Bloating is much more than not
being able to fit into your jeans. It can affect your confidence, make you feel
uncomfortable and at times can be extremely painful. In simple terms, bloating
is the feeling of pressure from inside your stomach. It may be just the sensation, although it’s often accompanied by the stomach protruding and
feeling hard or tender to the touch.
It’s estimated that up to 30% of us experience bloating, although everyone
experiences it differently. Some people are bloated at certain times, for
example after meals or during times of stress, while other people feel
constantly bloated. If you are one of the latter, your first step should be to
schedule an appointment with your GP.
Just as each of us experiences
bloating differently, the cause of bloating can also vary between individuals.
Let’s discuss some of the most common causes of bloating, and how to go about
finding some relief:
Before we get into food
intolerances, it’s important to distinguish between a food allergy and a food intolerance. Food allergies are an immune response to
an allergen. They tend to be less common than a food intolerance, and with
symptoms that are typically more severe.
Coeliac disease is often associated
with food intolerances, but it’s important to note that it’s an autoimmune
condition, which is again different from food intolerance that occurs in the
A food intolerance isn’t
life-threatening, but it can certainly cause discomfort and impact your quality
of life. Symptoms aren’t only limited to the gut — a
food intolerance can result in rashes on hives on the skin, recurrent mouth ulcers and even
headaches. Bloating, however, is a common symptom.
Commonly reported food intolerances include:
type of sugar found in milk products)
naturally-occurring sugar found in fruit and honey)
(often used as a preservative in foods and naturally found in dried fruit and
fermented products like wine)
Food intolerance shouldn’t be
self-diagnosed, as doing so may unnecessarily remove nutrients from your diet.
Instead, speak to your GP or a qualified dietician who can help you figure out
whether you have an intolerance and how to manage it effectively.
Functional Bowel Disorders (FBDs)
FBDs are conditions that affect the
way that your stomach and bowels work. They include Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation, diarrhoea, and dyspepsia (or indigestion).
Research seems to indicate that
people with FBDs are more likely to experience bloating. One study found that visible abdominal distension occurred in 52% of patients
with IBS that reported bloating.
People who suffer from Irritable
Bowel Syndrome often experience either diarrhoea or constipation. Research
suggests that people who have constipation are more likely to experience
bloating than those with diarrhoea. A study that
examined the bowel habits of people suffering from IBS found that women were
more likely to experience constipation. Another found that approximately 50% of IBS patients with bloating also
experienced an increase in abdominal girth.
If you think you might have an FBD,
you should book an appointment with your GP to discuss your symptoms and decide
whether you need to undergo testing. There is a special diet which is often recommended to help manage symptoms, which they may
recommend. Your doctor may also recommend taking a probiotic — speak to your local Capital Chemist pharmacist about which one
may be right for you.
High volume food and drink
One really simple explanation for
bloating is that you’ve simply eaten and/or drank a lot! This can create two
issues: one is the bloating from the food itself taking up space, but the
second is the gas that’s created by the bacteria in your gastrointestinal (GI)
If you’re someone who tends to eat
large meals, it’s reasonable to expect a degree of bloating. After all, the
food has to go somewhere! If you’re finding the bloating to be uncomfortable,
you may wish to consider eating smaller, more regular meals over the course of
When we eat large amounts of
fermentable carbohydrates, the bacteria in our GI tract produces gas which can
stretch the intestines, creating a bloating sensation. These types of foods
include particular vegetables, fruit, some protein sources, grains, and
sweeteners. Some of these are foods that you would expect (for example,
cabbage, Brussels sprouts and baked beans) while others are less obvious (like
garlic, barley, and dates). Not everyone experiences bloating when they eat
these foods — its dependant on how sensitive your gut is. If you’re
experiencing ongoing bloating and suspect it might be something in your diet, a
dietician may recommend an elimination diet to help you pinpoint which food is
causing your symptoms.
There are a number of things you
could do when you experience bloating caused by gas. Some gentle exercise and
stretching is a good start. There are even yoga poses designed to help relieve
gas — a simple Google search is a good way to find them. At Capital
Chemist, we also stock products designed to help relieve gas. Speak to your
local pharmacist about which one may be right for you.
Gas can also be a symptom of indigestion.
This happens when the stomach produces excess acid, often in response to
stress, pregnancy, caffeine, alcohol or particular foods. Capital Chemist
stocks a range of antacids which help to relieve symptoms by neutralising the
If you’re experiencing regular
indigestion or are concerned about your symptoms, speak to your GP.
It’s common for women
to experience bloating during menopause or around their menstrual cycle,
especially right before their period. According to Dr Megan Rossi, a leading expert in gut health, the changing levels of hormones
can have an effect on our gut, impacting the way that we digest food.
In addition to hormones shifting
around the menstrual cycle, research has indicated that there may be an
association between endometriosis and bloating. One study looked at 51 women, 26 of whom had been diagnosed with
endometriosis via laparoscopy and 25 women without endometriosis. In addition
to questionnaires and ratings of perceived bloating, abdominal girth was
measured three times daily for one whole menstrual cycle. The study found that
96% of women with endometriosis experienced abdominal bloating, compared to 65%
of control subjects.
If your bloating and GI symptoms
are causing you concern, or aren’t going away after your period has passed,
speak to your GP.
How to tackle the bloat
Here are a few ways that you can
deal with bloating:
wearing clothes that are too tight around the stomach
stress levels under control, as stress can exacerbate digestive issues
regular meals over the course of the day
food well before swallowing
for food intolerances or digestive issues
chewing gum and fizzy drinks, both of which can cause you to swallow excess air
One of the best tips to coping with
bloating is to speak to a health professional, such as your GP and/or Capital
Chemist pharmacist. A study in the UK found that 59% of people have previously or are currently
experiencing a gut health condition or symptom, yet 46% delay seeing a doctor
for persistent gut problems out of embarrassment. Talking about digestion can
feel uncomfortable, but it’s a lot less painful than dealing with ongoing pain