Do you want to know the NUMBER ONE issue that I hear from people both in person and who contact me through my social media? It has to do with belly bloat – and folks are struggling with it A LOT!
Bloating can be tricky because there are numerous reasons it may be happening. Uncovering its causes can take some detective work, but is completely doable if one is willing to take a little time through the investigative process.
Although there are multiple possible reasons for bloating, I want to cover a few of the biggest offenders:
The food you are eating:
There are many foods that will bring on the bloat. In addition to finding and eliminating any unique food sensitivities that you may have, a number of common foods can also be bloat inducing. Yes, I am talking about the usual culprits of soy and gluten. For people that have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols), which is the medical terminology way to say carbohydrates and fibers found in a wide variety of foods, can be a real problem. Nothing trumps your own experience when it comes to food. If you know a food to be problematic for you, listen to the wisdom of your body.
The food you are not eating:
I have often seen low protein intake and low mineral intake create bloating, particularly in women. This has to do with the water and electrolyte balance of the body. Under consumption of vegetables (which are super mineral-dense) and proteins can create bloating. Many think a food like beans are a good protein source. While beans do contain protein, their most dense macronutrient is carbohydrate. Animal proteins tend to be the least reactive and least bloat causing. If you find yourself struggling to digest animal protein, your problem may be further upstream in your digestive process.
Your ability to digest the food you are eating:
Here I am referring to the body's ability to digest proteins, carbohydrates and fats into their constituent building blocks of amino acids, starches and fatty acids through the use of stomach acid, enzymes and bile. This is your digestive strength and resilience It is these building blocks that are absorbed by the body. Foods that are not appropriately broken down can create bloating and are very common, particularly in those who are on acid-blocking medications, under chronic stress, are sleep deprived or are over 45.
Your gut bugs:
One hundred trillion bacteria live in your gut. If there is an imbalance in the gut flora - whether there is a shortage of good guys, or the presence of bad guys, or an acute or chronic infection with a parasite, candida or pathogenic bacteria, that can be a real problem. Ruling out dysbiosis, infection and SIBO is important while sorting out reasons for bloat. Sprucing up the health of your native flora through fibrous vegetables, fermented foods and probiotics can help manage your bloat.
The lining of your GI tract:
You want the lining of your GI tract to have good integrity, top to bottom. The lining of the small intestine, in particular, is quite important. Increased permeability there will lead to increased bloating. Bacterial overgrowth of the stomach or small intestine can also create gas and bloating.
Your hydration or lack thereof:
Appropriate water balance is key for feeling bloated or sleek. If you are dehydrated, you are more likely to hold water directly under skin, giving you a puffy, soft, marshmallow-like appearance. Maintaining hydration is a non-negotiable when working on controlling bloating.
The way you eat:
Do you shovel food down your throat while standing at the sink (we are all guilty of this one at some point)? Do you chew your food two or three times before swallowing? Do you eat on the run, on the go or at the desk while you are working? All of these can increase or create bloat. Chewing and breaking down your food appropriately is important for digestion to occur optimally once the food is swallowed.
Your sleep schedule:
Getting enough sleep, which helps you balance your nervous system, is an often not-thought-about reason for not just bloat, but a wide range of digestive distress. Chronically not getting adequate sleep depresses the parasympathetic, or 'rest and digest,' branch of the nervous system. This is responsible for the production of digestive enzymes, acid and bile as well aso gut motility. You can imagine the consequences when it is not functioning adequately, let alone optimally.
Your stress game:
See above. Very much like being chronically sleep deprived, stress from which you have no escape, or from which you are unable to decompress or escape (even momentarily), will also depress the 'rest and digest' branch of the nervous system.
Those who are constipated tend to be more bloated. A key strategy for managing bloat is managing regularity of bowel movements.
These ten reasons are but a spattering of the many causes of bloating. That being said, in the vast majority of those struggling with regular bloating, no matter the cause, there are concrete steps that you can take to manage the issue. Start with your food choices and how you eat or ask me for more information on strategies to implement.