Do you sometimes feel like you have gained a few kilograms around your tummy just a few hours after you have eaten a meal? As though you have swallowed a soccer ball? Your pants are suddenly very tight around your waist and you struggle to hide the burps and flatulence?
What causes bloating and gas?
Bloating is generally caused by air we swallow when eating and drinking, and by fermentation of undigested short chain carbohydrates (FODMAPS) in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Fermentation and gas production in the GI tract is normal, but excessive gas production may cause problems especially for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), who perceives bloating as pain and discomfort.
Bloating and gas can be made worse by certain diet and lifestyle habits like (but not excluded to):
- Irregular meal times and eating late at night
- A diet that is too low in carbohydrates (and consequently fibre)
- Lack of exercise
- Bacterial dysbiosis in your colon
- High intake of sugars and sweets
- High intake of fats
- Intolerance to milk and dairy
- Hard candies and chewing gum
- Eating too fast
- Drinking fizzy drinks
- Food intolerances
Unless your bloating becomes unbearable or if you have got an underlying condition such as IBS, there is no need to take drastic measures to reduce your bloating, so don't eliminate healthy food from your diet unnecessarily just yet.
Making a few changes to your lifestyle can already bring much relieve:
- Chew your food properly
- Don't talk while chewing
- Don't use straws
- Include good fats moderately but avoid fried and fatty foods and snacks
- Use a probiotic and try different strains that will help reduce the side effects of fermentation
- Avoid soda water, sparking waters and fizzy cold drinks
- Avoid chewing gum and sucking on hard boiled sweets
- Follow a diet that is balanced and includes all food groups and eat regular meals
- Improve constipation by adjusting the fibre content and type in your diet
- Keep a food diary to pinpoint what foods are to blame, keeping in mind that a suspected food can take up to 12 to 48 hours to cause GI symptoms
- Exercise often
What about FODMAPS?
If you are making dietary and lifestyle changes and do not see results, or if it is increasing the amount of pain or discomfort you experience on a regular basis, then it is advisable to see a FODMAP trained, registered dietitian or a doctor if you want to eliminate the possibility of something more serious like Celiac disease, water retention and oedema.
The Low FODMAP diet, when implemented with the help of a FODMAP trained and experienced registered dietitian, is shown to improve GI symptoms like bloating and diarrhoea in 3 out of 4 people with IBS. I can advise you on key initial diet changes before you embark on an elimination diet, such at the Low FODMAP Diet.
So remember, bloating is not normal and you shouldn't have to unbutton your pants at the end of every day to get relief! Figure out what causes your bloat and take the necessary steps to correct it. But don't overly restrict your food intake - as this can lead to nutrient deficiencies and a lack of fibre in your diet, which can aggravate your digestive problems.
If you are wondering whether a low FODMAP diet will improve your symptoms, or if you need help to make changes to your diet and lifestyle habits to relieve bloating, click here to book your appointment.
Claudine is a FODMAP trained dietitian and an accredited Eatfit dietitian Cape Town