Linda Lee, M.D., an Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, talks about how bloating is caused and how you can prevent yourself from discomfort.
What is stomach bloating? It is a condition where your stomach feels full and compressed. This usually happens due to gas. Many people have told Lee that their stomachs are bloated just because it sticks out and they don’t like the look of it. As women get older, it is expected for them to have abdominal wall laxity, or looseness, particularly women who have had children before.
The distinction between knowing if your gut is simply full of food, or stool, and having stomach bloating is key when it comes to finding a treatment.What are some of the causes of stomach bloating?
Indigestion, discomfort or pain in the stomach, is often experienced by most people and is often caused from eating too much, drinking high amounts of alcohol, taking medications that aggravate the belly (Eg. Ibuprofen), or by having a small minor stomach infection.
Regularly consuming salty foods, having different kinds of food intolerances (Eg. Lactose intolerance) and hormone level changes can all contribute to a person’s body to retain more liquid than it’s supposed to. Some women have also found that they are bloated right before getting their periods or in the early stages of pregnancy.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease are types of chronic gut disorders that can cause persistent stomach bloating. They can both cause symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, weight loss and vomiting.
Constipation can frequently cause stomach bloating.
But what are some of the causes?
1. Lack of dietary fibre:
Having a diet with high amounts of fibre (Eg. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, etc) will prevent constipation as it promotes consistent bowel movements, especially when you combine this with plenty of proper hydration.
2. An overuse of laxatives:
Many people fear and worry about not having to use the bathroom as often as they should, resulting in them using laxatives to try and solve the issue. Yes, laxatives will help to a certain extent with regulating your bowel movements, however, the body may get too dependent on laxatives. This can cause a person to constantly use laxatives when they don’t need it. The more a person depends on laxatives, the higher the risk of constipation after they stop using it.
How do we then reduce stomach bloating and constipation?
Eat more foods containing fibre
Eating food with fibre will help to prevent constipation and bloating. However please take note that consuming too much fibre or increasing fibre intake too fast can actually worsen and create more gas and bloating. Adverse effects can occur if you eat more than 70g of fibre per day. Keeping yourself hydrated with water.
Drinks that are fizzy and carbonated hold gas that can build up in the stomach. Soda and other soft drinks also contain carbon dioxide that can cause bubbling and stomach bloating. Besides all these, sweet drinks contain sugars and artificial sweeteners that can contribute to gas and bloating. Hydrating yourself with water helps to prevent these problems and to treat constipation.
Eating your meals at regular intervals
Several people will experience stomach bloating immediately after having a huge meal. It might help to consume more smaller meals everyday to keep the digestive system moving and working. Swallowing food too fast can bring air into the digestive tract. Straws can also cause stomach bloating as you tend to swallow more air while drinking liquids. To reduce stomach bloating, avoid drinking from straws and try to eat slower to lessen the amount of air swallowed.
Avoid salty foods
Too much sodium in the body causes it to retain water. In turn, this can cause a full-bloated and swollen feeling in the stomach and other parts of the body, like your hands and feet.
Take more probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are found in our intestines. Taking probiotics regularly will help to regulate the bacteria in the colon that produces gas and cause stomach bloating.
Examples of foods that contain high amounts of probiotics due to fermentation are:
All in all, stomach bloating and constipation are often caused due to minor issues and shouldn’t be too worrisome. However, do consult a doctor if stomach bloating or constipation is ongoing or accompanied by other symptoms.