A bit of bloating is a normal and healthy part of digestion, but when the bloat becomes uncomfortable, it may raise cause for concern. This is especially so when accompanied by other undesirable symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, gas, abdominal pain or blood in the stool. Unfortunately, these symptoms could be due to a number of things, as bloating is typically just another symptom and not the problem itself.
The first step? Identify the problem (or root cause). This is easier said than done, as the cause of bloating could be multiple things or many at once. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), candida overgrowth, Crohn’s Disease, hemorrhoids, Celiac’s Disease, or in the most severe circumstances, colon cancer, are all gastrointestinal issues notorious for causing bloating. If experiencing severe bloating, it is best to seek help from a medical professional.
For less severe, everyday bloating, here are some tips to stave off the symptoms and aid digestion.
Try a Stomach Massage
A stomach or bowel massage is helpful for those suffering from constipation or diarrhea. It can be done at home, by yourself and in just a few minutes. There are a ton of great tutorials on YoutTube to learn specific techniques for a proper stomach massage.
Drinks To Avoid
To avoid bloating and indigestion, take a break from coffee, milk, kombucha, diet sodas, sugary drinks, carbonated drinks and alcohol. It’s not necessary to cut these drinks out entirely, but it could help to identify the source of bloating.
After two or three cups of coffee, caffeine can work as a laxative, causing diarrhea. Sugars, including undigested lactose from milk, fructose in sodas or juice and sugars in alcohol can pass to the colon, where they are fermented by bacteria, producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct inside of the gut. Kombucha and other carbonated beverages can also add more gas to the gut and worsen bloating. Artificial sweetener can cause water retention, making bloating worse and, like caffeine, can result in a laxative effect.
Sip Some Tea
Teas have a wealth of properties that calm inflammation and reduce bloating. Peppermint, ginger, chamomile, fennel, dandelion root, turmeric and green teas are all great for different reasons. Peppermint, chamomile and fennel calm the digestive tract. Ginger can increase gastric motility. Dandelion can stimulate digestion.
Supplement with Enzymes, Magnesium and Probiotics
Various enzymes can be used to aid in digestion — for example, lactase breaks down lactose. Search online for supplement enzyme blends and make sure to check out the ingredients to see if the enzymes are appropriate for the foods you find difficult to digest. Magnesium can also be used to help ease bloating if experiencing constipation or infrequent bowel movements (less than one to two per day).
Have you ever gotten a knot in your stomach from nerves? According to the UNC Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, “Gastrointestinal function is particularly influenced by stress. Common gastrointestinal symptoms due to stress are heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and associated lower abdominal pain.”
Add Some Fiber to Your Diet
According to a 2018 study, an increase in fiber can act as prebiotic material for healthy probiotics which is great for people with a healthy gut microbiome, but it can also act as food for “pathogenic and opportunistic” bacteria. Therefore, a low-FODMAP diet could be helpful in the short-term when dealing with things like SIBO but have “deleterious effects” in the long run.
That being said, fiber is an important part of any diet. According to Dr. Robin Berzin of Parsley Health, “the average American eats 5 to 10 grams of fiber, but you should really be getting between 25 to 50 grams.” Fiber can aid digestion, but too much too fast can cause bloating and constipation, so it’s best to gradually increase your intake over a period of days.
According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking water during or after a meal aids in digestion and does not inhibit the absorption of nutrients. In fact, water is necessary for breaking down food into molecules your cells can use through a process called hydrolysis.
Giving the digestive tract a break could be just what it needs to reduce inflammation and calm bloat. Take time, about three hours between meals, to allow for digestion. Eat dinner early to avoid reflux at night when the digestive system is in peristalsis. Laying down during digestion is more likely to cause heartburn or acid reflux, as the digestive system no longer has gravity to help move food along. Check out our article on intermittent fasting to learn more about the benefits of eating on a schedule.
Avoid Simple Sugars
It’s not only sugary drinks you have to worry about fermenting in the gut. High-sugar fruits, sugary baked goods and sugary sauces can all have the same effect. Health Coach Brittany Forman of Parsley Health recommends staying below 20 grams of sugar per day.