Ah, bloating — the topic du jour within the health and fitness ecosystem. Scroll through the feed of any wellness influencer and there’s a decent chance you’ll spot a post or two hinting ominously at the dangerous conditions lurking behind that feeling of bloating post-meal.
But what is bloating? Is it inherently detrimental to your health? Should you be buying the magic cures that bloating-obsessed influencers are hawking? Can bloating be avoided.
Worry not. We’re here to demystify the dreaded bloat.
Bloating occurs when gas builds up in the stomach and intestines, and can manifest as your stomach feeling full, tight, or even distended. Beyond that, bloating can make you have to fart more regularly, increase or decrease the frequency with which you have to poop, and can just flat out be uncomfortable. So yeah, bloating: not fun, but not terribly uncommon, either. Up to 30% of adults — and almost all individuals with IBS — experience bloating.
While bloating may be a cause for concern, some occasional bloating isn’t necessarily cause for alarm.
Yes, some causes of bloating may be related to certain gut diseases or disorders. But plenty of other factors can cause bloating, too, like constipation, enjoying a large meal, or consuming carbonated beverages. And depending on the individual, certain foods may cause bloating. Bloating is especially common in those starting to increase their intake of fiber-rich food.
Carbohydrate-rich, high-fiber foods tend to be associated with the potential for bloating. That means fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds… all of which are pretty darn healthy, can cause bloating!
That’s because when fiber rich foods enter the GI tract, healthy bacteria from our microbiome feed on that fiber and produce gasses. If excessive amounts of gas are produced, bloating can occur. This is most common when someone has not been consuming enough fiber, then suddenly and drastically ups the amount fiber in their diets. But worry not — studies have shown that maintaining that high-fiber diet can decrease bloating symptoms over time.
So if you experience bloating and have just started making a point to eat more fruits and veggies, keep it up and give it time for the bloating to subside. That microbiome of bacteria in your gut is an important part of staying healthy — it’s involved in your immune system, produces certain vitamins, and protects your overall gut health. So it’s important to ensure you get enough fiber to keep it happy!
Anything high in fiber, for reasons stated above
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage, which contain a sugar called raffinose that can ferment in the gut and can cause bloating in some people
Sugar substitutes — like xylitol, a sugar alcohol — are fermented by the bacteria in your gut, releasing gasses that can cause bloating (as a quick aside and shameless plug, none of our kencko products contain any artificial sugars!)
Chewing gum, which often contains sugar alcohols, also can lead to bloating because of air swallowed into the digestive tract during the act of chewing
Certain supplements, like iron and calcium supplements, can cause constipation, and therefore bloating
Real fast, let’s get this out of the way: this blog post is not intended to treat or diagnose an interstitial disorder. If you feel that you may have any of the following conditions, please contact your physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment!
Okay. By now we’ve established that occasional bloating can be normal. But chronic bloating may warrant some more attention. Medical conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Celiac Disease, and Lactose Intolerance can be associated with bloating.
A person with IBS may experience bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea as a result of consuming a food that they cannot tolerate and/or stress. Triggers for IBS typically vary from person to person, but some common ones more unique to IBS include caffeine, high fat meals, and foods high in FODMAPs, which are types of carbohydrates that can cause bloating in IBS patients.
A person with SIBO experiences overgrowth of bacteria in the gut. While we need this bacteria, too much of it can cause GI disturbance. This high amount of bacteria can produce a high amount of gasses like methane or hydrogen that can cause bloating. Treatment can include a course of antibiotics under care of a physician, and eliminating problematic foods with the help of a Registered Dietitian.
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder where an individual's immune system damages the small intestine when they consume gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats. This can cause bloating, gas, and constipation. For those with Celiac Disease, avoiding gluten is crucial.
Lactose intolerance is a genetic, digestive disorder where an individual does not produce lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose, a naturally occurring sugar found in milk and dairy products. Consumption of dairy can cause bloating, nausea, diarrhea and gas.
Again, if you feel that you may have any of the preceding conditions, please contact your physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment! This is a blog post. It is not a doctor and is not even sentient.
That said, here are four things you can do at home to rule out common causes of it bloating:
If you’re in the process of increasing your fiber intake, that change in your gut biome can cause bloating. Give it time — the bloating may subside if you continue the high fiber intake.
Make a note if bloating occurs after consuming specific foods or ingredients. If avoiding that food/ingredient doesn’t help, that may be a sign of the root cause being something more serious.
Check to see if any medications or supplements you take can cause bloating or constipation.
Check any foods you are consuming for artificial sugars and sweeteners such as xylitol. These are generally found in gums, diet foods, foods labeled “sugar free,” and many low carb targeted products.
If you find that after considering the above factors, a closer look at your causes for bloating may warrant further help, a Registered Dietitian, physician or gastroenterologist may be able to help!