I meet a lot of people who experience bloating regularly.
Most of them have tried absolutely every over the counter medicine possible to get their bloating under control.
Some even have a second wardrobe for when their bloating gets worse and tell me they can go up 2 clothing sizes in a day.
The key to getting control over your bloating is in understanding what is causing it.
There are always exceptions but generally there are 4 common reasons.
1. Hormonal Imbalance
One of the most common reasons for bloating is hormonal imbalance.
In women, this is often due to low progesterone and high oestrogen causing water retention and changes in bowel movements.
This is why bloating can be worse before your period or if you are on the pill.
Low oestrogen can cause a slow down in your digestion resulting in gas and constipation. Low oestrogen can also lead to weigh gain and inflammation, making bloating a common symptom for women in menopause and perimenopause.
Low testosterone can cause bloating in both men and women. From a gut point of view, low testosterone is associated with an increased risk of SIBO and IBS because it slows down the movement of food and toxins in your body.
Imbalanced testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone increase inflammation in the body and increase pain and cramping.
Finally, stress hormones like cortisol can reduce the number of helpful bacteria in your gut allowing unhelpful bacteria to thrive. Cortisol can cause nausea and gas and lower stomach acid making you more susceptible to parasites and infection.
2. Bacterial Imbalance
Our digestive system needs a wide range of bacteria to help break down food well and keep our system moving.
Without them we end up feeling sluggish, bloated and gassy as well as other unpleasant side effects.
I meet a lot of people with digestive issues and the unexpected truth is
There are more people with TOO LITTLE GOOD BACTERIA than people with TOO MANY BAD BACTERIA (pathogens).
This can be due to illness, anti-biotic or other medications (including the pill) or using antimicrobials like neem, oregano and berberine without testing their bacteria.
Want to know the best way to know which one you are?
Add more probiotic foods and fibre (beans, greens & whole grains) to your diet.
Probiotic rich foods include
- Yogurt with live cultures
- Organic Honey
If your bloating improves, then consider adding an acidophilus probiotic too to help bacteria growth.
If your bloating gets worse, your bloating could be due to SIBO or bacteria overgrowth. If in doubt test don’t guess!
3. Stress and lifestyle
Stress has a huge impact on our digestive system and can cause severe bloating as well as other IBS-like symptoms.
When we are stressed, physically, mentally or emotionally, we tend to eat quickly and go for less nutrient dense convenience foods.
Chewing our food is one of the best ways to help digestion and reduce bloating.
Choosing nutrient dense foods like vegetables, protein, healthy fats (olive oil, avocado) and complex carbs helps us to give our body the nutrients it needs and reduce bloating caused by excess sugar, salt and simple carbs.
If we are in a high state of stress our body is in fight or flight mode meaning we do not digest effectively.
This can be particularly difficult if we have been experiencing stress for a long time (chronic stress). If we are chronically stressed, high intensity exercise worsen bloating as it takes our nervous system longer to go from work out (fight or flight) to relaxation (rest and digest).
Deep breathing and gentle movement can put us back into rest and digest as well as improve blood flow to our digestive system, increase digestive enzymes and help us break down our food – avoiding gas and bloating.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient for digestion and muscle relaxation, In times of stress our body uses more magnesium meaning we could be deficient. Magnesium supplements and Epsom salt baths are great ways to regain balance.
4. Food sensitivities
Approximately 45% of adults have a food intolerance (compared to 2% with food intolerances). The most common food sensitivities are to Cow’s milk (this can be to the sugar (lactose) or protein (casein/whey) , Eggs and Wheat.
Consuming foods you are sensitive to can cause inflammation, bloating, nausea, headaches and pain.
A lot of medications and supplements contain lactose e.g.birth control pills, probiotics contain lactose. If you feel bloated after milk, cheese or protein shakes chances are this is due to the lactose, the natural sugar which a lot of people have issues with.
Bloating is actually fermented food in the gut, the food sits in the digestive system (usually the stomach or intestines) and starts to ‘go bad’ or rotting and produces gas. This is different to when we eat fermented foods that contain probiotics.
If your digestive system is sluggish you might find that foods that should be gut healthy like oats and rice can cause bloating and discomfort.