Feeling Bloated?

By Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN

When thinking of different topics to write about, I like to consider common topics or questions that often come up in client visits. While a majority of my clients are looking for help with losing weight or eating healthier, I would say a close second is GI issues, namely bloating.

While bloating is a legitimate concern for many people, I am certainly not trying to minimize it. I would be remiss to not mention that it seems like for whatever reason, we associate bloating as a problem. Just take a look at TV or social media and you will see supplement after supplement aimed to reduce the dreaded bloat. If we believe that our stomachs should always be flat, then we are chasing unicorns and destroying our relationship with food at the same time. Abdominal bloating is completely normal under many circumstances. Eating a regular sized meal can distend your stomach which may lead to complaints of bloating, when all you are experiencing is a stomach full of food. This is NOT a bad thing.

On the flip side of the coin are people who do experience chronic abdominal distension and bloating that is very uncomfortable and can be painful. If you are experiencing this, here are some things that could be causing it:

#1 Gas-Producing Produce

Legumes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, and zucchini. Also if you increase fiber too quickly without drinking enough fluids or giving your body time to adjust.

#2 Sugar Alcohols

These are fermentable carbohydrates that are used as a sugar substitute to sweeten foods. The most common are xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, and mannitol. They are in many sugar free products but if you don’t tolerate sugar alcohols or you eat too much of them, you can get major GI distress.

#3 Carbonated Beverages

Gas in your drink = gas in your stomach

#4 Hormones

Bloating around your period and in perimenopause and menopause is a thing. It happens because hormonal shifts can slow down digestion and cause water retention. This is usually short lived however.

#5 Chewing Gum

Yes, believe it or not!! This can be a double whammy! Chewing causes you to swallow air which ends up in your stomach. Also, sugar free gum can also contain sugar alcohols (See #2 above).

#6 FODMAPS

These are fermentable carbohydrates that can cause bloating and gas in some people. Removing them from your diet can help manage symptoms of IBS, but the first step is figuring out which FODMAPs cause your issues. This type of diet is an elimination diet that is best to be done under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian.

#7 Gluten Intolerance

Symptoms include bloating, gas, and abdominal pain after you have consumed food with barley, wheat, oats, and rye.

#8 Constipation

If you aren’t going to the bathroom often enough, your abdomen can become distended. This could be a result of not eating enough fiber, drinking enough water, sedentary lifestyle, IBS, hormones, or medications.

#9 Stress

The gut and brain are connected via nerves. When we are stressed the brain sends a signal to the gut to slow down digestion. This is part of the fight or flight response.

#10 SIBO

I know this is a mouthful but this stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This is when normally present bacteria in the small intestine become overgrown. It is diagnosed with a breath test and treated with antibiotics. If you think you could have this, you would want to discuss with your GI doctor or GP.

Remember that some bloating is normal after eating foods that are high in fiber and usually means that your gut microbes are feasting on some delicious food. But if your bloating and distension are frequent and painful, reach out to a GI doctor or dietitian for help.

Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN
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