As I specialize in gut health, I see many people who come to me after seeing at minimum 2-3 doctors with no luck and no relief in symptoms. Usually, the medical wastebasket diagnosis is given – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and different medications are prescribed. One of the annoying symptoms of IBS is bloating.
Let’s figure out why bloating occurs after eating, whether the foods are the only ones to blame and what to do in order not to encounter this problem.
- What does bloating mean?
- Why does bloating occur?
- How to get rid of bloating?
- How does the FODMAP diet help with bloating?
- What does bloating mean?
What Does Bloating Mean?
Usually, bloating is understood as a feeling of an enlarged stomach and gas formation. Stretching of the abdominal cavity due to these processes causes a visible increase in the abdomen. Such phenomena may be a symptom of an illness, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But most often, bloating occurs in healthy people due to diet.
Why Does Bloating Occur?
Reason 1: dysbiosis
The human gut is home to trillions of bacterial cells that make up the gut microbiota. These bacteria perform important tasks such as breaking down fiber, producing beneficial metabolites such as vitamins and short-chain fatty acids, and supporting your immune system.
What is Dysbiosis and What to Do with it?
When the ratio of bacterial species in the gut changes due to antibiotics, stress, or other causes, dysbiosis develops. This condition causes a host of digestive disorders, from discomfort and flatulence to diarrhea and vomiting.
Reason 2: gastrointestinal diseases
There are several bowel conditions that commonly cause bloating after eating. For example, if the bacteria in the small intestine are overgrowing (SIBO), the reaction to food may be more violent. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes a similar condition, with abdominal pain first followed by bloating.
Leaky gut is not really considered a disease, but the condition of the mucous membrane can really affect well-being. The increased permeability of the intestinal wall causes chronic inflammation and a range of unpleasant symptoms, including bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
Reason 3: Diet
For some people, the feeling of bloating after eating is caused by certain foods. For example, whole grains, legumes, and some vegetables, while healthy, can lead to gas.
While your gut bacteria are well-equipped to break down fiber, this process can also lead to gas. A sudden increase in fiber intake can cause bad-smelling flatulence, bloating, and discomfort.
Salt also causes bloating because it causes the body to retain water. And the use of carbonated drinks increases the accumulation of gases in the body.
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How to get rid of bloating?
1. Find the cause
The first step to solving a problem is to understand the causes. Here are the most common causes of bloating: stress, carbonated drinks, diet, lack of exercise, eating too fast, dysbiosis, IBS, food intolerance.
But remember: what causes bloating in one person may not be the same in another. Therefore, blindly blaming stress or diet is not worth it. Observe yourself and try to keep a bloating diary. Write down everything you eat and drink, along with information about exercise, medications, and how you feel after eating.
When it becomes clear whether bloating occurs more often after fatty foods or stress, you can proceed to the second step. Try to limit one by one the factors that cause discomfort and check if they were the case.
2. Get some exercise
If you feel like it, take a walk after your meal to reduce bloating. But keep in mind that gentle exercise is better than intense exercise because intense physical activity turns off digestive activity and redirects energy to the muscles.
How exercise improves the microbiota
3. Eat less fiber
If you are already eating a lot of fiber foods, then think twice before further increasing their proportion in your diet. In fact, it may do you more harm than good.
Some foods, especially whole grains, legumes, and beans, tend to cause bloating. Fiber is essential as part of a healthy diet, but you should increase your intake gradually, not all at once, and monitor your body’s response.
4. Use fermented foods
If the balance of microbes in the gut is slightly off, increasing your intake of probiotics can help bring the microbiome back into balance. Foods that reduce bloating include fermented foods such as kefir and yogurt that contain natural probiotics (a source of live beneficial bacteria).
What are probiotics and should you include them in your diet?
5. Chew slower
Eating is a marathon, not a sprint. When you swallow food in a hurry, you also swallow a lot of air, which leads to the formation of a large amount of gas after eating. This can also lead to burping.
You can fight bloating by eating more slowly and chewing your food. Not only will this reduce the amount of air you breathe in, but it will also help you feel fuller, so you’ll be eating less junk food. And this is a win for your waist.
6. Ditch Soda
If you’re experiencing bloating after eating a small amount of food, it may not be what you’re eating, but what you’re drinking. Effervescent or carbonated drinks cause carbon dioxide to build up in the body, bloating the stomach, resulting in gas immediately after eating.
The best drink to combat this is water. Only non-carbonated. If you, like many others, don’t like the taste, try adding a bit of flavor, such as a slice of lemon or lime.
7. Add less salt
Salt encourages the body to retain water, so after eating salty foods we feel thirsty. It can also change the composition of the gut microbiome, reducing the abundance of the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus.
The good news is that reducing your salt intake can relieve the symptoms of bloating, and it’s very easy to do. Most sodium comes from processed foods and restaurants, so try to cook at home and use herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals.
FODMAP diet for bloating
Since food is often the trigger for gastrointestinal symptoms, a low-FODMAP diet is sometimes used to control the manifestations of IBS. This means fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are types of fermentable fiber that are difficult for the body to digest and cause discomfort when broken down by gut bacteria.
However, before embarking on a low FODMAP diet, it is essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional, as changing eating habits can affect health and even trigger an eating disorder.
If you want to beat bloating, remember the following:
- Get enough fiber in your diet, but don’t be a hero.
- Replace fizzy drinks with still water with lemon juice added.
- Try to reduce your stress levels.
- Incorporate probiotics into your diet.
- Control your salt intake.
- Don’t rush while eating.
- Light exercise after meals can help digestion.
- If lifestyle changes don’t help, see a specialist.
This does not constitute medical advice, always seek the direct advice of your Doctor or Medical Provider for your specific health care or needs.
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