7 Ways to Alleviate Bloating
Everyone experiences bloating. While bloating can be normal, for some people bloating can be painful, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. Bloating is also highly individual - one person’s experience of bloating might be very different from someone else’s. For example
- Some people experience bloating with gas (both belching or flatulence);
- Some people have painful bloating. For people with visceral hypersensitivity, nerve endings in the gut are sensitive and have a lower threshold, triggering pain;
- Some people wake up bloated;
- Some people experience bloating that is relieved when they have a bowel movement;
- Some people find that their bloating gets worse as the day progresses.
Bloating is not a medical condition itself, rather a symptom of something else. It can relate to slow gut motility, food intolerances, stress, anxiety, a disturbance in gut microbial balance, and chronic gastrointestinal conditions.
It’s important to first visit with your doctor for assessment and diagnosis of any underlying conditions related to your bloating (e.g. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Celiac Disease, chronic constipation, and many others).
Here are 7 strategies that may help to alleviate bloating:
1) Eat more slowly and chew food well. The better food is chewed, the more efficient digestion is;
2) Choose smaller, but more frequent meals and snacks. This will help to keep you nourished, energized, and satisfied without getting too hungry, which can increase the chance of eating large amounts all at once causing slowed digestion and more chance for gas and bloating;
3) Consider your beverage. Alcohol, carbonated beverages and caffeine can contribute to bloating. Re-think your drink with a larger meal that might already make you feel full or bloated. Carbonated beverages add to the air/gas you swallow which will contribute to bloating. During a mid-afternoon snack break, rather than grabbing a coffee to boost your energy, enjoy a whole food snack instead.
4) Drink strong peppermint tea (2 bags per cup). Peppermint is a carminative meaning it relaxes and soothes the gut muscles which helps to reduce bloating, and ease belly pain and cramping. If peppermint triggers esophageal reflux, purchase an enteric coated peppermint extract such as IBGard. Enteric coated means the capsule won't be broken down by the acid in the stomach. Instead, the peppermint is released in the small intestine, therefore it won't contribute to reflux.
5) Increase fibre. Fibre helps people with sluggish colon motility. It can act as a laxative, but also helps strengthen the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract. Not all fibre is the same and some fibre supplements can make gas/bloating worse. Psyllium fibre is a soluble fibre well tolerated by most people. Talk to a dietitian before you explore other fibre supplements.
6) Manage stress. This can be a contributor to bloating due to the complex connections between your brain and your enteric nervous system, which governs the function of the gastrointestinal tract. A stressed or anxious brain can contribute to a gut that doesn't function well.
7) Move your body. Movement helps to clear gas and reduce stress.
Bloating is highly unique from person to person and understanding it requires careful assessment. Visit your doctor if your bloating is affecting your quality of life. Describe it in detail. Then meet with a dietitian experienced in gastrointestinal disorders, who can help you to learn how to manage your bloating and the underlying condition that may be connected to it.