Bloating | Symptoms, Causes + Prevention Tips
Bloating is a common occurrence, with 10% and 25% of people complaining of occasional abdominal bloating, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. However, bloating happens regularly, with symptoms sometimes becoming unbearable for some. If you often feel bloated, it may indicate a more serious medical condition such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and it's advisable to book an appointment to speak with your doctor.
In this post, we discuss some of the most common causes of bloating and share tips on how to relieve symptoms and how you may be able to prevent this discomfiting condition in the future.
What does bloating feel like?
If you're experiencing bloating, you may feel pressure, fullness or tightness in your stomach. Your abdomen may also be visibly distended (swollen), and you may feel gassy. Other common symptoms are abdominal rumbling or gurgling and the urge to burp.
More severe symptoms of bloating may include:
- Bloody stool
- Intense weight loss (without you trying)
- Bleeding in between your periods or if you are postmenopausal
- Heartburn that gets worse
Call your doctor if you experience any one of these symptoms with bloating.
The pain from bloating may range from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful and can last a few hours to a few days. Bloating symptoms usually subside after a while, which may be fine for people who only occasionally suffer from temporary bloating. However, for those who experience bloating as a recurring issue, a long-term prevention plan may be the best solution.
What causes bloating?
Bloating occurs when the gastrointestinal tract becomes filled with excess air or gas caused by many different things, some more cause for concern than others. Here are some of the most common causes.
Eating certain foods
Some foods produce more gas than others, with the most common culprits being apples, beans, cruciferous vegetables and onions. Another common cause of excess gas is dairy products, which is why bloating is a common symptom of those who suffer from lactose intolerance. Carbonated drinks also cause excess gas.
If you find yourself bloated after eating, it may be caused by something as simple as eating too many gas-producing foods. You may also suffer from digestive issues, food intolerance or another condition that causes excess gas and digestive contents to build up.
If you're a gum chewer or a smoker, your bloating may be caused by swallowing excess air. Other common ways to swallow air are overeating food too fast or drinking through straws.
Period bloating is also another common cause of temporary bloating. Many women experience this type of bloating before and during their period. Period bloating is due to changes in hormones progesterone and oestrogen. These changes cause the body's cells to become swollen with water, causing the feeling of bloating.
When you can't pass stool regularly, the backed-up contents may cause your colon tract to expand to make way for the extra volume of digested food, which leads to bloating.
If you've put on a lot of weight in a short period, you may find that this could be the cause of your bloating. The extra weight could be impacting your digestive system, which may cause you to feel abnormally bloated after eating. Weight gain can also sometimes cause water retention, and the retention of fluids can cause the feeling of being bloated.
These causes are only the tip of the iceberg, and we recommend checking in with your GP for a proper diagnosis as the cause of your bloating might be something more serious.
How do I relieve my bloating symptoms?
Many home remedies may help relieve the pain and discomfort. These include:
Drinking herbal teas
Dandelion tea shows promise as a diuretic, so if water retention or constipation is the cause of your bloating, you may find Dandelion tea to be an excellent remedy. Other herbal teas that are good for digestive issues include peppermint, ginger and fennel.
Try this delicious Homemade Dandy Chai recipe.
Take peppermint capsules
Peppermint helps relax the intestinal muscles allowing gas and stool to pass through without obstruction, which is why Peppermint Oil capsules are usually targeted at those who have IBS. However, if you suffer from temporary bloating, you may find peppermint capsules to help relieve the pain and discomfort.
Add warmth to the area and relax
When applied to the abdomen area, the heat from a hot water bottle or wheat bag may help symptoms of bloating subside. Relaxation is also another way that may help relieve the symptoms of bloating, and it also helps reduce stress levels which may allow the GI tract to function more effectively.
How can I avoid or prevent bloating?
What brings long term relief will depend on the root cause of your bloating. So it's crucial to get a professional diagnosis if you experience bloating regularly.
If your bloating is caused by diet, making a few lifestyle changes may help prevent it.
Add more probiotics to your diet
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in our gut. Regularly taking a probiotic supplement or consuming foods containing high probiotics may help balance your gut bacteria. By boosting the number of good bacteria in your gut, it may help regulate the colon bacteria and help improve the environment in your stomach, which may counteract bloating.
You may need to consume the probiotics consistently for a few days to a few weeks before noticing a difference.
Some foods that naturally contain good bacteria are yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh.
Want to make homemade probiotic-rich kimchi? Check out this video
Or you could try this homemade dairy-free probiotic yoghurt!
Try consuming psyllium husks
Psyllium husk is a soluble fibre and prebiotic that may help relieve both constipation and diarrhoea. The recommended daily fibre intake is between 25 to 30 grams, and just one tablespoon of psyllium husk contains around 5 grams of fibre. Psyllium is usually used to treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other intestinal problems and help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes due to it being a dietary fibre.
One of the best ways to consume more psyllium husks is to add them to your cooking.
Try this Psyllium Husk Pasta recipe
Or why not add Psyllium Husk Bread Rolls to your next lunch
Add exercise to your daily routine
Regularly moving your body has many health benefits, and we don't necessarily mean you have to do a HIIT workout at the gym to reap the benefits. Studies show that a daily 10-15 minute walk helps reduce the symptoms of bloating that occur following a meal
Exercise may also help your body easily move stool and gas from your bowels. Sweating from regular exercise also releases extra sodium from the body, which may help to relieve water retention.
Gradually increase your fibre intake
Introducing more fibre to your diet may help prevent constipation and bloating as it's known to help food move through your digestive system.
We say "gradually" because it's important to remember that consuming too much fibre or increasing intake too quickly can have the opposite effect and cause more bloating, diarrhoea and flatulence. We recommend building your tolerance slowly.
Keep a food diary
If you notice yourself bloating after eating, keeping a diary can easily help to identify which foods are causing you discomfort. Bloating is common in people who have an intolerance to lactose and gluten.
Other ways to prevent bloating include:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water - at least 3L (100 fl oz) per day
- Avoid carbonated drinks, sugars and artificial sweeteners - as these can cause bubbling and bloating in the stomach.
- Stop chewing gum | avoid using straws | eat slowly- to avoid swallowing excessive air
- Reduce your salt intake - to prevent fluid retention that causes bloating
It's essential to seek medical help and diagnosis if you regularly experience bloating. Knowing the root cause can help to prevent bloating in future.
Many home remedies can relieve the symptoms of occasional bloating, such as drinking herbal teas and relaxing.
Lifestyle and diet changes can help prevent occasional bloating caused by food.
This blog post is not intended to provide medical advice, and all information, content, and material in this blog post are to inform the reader only. Our content is not intended to serve as a replacement for a qualified doctor or healthcare provider's consultation, diagnosis, and medical treatment.