food before it’s ready can cause indigestion because we’re not giving our bodies enough time to properly prepare for the meal. And while surprises may be fun for us, they’re not so fun for our digestive system.
When we chew food, it gets mixed with saliva – this process makes it easier for the stomach to turn the food into chyme, a semi-liquid food mass that contains enzymes and hydrochloric acid. This is propelled via the pyloric valve into the small intestine.
If you’re scarfing down your food without taking the time to chew, your stomach will receive big lumps of undigested food that can lead to indigestion and bloating. It’s important to take the time to chew your food properly so that it can be broken down into chyme before reaching your stomach.