Beating the Bloat
We’ve all experienced bloating – that full, tight feeling in your abdomen, which is often uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. This increased abdominal pressure is often due to the presence of gas, and may or may not, be associated with abdominal distension (visual enlargement of the waist).
Bloating can be caused by gastroenterological conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, small bacterial overgrowth and gastroparesis (delayed emptying of the stomach), but it can also be caused by ingestion of certain foods you are intolerant to.
There are several strategies you can try that will help minimise the bloat!
1. Slow down at meal times and don’t overeat
It may seem obvious, but it is important to keep this in mind. Life is busy and we can all tend to rush when eating, because we have other things to get done. When you eat quickly, you also tend to eat more. Try slowing down the pace at meal times, enjoy each mouthful and chew well. By chewing slowly and carefully, this will prevent excess air entering the digestive tract. Drinking through a straw can lead to excess air being swallowed also.
2. Eat at regular intervals
To combat bloating, many medical professionals will recommend moving from the standard 3 meals per day to having smaller meals more frequently. This way, the digestive system is kept in constant operation.
3. Gradually increase intake of fibre
Did you know fibre prevents constipation and bloating? It is important to introduce extra fibre slowly and gradually, to let the body adjust. Too much fibre at once can actually cause bloating.
4. Seek guidance from a dietitian for a low FODMAP diet
At GastroNorth, we often recommend a low FODMAP diet as an effective strategy to beat the bloat. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols – a group of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed. For those with gastrointestinal symptoms, a diet high in FODMAPS can induce constipation and/or diarrhoea, bloating, wind and abdominal pain. High FODMAP foods to consider avoiding are apples, pears, watermelon, wheat, rye, onions, legumes, cabbage, stone fruits and mushrooms.
The low FODMAP diet is not a ‘one for all’ diet. It is essential that it is tailored to the individual as not all high FODMAP foods will be a trigger for you. A low FODMAP diet is also not to be followed strictly long term, foods should be re-introduced. FODMAPs are prebiotic and are important for long term gut health as they encourage the growth of good bacteria. We recommend seeing a specialist dietitian to assist you with this diet.
Nick Dunn is a specialist gastrointestinal dietitian with Diet Solutions, and consults from the GastroNorth main rooms in Bundoora.
5. Be mindful of Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are the sweeteners found in sugar-free foods and chewing gums. If present in a large quantity, these can cause digestive issues as the bacteria in your gut digests them, which produces gas.
6. Check with your doctor to rule out any serious medical conditions
Bloating is a very common symptom of several medical conditions. If you have prolonged bloating or your bloating is not helped by trying some of these strategies, see your doctor. If there is a diagnosis of a medical condition like inflammatory bowel disease for example, treatment can be commenced that may reduce or eliminate your bloating altogether.