Almost everyone experiences abdominal bloating at some point in life. Unfortunately, some people experience it more than others. Some individuals experience bloating with irritable bowel syndrome, a common condition, while others can’t figure out why they have it. When you have severe bloating associated with other symptoms, it’s important to visit your physician. However, if you have occasional bloat or it creeps up more often than you’d like, there are some proven ways you can help to reduce or eliminate it.
1) Try Eating Slower and Less at a Time
Maybe you love your meals and eat as much as possible, or maybe you worked all day and you eat just one or two big meals. Unfortunately, both cases can lead to you feeling stuffed, which feels like bloating. However, what you’re feeling is just eating too much. If you often feel uncomfortable after eating meals, try eating less during each portion and see if you feel better. You could always add another small daily meal to replace the excess food.
Also, be sure to chew your food. When you chew your food better, it will reduce the amount of air you swallow. Not only does chewing your food fast and swallowing air cause gas, but it can also cause bloating.
2) Avoid Constipation to Beat Bloating
If you’re not consuming enough fluids, fiber, and not exercising enough, you are more at risk for bloating and likely not having enough bowel movements. When adding more fiber to your diet, it’s important to know that not all fiber is the same. For example, some fiber is insoluble and some is soluble. Digestion slows down with soluble fiber and helps to absorb nutrients from your food. With insoluble fiber, it will add bulk to your stool and help to move the stool more quickly through your intestines.
Foods with high levels of soluble fiber:
- Oat Bran
- Dried Beans
- Rice Bran
- Citrus Fruits
Foods with high levels of insoluble fiber:
- Whole Grains
- Wheat Bran
According to WebMD, the average American consumes approximately 15 grams of fiber each day, but that’s not quite enough. Women under the age of 51 should consume at least 25 grams of fiber each day. Men under the age of 51 should strive for 38 grams of fiber each day. Women older than 51 should try to get in at least 21 grams of fiber. Men older than 51 need at least 30 grams daily. If you are currently significantly under this amount, you should consider gradually increasing your fiber intake—that way you can reduce stomach cramping from too much fiber at once. Additionally, increasing your fluids will help with the discomfort.
3) Be Mindful of Food Allergies and Intolerances
If you are bloated more often than you’d like, you may have a food allergy or intolerance. When you consume foods that your body is intolerant to, you will notice excess gas production and bloating, among other symptoms.
Some of the common foods and ingredients that people are intolerant to are:
- Wheat and Gluten
If you keep a journal of what you eat and mark down any symptoms, you may be able to link your bloating to certain foods. Speak with your doctor to completely rule out food allergies and/or intolerances, though, for a legitimate diagnosis.
4) Watch Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are typically found in chewing gum and common sugar-free foods. While these sweeteners are considered safe as an alternative to sugar, they can cause digestive issues when consumed regularly. The reason is the bacteria in your large intestine digest the sweeteners and then produce gas.
The sugar alcohols you should consider avoiding are mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. Erythritol, another type of sugar alcohol, can be better tolerated than others for some people, but keep in mind it can also lead to digestive issues if consumed in high amounts.
If the reason you consume sugar alcohols and sugar-free drinks is because you don’t like water, you can add all sorts of fruit to your water. Some popular ways people drink water is to add some slices of fresh lemon, strawberries, or oranges.
5) Don’t Eat Foods That Give You Gas
Foods that are common culprits for messing with your digestive system and causing gas are best to avoid. Gas-producing foods can lead to bloating and discomfort. Some drinks can do the same, too.
Foods and drinks that can lead to gas:
- Wheat (If you’re intolerant or allergic)
- Dairy Products
- Fatty Foods
- Hard Candy
- Sugar Alcohols
- Chewing Gum
- Fizzy Drinks
When to See a Doctor
If you notice your bloating is getting out of control and you can’t get comfortable, or if you have other symptoms present, you should see your doctor right away. Also, make an appointment if you find the bloating becomes frequent, or chronic. If you notice weight loss or excessive weight gain, blood in stool, bleeding between periods, or other worrisome symptoms, it’s important to rule out what it could be. A gastroenterologist will be able to run some tests to diagnose what’s going on so you can find a solution.
If you happen to create a journal of symptoms and the food you eat, be sure to bring it with you to your appointment. It will help in the diagnostic part of your appointment. While tests likely will need to be done, the journal will help point you and your doctor in the right direction.
Consider a Low-FODMAP Diet
A low-FODMAP diet has been linked to significant improvements in symptoms like bloating, even in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients. In case you are new to FODMAP, it’s a scientific term that classifies groups of carbohydrates that are known to trigger digestive symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, and gas. Some studies even know that this diet can improve the quality of your life.
The four groups of FODMAPs are:
- Oligosaccharides - Legumes, rye, wheat, numerous fruits and vegetables like beans, onions, and garlic.
- Disaccharides - Soft cheese, yogurt, milk. Basically lactose in general.
- Monosaccharides - Some fruit including mangoes and figs. Sweeteners like agave nectar and honey. Fructose is the culprit in this group.
- Polyols - Some vegetables and fruits like lychee and blackberries. Some low-calorie sweeteners such as the ones found in sugar-free gum.
To give you a general idea on what you can eat for a low FODMAP diet:
- Vegetables - carrots, eggplants, corn, chives, squash, tomatoes, turnip, kale, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, lettuce, and zucchini.
- Fruit - bananas, blueberries, cranberries, cantaloupe, grapes, clementines, lemons, oranges, raspberries, and pineapple.
- Meat, poultry, and meat substitutes - chicken, beef, pork, lamb, turkey, and deli meat.
- Fish and seafood - fresh fish, canned tuna, salmon, haddock, trout, lobster, shrimp, and crab.
- Cereals and grains - wheat free and gluten free breads and pasta, buckwheat, cornflakes, oats, peanuts, popcorn, quinoa, rice, oatmeal, and flax seeds.
Bloating is common, but if it interrupts your life and you feel like it could be something more serious, it’s important to get a professional opinion. Request an appointment with Associates in Digestive Health to see what’s going on and start feeling better.