If you’re not sure how to handle that bloating sensation, you’re not alone. Over 40% of GPs in the UK report feeling lost when it comes to dealing with their patient’s bloating. 1https://gutscharity.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/DigestingTheFactsReport.pdf
Bloating is one of the most common gut symptoms reported. If you’re coping with it, you already know that bloating may be quite uncomfortable and even distressing.
Bloating can occur for lots of different reasons: taking in high volumes of food or fluids, or gas produced by our gut bugs feeding on large amounts of fermentable carbohydrates. This increase in gut content can cause your intestine to stretch, leaving you feeling bloated. You may also have heightened sensitivity in your intestine – this is particularly common in those with functional gut disorders such as IBS.
Beating the bloat may be easier than you think, through diet and lifestyle shifts. You might try one strategy at a time, or combine several. Keep in mind that introducing one method at a time will help you assess which strategy is most effective for you.
1. Chew your food
- Digestion begins in your mouth, with chewing. Aim to chew each mouthful at least 15 times (yes, you read that right). For harder to chew foods, like steak, this could even be up to 40 chews. This will improve digestion and reduce digestive symptoms as well as allowing you to extract more nutrients from your food.2https://www.healthline.com/health/how-many-times-should-you-chew-your-food#howto
- A main meal should take about 20 minutes to consume.3https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Gutfull-What-to-Eat-for-a-Happy-Gut-Podcast/B08P6XLKR6 Get into the habit of putting your knife and fork down between bites to slow yourself down, and concentrate on mindful eating.
2. Excess air
- Although there is not as much evidence for this one, avoid swallowing excess air! When your mother told you not to “talk with your mouth full”, she was right. Excess air can also come from fizzy drinks, chewing gum, using a straw, and smoking.4https://www.healthline.com/health/aerophagia#causes
3. Say no to sweeteners and added polyols
- These are often found in sugar-free foods and drinks, as well as protein powders and snacks. Avoid erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, and maltitol. An easy tip is to avoid the sweeteners that end in ‘ol.’ These reach the lower gut where they can be fermented by the bacteria, and cause unpleasant digestive symptoms.5https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/artificial-sweeteners-yay-or-nay/ If you really want to use a sweetener, we recommend 100% pure stevia; it’s natural, has zero calories, zero carbohydrates and none of the nasty side effects of artificial sweeteners.
4. Small regular meals
- If you suffer from bloating, avoid large meals and opt for small regular meals. Try 4 or 5 small meals instead of 3 larger ones, and see if it makes a difference.
5. Identify triggers
- Managing the trigger of other issues such as constipation or IBS will often resolve bloating or stomach protrusion.
- Try keeping a diary for 1-2 weeks noting all food intake, water consumption, stresses, and sleep. Take note of when bloating occurs and try to identify any patterns like certain foods, or after stressful work events. If your trigger is a food, remove this food temporarily, adopt a good gut-health protocol, and slowly reintroduce this food over time. If your trigger is more lifestyle based, focus on improving sleep and taking daily ‘me-time’ to relax and calm your mind and that gut-brain connection.
- Are you overdoing it on fermented foods? Fermented foods are amazing for your gut microbiome, but sometimes your need to start slowly and give your system time to adjust. Reduce your portions to 1/3 or 1/2 for 2 weeks and reassess if symptoms have eased. If they have, continue with a small amount and slowly, gradually increase portions over time.
6. Restore gut balance
- Bloating has been linked with “gut dysbiosis,” or an imbalance in the trillions of bacteria that live inside your gut. Consuming a daily natural probiotic, like kefir, will re-populate the gut with the healthy balance of good bacteria it needs to function properly, so symptoms stemming from the gut, including bloating or cramping can be improved.
- If you want to take the guesswork out of this, consider taking a Microbiome Test which will shed light on the presence of any pathogen infections, as well as demonstrating the overall health of your gut ecosystem.
- Ensure you are eating a rainbow of colours each day, aiming for at least 30 different plant foods per week and 30g of fibre per day. Check out this gut-health super salad to get you started!
- Peppermint oil can relax the muscles in the gut and may help ease bloating caused by trapped gas. Peppermint capsules during uncomfortable bloating may be the answer.
8. Avoid tight clothing
- It might sound silly, but ‘Tight Pants Syndrome’ is a real thing. Tight clothing can put additional stress or constriction on your stomach and intestines which may cause bloating or discomfort. We have all had a time when we felt the need to unbutton our trousers to let our stomach ‘breathe’!
9. Get moving
- Going for a walk, doing some light exercise, or stretching can help to diffuse trapped gas.
10. Apply heat
- Using a heat pack or a warm damp towel on your stomach may help relax the gut muscles and relieve trapped gas. This method increases blood flow to the area, and may also help settle gut muscles that are overactive.6https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/feeling-bloated-heres-what-to-do/
11. Gut-Brain connection
- Consider improving other areas that affect the gut-brain axis. Work on improving key areas of your life such as sleep, stress, self-care, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, etc.
It’s important to remember occasional bloating is generally normal and ok, especially after a heavy meal or consuming extra fibre. A bit of bloating after a high-fibre meal is actually a good thing! However, if you have continuous bloating which is always present without fluctuation, or you are concerned, it’s best to visit your GP as a precaution.
Read more about what causes IBS and what you can do about it, here: https://www.chucklinggoat.co.uk/what-causes-ibs-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/
Questions? Get in touch with one of our Nutritional Therapists on live chat from 8 am to 8 pm weekdays.