If you follow me on social media, you will be aware of how I frequently blog about suffering from bloating and abdominal discomfort, and how to beat the bloat. The condition can be summarised as a buildup of gas in the abdominal region, which often leads to intense discomfort, water retention and an extended gut.
If you have worked hard getting slimmer for summer, feeling bloated can be very frustrating and can often occur at awkward times – such as before a social function or event when you want to be looking lean and trim.
“Bloating is thought to affect as many as one-in-three women” explains dietician and gut health specialist Dr Megan Rossi, “no-one should accept on going gut symptoms. If your tummy bloating is affecting your quality of life, your first port of call should always be to see your GP, as digestive symptoms can occur with many conditions”.
However, before attending the GP here are a few ways that I have found to reduce stomach bloating and potentially prevent it from happening in the first place!
As our individual bodies are all different, our responses to different types of foods will also vary on an individual basis. However, foods such as gluten, dairy, fructose, excessive fibre, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners are the prime culprits for bloating in most people.
In fact, adverse reactions to these types of foods have resulted in experts giving them their own specific label – “FODMAPS” (or Fermented Oligio- Di, Mono-Saccharides and Polyols). This label highlights to the public the most common foods that cause bloating or intolerances (1).
From a personal standpoint I get bloating and abdominal discomfort from foods like sugar free chewing gum, diet coke and protein bars. These foods are some of many that contain artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. The number one symptom of a digestion issue with FODMAPS is distension of the gut. This means that the intestine literally becomes stretched due to a number of different causes such as buildup of solids, liquids or gas. This can often lead to discomfort and pain with a visually embarrassing bloated appearance.
Typically, this distension is a product of the small carbohydrates making their way into the lower portion of the intestine, where bacteria quickly ferment them, causing a buildup of gas.
If you constantly find yourself feeling bloated, needing to use the washroom more often than you’d like, or have very loose stool, you may need to consider eliminating FODMAPS to see if this helps.
I find when I get clients to keep a diary of the foods they are eating we can refer to the foods ate the day before, or that day to get a better idea of what might be causing the discomfort. A lot of the foods on my 6 week better bodies program are naturally gluten free and this lends itself to less bloating and discomfort.
The food baby belly is caused by the reduced rate of digestion and gastric emptying, leaving large amounts of food in the stomach for hours. The other issues involved is that the food tends to be of low quality and processed (and therefore full of intolerable FODMAP ingredients).
If you consume a very large meal in one sitting, small amounts of stomach acid may not be able to keep up with the food consumption, which may cause digestive issues, bloat and stomach cramps. Furthermore, you could consume digestive enzymes to help aid digestion.
During a period of digestive discomfort, the last thing I want to do is train! However, research has revealed that the benefit of exercise on the feeling of being bloated, is related to the duration and intensity of the exercise (2). Performing high intensity exercise could certainly make the issue arise however a gentle walk may help relieve symptoms.
Research continually shows that having healthy gut bacteria can play a role in how we digest food and absorb nutrients, in how we store fat and even how our brains function (3). Interestingly, having a healthy gut micro biome can help prevent the feeling of being bloated (4).
While there are many different strains of probiotics, it seems that using probiotics rich in Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactic are two of the best strains. A recent study revealed that the use of a probiotic supplement containing these two strains reduced the symptoms of bloating (5).