Bloating is one of the most common digestive complaints, and all of us will have experienced it at some point. As opposed to simply feeling full after eating a large meal, with bloating your tummy feels very full, distended, tight and uncomfortable and it can be accompanied by tummy ache. The way it feels and looks is distressing if you suffer regularly and it may be an indication of an underlying imbalance or the need to improve your diet. Here we look at the most common causes of bloating and next week in PART 2 of this special post, we will look at the perfect solutions.
Common Causes of Bloating
When we are under stress our body diverts its energy towards dealing with the perceived threat or cause of that stress. Traditionally, for our ancestors this would have involved something like an attack from a wild animal. The body therefore primes us for fight or flight (to fight the animal or flee to safety), diverting energy towards the muscles so you can run, the heart to pump more blood around the body and so on. It has to get this extra energy from somewhere and so it shuts down what it deems to be any non-essential functions for the time being. This includes the digestion (and the immune system, which is why we are more likely to get ill when under stress).
This may have been advantageous when stress was short-term event, but nowadays with stress often a part of our every day lives, we can end up with an under functioning digestive system. This can result in not absorbing as many nutrients from our food, not digesting food thoroughly and you guessed it niggling complaints such a bloating, and even IBS (Irritable bowel sindrome).
2. SLOW DIGESTION
When things are not moving through as quickly as they should be, it will almost definitely cause bloating, possibly accompanied by headaches, fatigue and general feeling of toxicity. Common causes are simply not getting enough fibre in your diet and dehydration. Another cause is poor gut motility, which is when the muscles of the colon are not contracting well to push everything through. Lack of activity will make this worse as movement helps the muscles contract.
3. LOW STOMACH ACID
If you feel full after eating only a small amount of food and find your food is ‘repeating on you’ in the form of burping, you may not be producing enough stomach acid. Stomach acid is vital for digesting protein, so another clue is finding animal protein like meat and eggs difficult to digest. If we don’t produce enough stomach acid, we get incompletely digested protein passing into the intestines where it ferments producing gas and causing bloating, inflammation and pain.
4. LOW DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
Enzymes are produced by the cells lining the stomach and intestines and are another essential part of the digestive process, breaking down carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Stress, infections and food intolerances can all contribute to low levels of enzymes and the consequences are similar to that of low stomach acid – incompletely digested food particles (this time fat and carbs as well as protein) passing into the large intestine. Here, once again they cause irritation, fermentation and bloating.
5. FOOD INTOLERANCES
Food intolerances are not as common as widely believed, but there are some people who do genuinely suffer. Most people from Asian descent for example, lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose in milk. An intolerance is not the same as a food allergy, when a serious and immediate reaction occurs after eating problem foods. With an intolerance, it can take up to 48 hours to feel the symptoms which are more insidious, including things like fatigue, bloating and headaches. The most common food intolerances are to wheat, gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) and dairy.
6. IMBALANCE IN GUT BACTERIA
A healthy colon is populated with billions of bacteria, which are support our health and digestion. When these bacteria become out of balance and harmful bacteria are allowed to thrive, we get problems. This is another top cause of bloating, which in this case will occur especially after eating. Your chances of a bacterial imbalance are increased if you have taken antibiotics, which unfortunately kill the good bacteria as well as the bad ones.
Simply eating and drinking too much can lead to a bloated uncomfortable stomach the next day. Although this is not a health problem in itself, it can still feel unpleasant and is good to get back on track as quickly as possible. Next week will include my simple recovery plan for the ‘day after’, to help you do just that.
Next up: how to reduce bloating and get a healthy, happy, flat tummy back.