IBS, Crohn’s disease and endometriosis are just three conditions that lead to painful bloating. If you’re regularly embarrassed about a bloated stomach and have ruled out common health conditions with your GP, the cause of your inflated tummy could be simple. Express.co.uk chatted to May Simpkin, Nutritionist and Consultant to Enzymedica UK to find out what’s causing your bloating in order to treat it.
Bloating is often reported as a ‘standard’ symptom that many have learnt to live with, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Don’t let models and celebrities fool you, nobody has a flat stomach 24/7.
It’s totally normal to have a slight degree of bloating after a meal, but it should normally resolve itself once the digestive process is underway.
Nutritionist May Simpkin said: “There’s a difference between an occasional bloat and bloating that is accompanied by pain and discomfort.
“Simply masking these symptoms is not the answer, and it is crucial to dig deeper and establish what’s causing the symptoms in the first place.
“Symptoms of bloating are essentially a build-up of gases in the stomach or a stool that is lodged in the large intestine, and this build-up of gases can further exacerbate the lack of stool movement, making the bloating even worse.
“Getting to the root cause of this build up is key to tackling bloating, and there are several triggers that could be the culprit.”
Here are five simple things that could be causing bloating for you.
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Chewing too quickly
If you tend to eat your meals quickly without chewing enough, this could be contributing to your bloated belly.
May said: “Before food reaches the stomach, digestion has already started in the mouth.
“Chewing not only breaks down the food into smaller, more manageable pieces, but the saliva the food mixes with contains the first enzyme to ‘attack’ that mouthful.
“Salivary Amylase (an enzyme that specifically targets the carbohydrate in your meal) gets to work immediately along with the chewing action, which means that food arrives in your stomach broken down and with the carbohydrates partially digested.”
Slow down and eat mindfully to beat the bloat, May advises.
The nutritionist warned: “The age-old advice to chew each mouthful 10-20 times before swallowing is certainly worth focusing on.
“Rather than bolting down mouthful after mouthful, take the time to enjoy your meal more mindfully.
“For example, if you’re hunched up over a desk, sit up straight to allow the food to move through more easily without being restricted, rest your cutlery in between mouthfuls and savour the textures and flavours as you chew.”
You don’t eat enough fibre
Adding more fibre to your diet could stop the bloating problem altogether.
May said: “Whilst the benefits of eating less meat and more vegetables are well documented, switching to a mainly plant based way of eating too quickly will significantly increase the amount of fibre you are eating.
“As a result, your digestive system may struggle if it’s not used to a high intake of fibre, in turn causing bloating as the food remains undigested for too long.”
The nutritionist advises increasing your fibre intake gradually over a few weeks, slowly adding more vegetables to each meal alongside soluble fibre foods such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Your enzyme activity is compromised
You may experience a physical reaction when you eat a certain food or food group, and this could be responsible for the inflated stomach.
May explained: “Whilst you may have a food allergy, which can be established through a medical test, it is more likely that you may have a food intolerance.
“Intolerance responses (such as wind, bloating and indigestion) occur if the food is not properly digested, allowing large, unprocessed food particles to pass through the digestive tract.
“This can often be due to an absence of a specific enzyme needed to break down that food, or the gut pH not being effective in the first place to activate that enzyme.”
For example, an intolerance to milk and dairy foods could be due to a lack of the enzyme Lactase needed to break down and digest the milk sugar, Lactose.
To remedy this, a digestive enzyme supplement that offers a broad range of enzymes can be taken with a meal to ensure all foods are effectively digested.
May said: “It is important to choose a digestive enzyme supplement that includes a wide variety of different enzyme strains that work in different pH conditions, as different food groups are digested in different parts of the gut.
“I recommend Digest Complete from Enzymedica, a gentle enzyme supplement that delivers
superior digestive performance throughout the entire pH range of the digestive system.”
You’re not drinking enough fluids
If you are not drinking enough fluids, it’s more difficult for food to pass through your
digestive system, leaving you constipated and consequently bloated.
May explained: “Staying hydrated is key, but avoid fizzy carbonated drinks, as many contain sugars or artificial sweeteners (as well as bubbles and fizz) that will result in bloating.
“Take action and increase your fluid intake by drinking more water, including herbal teas and coffee.
“Remember, vegetables contain good amounts of water and including more soups and smoothies will also help to contribute.”
Your gut and brain are connected and when you’re stressed, both physically and mentally,
your digestion naturally slows down.
It is part of the fight or flight response where digestion is not a priority, and as the digestive process becomes more sluggish, your food does not pass through the gut as quickly and efficiently as it should.
May explained: “When stress happens, your food will ‘sit’ and ferment in the gut, giving off
gases and harmful bacteria that cause bloating.”
It’s hard to beat stress, but it’s important to eat mindfully and take time away from your desk or household chores to exercise.
May advised: “Take a walk in nature, read a book or enjoy a hot bath, as practising self-care will help to ensure a good night’s sleep so you wake up feeling more bolstered for the day ahead.
“Exercise is really important as it helps with stool elimination, aiding the body to move your stools and excess gases through the digestive tract.”
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