What is bloating?
Bloating is the feeling of pressure or swelling in your belly, usually after eating. This feeling is often associated with pain, discomfort, or the feeling that your belly is “stuffed.” You may also experience constipation, heartburn, excessive passing of gas, belching, or rumbling in your stomach. Your belly may be visually distended or swollen, although for some the feeling of bloating is present even when visible swelling is not. Bloating is a very common symptom that about 16-30% of people state they regularly experience. Water retention outside of the digestive tract, as experienced during the menstruation cycle by many women, for example, may be referred to as bloating but is an unrelated issue.
What causes bloating?
Bloating can be caused by serious medical conditions but more commonly is related to allergies, sensitivities, certain dietary behaviors, insufficient digestive enzymes, elevated stress reactivity, or alterations of the gut flora. These factors may result in inflammation within the gut; cause a buildup of gas, fluid, or solids with the digestive tract; or both. Either of these issues can result in the sensation of bloating, whether visible swelling is present or not.
Severe bloating may be associated with serious medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)(Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), liver diseases, infection, blockage in bowel/bladder, internal bleeding, and cancer. If you are experiencing severe bloating, it is wise to seek medical advice. Vomiting, severe pain, passing blood in the stool, fever, unexplained weight loss, and severe constipation are signs that urgent medical attention is needed.
What Are Common Remedies To Treat Bloating?
There are many steps you can take on your own to see if they may help with your bloating. Here are some common remedies that may help you:
- If you notice bloating after eating certain foods, try avoiding or lessening your intake of that item. Lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, can cause bloating. Cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, and legumes are also common culprits, although sensitivity to these foods is often a sign of dysbiosis, a correctable imbalance within the gut flora.
- Limit rich and fatty foods and avoid meals that have large amounts of fat. If you exceed your gut’s capacity to absorb fat, this is harmful to your gut flora. Over time, repeated damage to the gut flora will cause dysbiosis.
- Reduce or avoid carbonated drinks like soda. These drinks are a common reason people bloat.
- Avoid chewing gum and drinking straws. These may cause you to swallow air and can cause bloating.
- Slow down and chew slower when you eat. Eating food too quickly can cause bloating and other digestive issues.
- Limit food and drinks that have high levels of sugar or artificial sweeteners. These can also cause damage to the gut flora and create excessive gas.
- Avoid large meals and instead eat smaller more frequent meals or snacks.
- Quit smoking.
Conventional treatment for bloating
Conventional treatment will typically include elements of the remedies listed above. Over-the-counter and prescription medications such as antacids and laxatives may also be recommended. If your bloating is frequent or severe, tests such as x-ray or CT scan may be ordered. However, the management of bloating through the use of drugs often ignores the root causes and leads to chronic dependency and often drug side effects. Imaging tests, such as x-ray and CT, can detect serious conditions but offers no information regarding the more common causes of bloating such as allergy, sensitivity, enzyme deficiency, and dysbiosis. When simple behavioral modifications fail; drug treatments are ineffective or cause unbearable side effects, and imaging scans fail to find any obvious problems conventional doctors are often left without any further effective strategies to help their patients.
The Plum Spring Clinic difference
Our team of professionals are here to support you in overcoming your bloating by uncovering its true causes and applying lasting solutions. Our expertise in functional medicine testing can provide invaluable insights into the inner workings and health of your gut. Whether the solution to your bloating requires dietary modification, nutrient replenishment, enzyme replacement, microbiome repair, improved stress resilience, or trauma therapy Plum Spring Clinic has experienced professionals ready to support your path to health.