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Stomach Bloating and How To Get Rid Of It

The discomfort of a bloated belly can negatively affect your everyday life. Sometimes its cause is clear. Perhaps if you indulge in some hard-to-digest food for lunch, and even when you consume it, you know how this will end. But when flatulence is suspiciously often repeated, the problem needs to be addressed. You should start looking into the cause of the problem in the first place. The most common ones, together with tips on how to solve them, are discussed in today’s article. We will also look at recommendations on how to prevent bloating and promote digestion. Can a special Low – FODMAP diet help you remain free from a bloated belly? Let’s find out.

What exactly is flatulence?

Bloating is most commonly described as a feeling of: 

  • increased “pressure”, 
  • “tension”,
  • “distention”
  • or a feeling of “fullness” in the abdominal area.

This is often compounded by abdominal pain, constipation and sometimes the problem of fitting into your pants, which you normally have no problem fastening. In worse cases, you may suffer from nausea, vomiting, heartburn, as well as weight loss due to reduced dietary intake.

Not only does flatulence make you feel like a bloated balloon ready to launch into orbit, but unfortunately often makes you look so. We can blame accumulated gases in the digestive system for these unpleasant symptoms. How do they get there? When you breathe, eat, drink or chew, you swallow air and this is partly responsible. Bacteria also play a role in the accumulation of gases during digestion, working diligently on the digestive processes in the intestine and producing a small amount of gas in the process. A build-up of gases in the gut can also cause gastrointestinal diseases such as coeliac disease.

The accumulated gas then tries to get out. It’s the same as releasing the valve on a bloated balloon – the air longs to escape where it can, and it’s also often not without unwanted sounds.  [1-2]

What is flatulence?

The 9 Most Common Causes of Bloating and How To Address Them

In most cases, you’re able to track down the culprit behind the flatulence and perpetually bloated belly. You may even be aware that you are poorly digesting overly fatty “fast foods”, which are also full of salt, or you may have a problem with spicy or leguminous dishes. In these situations, however, you’re already anticipating any subsequent bloating ahead of time.

But there are cases that require deeper detective work and need an assessment of overall lifestyle. The cause may not only be from food, but other factors such as exercise or psyche come into play. 

1. You’re not digesting certain foods properly

The very first point may reveal the cause of flatulence in a number of people. Indeed, there are a large number of foods that can cause gases to build up in the gut without having any particular disease of the digestive system. 

High risk foods

Foods with a higher FODMAP content – these are types of carbohydrates that are difficult to absorb in the small intestine. Because of this, they then pass into the large intestine in an unchanged state, where they are broken down by bacteria, and it is during this process that a large amount of gases is produced. These foods include some vegetables such as garlic and onions, or sweeteners such as honey or agave syrup. This also includes legumes, cereals headed by wheat and rye, polyalcohols such as xylitol or maltitol, as well as milk sugar or lactose.

Diet and flatulence

What can help?

The best solution is to keep a diary in which you write down everything you eat and drink. If bloating often occurs after specific foods, try removing them from your diet for a while to see if you feel better. This is how elimination diets work, which most often exclude foods with a high FODMAP content.

Tips for better digestibility of legumes:

  • Choose types that are better tolerated, such as red lentils or chickpeas.
  • Soak them in water for a few hours (typically overnight), then pour out and use fresh water for cooking.
  • When cooking, add herbs that can help eliminate intestinal gases.  For example, cumin, anise, basil, fennel or parsley are suitable.
  • Cook until soft.
  • Chew each mouthful well to make it easier to digest.
  • Keep an eye on the amount of legumes in your diet, and increase your intake gradually if necessary.

Legumes play an important role in the diet. In addition to containing a high amount of beneficial fibre, they are also a source of protein. If you are interested in which legumes contain the most protein, read our article What Sources of Plant Protein Are the Best and Why Include Them In Your Diet?

Overly fatty foods

High-fat foods are digested for longer periods than those predominantly containing proteins and carbohydrates, and can also lead to flatulence. So maybe a pork chop with mashed potatoes and mayonnaise will put a lot more pressure on your digestion than rice with chicken.

What can help?

Cutting down on high-fat foods in your diet. Try to keep an eye on what combination of ingredients you have on your plate. High-risk meals are those that combine fatty meats, large amounts of oil and dressings. Fats are an important component of our diet, so it’s not a good idea to skip them altogether. Learn about which ones to incorporate into your diet in the article Fats, which Are Bad and which Are Good?

Dishes with high amounts of salt and seasoning

Highly seasoned and salty treats such as chips can play havoc with your digestion and cause a bloated belly.

What can help?

If you don’t want to give up strong flavours, or if you don’t “tolerate” spicy spices, try combinations of different fresh or dried herbs. Like basil, lovage, satureja, oregano, thyme, rosemary or parsley. They make a great meal, plus they help with digestion. [3-7]

What foods cause flatulence?

2. You eat too fast or plate up large servings

There are days when you have little time and a half – hour meal break is like entering the twilight zone. You shovel your lunch into you at lightning speed and rush back to work. These cases are unavoidable. However, there are people among us who, despite enough time, do not chew their food properly and within five minutes their whole meal and dessert disappear. The digestive system may then have a problem processing large chunks of food that have entered it in a short time. Excessive food servings can also cause difficulties, as they are a greater burden on the whole digestion process. 

What can help?

By thoroughly chewing your food into smaller pieces, you will facilitate the mechanical decomposition of food much more. This involves mixing with digestive enzymes, which turn the food into simpler particles, such as individual amino acids from proteins. Try to pay more attention to your food and chew it. We may even read recommendations that each mouthful should be chewed 32 times. As for the size of your meal, you’re better off having a smaller serving and saving the rest for later. Especially when you’re still going to exercise, or you want to fully focus on work. [8-9]

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3. You drink during meals or enjoy carbonated drinks

In some cases, bubbly drinks may also cause bloating.  Along with fluids, you also swallow air, which can start to accumulate in the digestive tract. If carbonated beverages make up a large portion of your drinking regimen, we may have just found the cause of your bloated belly. Also, drinking during meals can interfere with digestion, and it doesn’t really matter if your drink is with or without bubbles.

What can help?

Focus on non carbonated drinks. The ideal choice is tap water or unsweetened tea. Try to drink more between meals – at least 30 minutes before and after consumption. It is generally recommended to drink 30 – 45 ml of fluids for every kilogram of body weight per day. [10]

Carbonated drinks cause bloating

4. You’re chewing gum too often

Chewing gum = swallowing more air. But this is not the only reason why this popular activity, which you sometimes use to banish boredom or remove the taste of lunch from your mouth, can lead to flatulence. In fact, gum often contains sugar alcohols, which are among the FODMAPs mentioned above, such as Xylitol or Maltitol.

What are high risk doses of these sweeteners?

  • With doses exceeding 40 – 50g per day of Xylitol, you are likely to experience side effects such as bloating
  • and with Maltitol, digestive problems are most likely to occur when exceeding 45g per portion.

What can help?

If you chew gum once in a while, it probably won’t be the cause of your bloating. If you consume a pack a day, you should consider this as an option. The intake of these sweeteners should be monitored from all sources. Try gradually reducing your chewing gum consumption and see if it has any effect on your digestive problems. [11–14]

Not enough exercise can lead to flatulence

5. You do not exercise enough

Sunday afternoon walks with the whole family have a great advantage – they will help you digest an excellent three-course lunch better. Physical activity can promote digestion by increasing blood flow throughout the body, including the digestive system.

Physical activity speeds up peristaltic bowel movements, which is important for regular emptying. This also works to prevent constipation, which can cause a bloated abdomen.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to jump on the exercise mat and start some serious HIIT right after you finish lunch. This might make you feel worse. In the case of more intensive sporting activities, it is better to leave the body enough time to digest food and wait at least an hour after finishing. Everyone is different, though; as some need at least two hours before sport without food to feel okay.

What can help?

When you’re feeling ‘bloated’ or have eaten a ‘problematic meal’, go for a walk, stretch lightly or try easier yoga positions.  [15-16]

6. You have an illness that affects your digestion

After ruling out possible lifestyle causes, it’s time to focus the search in a different direction. There are a large number of diseases that can have a negative effect on digestion. All of them may not directly affect the digestive tract. Some disorders of the nervous or hormonal system may indirectly affect the process of digestion. Also, some drugs can interfere with these processes due to their side effects and cause unpleasant difficulties.

Are you experiencing any other symptoms besides a bloated belly, such as fever, vomiting or other discomfort? In these situations, do not hesitate to contact your general practitioner, who will examine you and send you to other specialists as required.

If you have these symptoms, you should seek help from your doctor: 

  • prolonged loss of appetite and weight loss
  • long-term problems with emptying – constipation, loose stools
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • pain in the stomach that does not get better
  • blood in the stool

Examples of gastrointestinal diseases that may cause bloating:

  • Food intolerances or allergies – e.g. lactose intolerance, cow’s milk protein allergy, egg white allergy, etc.
  • Coeliac disease – a disease that is accompanied by problems with the digestion of gluten.
  • Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity – similar to Coeliac disease, as also manifests itself in the body’s inability to digest gluten.
  • Chronic constipation – can have many causes including lack of  exercise and fibre in the diet.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome – a disease that presents with problems with emptying or abdominal pain.
  • Intestinal dysbiosis – bacteria live in our gut and for everything to function as it should, their species and numbers must remain in balance. Dysbiosis means disruption of this delicate balance. The bacteria in the digestive tract are affected by many factors such as diet, environment and also exercise.
  • Gastroparesis or impaired bowel movement – in the case of these diseases, the muscles in the wall of the stomach or  intestines are affected and food does not pass through the digestive system as it should.

What can help?

If you are concerned about the above, you’d better book a doctor’s appointment for a more thorough examination to determine if there’s anything more serious behind these symptoms. [17-20]

Bloating caused by disease

7. You’re experiencing a lot of stress

You may know from experience that when you are stressed for a long period of time, it also affects your physical health. You’re often cold, have less energy, have a headache or feel “pressure” in your abdominal area. Stress produces hormones that circulate throughout the body and can also negatively affect digestion. When you’re amped up, it’s often the case that you breathe more. More air can then cause bloating as well as abdominal pain. [21-22]

What can help?

Try different techniques for stress management. Exercise, writing a journal, various breathing exercises or cold water therapy can help. If you’re interested in other ways to relieve stress, read Why Is Stress Dangerous For Us and How To Reduce It? 

8. You have PMS

Gentlemen forgive me, this point is devoted purely to women. As “your days” approach, you can simply tell by the fact that your bloated belly is beginning to bother you. Going to bed at night with no problems and waking up in the morning with a balloon instead of a belly is quite uncommon. It is a demonstration of the power of the action of hormones that play not only on your figure, but also on digestion.

What can help?

In your diet try to reduce salty, fatty and sweet foods and drink plenty of water. Try stretching, do gentle yoga or go for a walk. Abdominal massage and other relaxation techniques can also help. Try increasing your intake of calcium and magnesium, levels of which may be reduced during this time of the cycle. Replenishing these minerals can help you with PMS symptoms such as water retention, mood swings or just plain bloating. [23-24]

PMS and flatulence

9. You have flown to a foreign country

Have you ever noticed that your digestion is often messed up when you travel? Even during a flight, when you are at higher altitudes, different air pressure may affect you than you are used to on land. A higher level of stress – even positive stress – may also have a further impact. Who doesn’t look forward to exploring new destinations? There’s still a lot going on when you travel, and so it may be that you forget to drink properly and your diet changes completely from one day to the next. Plus, on long flights you have a lack of exercise, which is another factor that we already know plays a role in digestion. 

What can help?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up travelling for good. But try to make sure there’s plenty of exercise. Try a jog in the morning before your trip, walk around the shops at the airport, and while taking a break at the gas station you can hop on one spot or do a few squats. Drink plenty of clean still water, try at the very least to follow the principles of a healthy diet and avoid eating too much fatty, salty or sugary foods. Preventive use of probiotics may also be worthwhile before travelling to exotic destinations. [25]

What to do when you are suffering from flatulence and a bloated stomach?

Now you know the main causes of a bloated belly and have tips for solving them. The next ten points you provide you with a summary of advice and recommendations on what to focus on when trying to prevent bloating.

1. Reduce food servings, eat more frequently and try to chew food properly

If you eat smaller meals, you won’t put as much strain on digestion as with larger servings. At the same time, you may feel more energy after eating rather than just tiredness and a desire to lie on the couch.

2. Take care of your bacteria, you will be handsomely rewarded. 

It turns out that what we eat can partially influence the composition of our microbiome – the bacteria that live in our intestines. These can also cause a bloated stomach, so you need to do as much as possible to make it work for you, not against you. It is so important to eat enough fibre, which is found in fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, psyllium or cereals. Fibre is nourishment for these bacteria that affects their favourable composition. Also, probiotics found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi can enrich your microbiome with their composition. You will also find them in typically more concentrated form in food supplements.

If you want to know more about probiotic bacteria, read the article Probiotics: The Importance of Useful Bacteria For Immunity and Overall Health of Athletes

Probiotics assist with flatulence

3. Find the culprit

Keep a diary to write down your food, drinks, sporting or other activities and add how you felt that day. Perhaps this will expose the possible culprit behind your troubles.

4. Eliminate carbonated drinks, chewing gum and do not drink during meals

Due to carbonated drinks and chewing gum, you take in more air, which then quite logically has an effect on a bloated belly. So try to focus on plain tap water and only chew gum when the situation really requires it.

5. Do not overdo it with artificial sweeteners

Artificial low-calorie sweeteners are fine, allowing you to enjoy sweet foods and not worry about the high energy intake from simple sugars. But be careful that your diet does not contain excessive amounts of sugar alcohols (Xylitol, Maltitol).

6. Try digestive enzyme dietary supplements

You can also support digestion by using enzymes that are used to digest food into simpler, usable parts.

Tea to prevent against flatulence

7. Try herbal or ginger tea

Try hot tea after a meal that contains mint, chamomile, ginger or fennel with anise. You will feel more comfortable and your digestion will also appreciate these herbs.

8. Prevention of constipation

Regular emptying is very important for the health of the digestive tract. You can support it with plenty of fluids, regular exercise and intake of fibre. Probiotic foods such as sour milk products or kombucha may also help.

9. Try massaging the stomach and warm water on the abdominal area

If you give your body the best care, it will surely come back to you. Even in the case of better digestion try a gentle belly rub or a warm bath.

10. If symptoms persist and you don’t know what to do, see a doctor

As described in the previous chapter, in some cases it is better to contact experts to help you discover the cause of your problems. [26-27]

A Low – FODMAP diet can help

Low – FODMAP is an elimination diet that eliminates certain carbohydrate foods from the diet. Someone may have trouble digesting them, so excluding these foods from their diet will often help with digestive problems. These include oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. This diet is mainly used in people with irritable bowel syndrome, where it often leads to a reduction in the symptoms of the disease. It also makes it possible to find out which specific foods a person does not tolerate and in what amounts.

It normally takes 4 – 6 weeks and then the high-risk foods are incorporated back into the diet. As this is a very restrictive diet, it is not appropriate to follow it for a long period of time and should preferably be done under the guidance of a specialist such as a nutritional therapist or other diet specialist.

Examples of high risk foods containing FODMAP and their more appropriate substitutes [28]:

Foods with a high FODMAP content

Foods with a low FODMAP content

Vegetables, fruit, legumes:
garlic, onions, spring onions, beans, asparagus, mushrooms, peas, apples, plums, avocados, apricots, bananas, peaches, mangoes, beans
Vegetables, fruit, legumes:
broccoli, green bean, lettuce, carrots, zucchini, celery, cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes, radishes, oranges, blueberries, kiwis, strawberries, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, small amounts of lentils
Cereals:
barley, rye, wheat, couscous, spelt
Cereals:
oats, quinoa, buckwheat, rice, gluten-free pastry, corn
Nuts and seeds:
cashews, pistachios
Nuts and seeds:
almonds, pecans, peanutschia, sunflower, poppy seeds
Dairy products, eggs and other chilled products:
cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, yogurt, kefir, cream, ice cream
Dairy products, eggs and other chilled products:
plant drinks and desserts – soy, coconut, rice, oats, butter, hard cheese, eggs, fruit sorbet, tofu, tempeh
Flavours and sweeteners: 
agave syrup, honey, isomalt, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, jams
Flavours and sweeteners: 
aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, beet sugar
Drinks:
fruit juices from high risk fruit types, protein drink from whey containing lactose
Drinks:
coffee, weak herbal teas, still water, orange tea, low lactose whey protein drinks

What is the lesson?

Flatulence and a bloated belly can be a real pain. Its cause is often lifestyle-related, and may be due to an inappropriate diet, carbonated beverages, or oversized servings of food. Stress or hormones can also be a factor in digestion. The main thing is to find the cause of the problem and start resolving it as soon as possible. Sometimes a small dietary adjustment, a  walk after a meal, better stress management, or the inclusion of probiotics will help.

Do you have any guaranteed way to combat flatulence and bloating? Share it in the comments. If you liked the article, don’t forget to share it among your friends, and maybe you can help them in their fight against bloated belly.

Sources:

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[2] Familydoctor.Org. Bloating—Bloated Stomach—What Causes Bloating – https://familydoctor.org/condition/bloating/

[3] Healthline. 13 Foods That Cause Bloating (and What to Eat Instead). – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-foods-that-cause-bloating

[4] Khodarahmi, M., & Azadbakht, L. Dietary fat intake and functional dyspepsia. – https://doi.org/10.4103/2277-9175.180988

[5] IBS and bloating. – https://fabflour.co.uk/fab-health/ibs-and-bloating/

[6] McGrane, K., MS, & RD. How to Cook Beans to Reduce Gas. Foodal. – https://foodal.com/knowledge/how-to/cook-beans-reduce-gas/

[7] ScienceDaily. Higher salt intake can cause gastrointestinal bloating: New analysis suggests that America’s high prevalence of bloating could be reduced by lowering sodium intake. – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190627143931.htm

[8] Healthline. How Many Times Should You Chew Your Food? – https://www.healthline.com/health/how-many-times-should-you-chew-your-food

[9] Intestinal Labs. Why is it so important to chew your food? – https://www.intestinal.com.au/chewing-food

[10] Healthline. Is Carbonated Water Bad for You? – https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-carbonated-water-bad-for-you

[11] Staff, E. Why Does Sugar-Free Gum Cause Gas and Bloating? – https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/why-does-sugar-free-gum-cause-gas-and-bloating/

[12] Drugs.Com. Xylitol Uses, Benefits & Dosage—Drugs.com Herbal Database. – https://www.drugs.com/npp/xylitol.html

[13] EFSA Journal. Statement in relation to the safety of erythritol (E 968) in light of new data, including a new paediatric study on the gastrointestinal tolerability of erythritol. – https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1650

[14] Han, J. What is Maltitol (E965) in Food? Uses, Health benefits, Safety, Side Effects. – https://foodadditives.net/sugar-alcohols/maltitol/

[15] Aaptiv. Can You Reduce Bloating With Exercise? – https://aaptiv.com/magazine/reduce-bloating

[16] Healthspan. Why exercise is good for your digestive system. – https://www.healthspan.co.uk/advice/why-exercise-is-good-for-your-digestive-system

[17] 18 ways to reduce bloating: Quick tips and long-term relief. – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322525

[18] Lacy, B. E., Gabbard, S. L., & Crowell, M. D. Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3264926/

[19] Austin Gastroenterology. Is Bloating a Cause for Concern? – https://www.austingastro.com/2018/10/26/is-bloating-a-cause-for-concern/

[20] News-Medical.Net. Dysbiosis and the Microbiome. – https://www.news-medical.net/health/Dysbiosis-and-the-Microbiome.aspx

[21] How to Calm an Anxious Stomach: The Brain-Gut Connection. – https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/how-calm-anxious-stomach-brain-gut-connection

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[23] Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). – https://www.acog.org/en/womens-health/faqs/premenstrual-syndrome

[24] Nierenberg, C. PMS: Diet Dos and Don’ts. WebMD. – https://www.webmd.com/women/pms/features/diet-and-pms

[25] Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. 6 Ways Airplane Travel Affects Your Body + How You Can Prepare. – https://health.clevelandclinic.org/dehydration-exhaustion-and-gas-what-flying-on-an-airplane-does-to-your-body/

[26] ScienceDirect. Interaction between diet composition and gut microbiota and its impact on gastrointestinal tract health. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213453017300630

[27] Wieërs, G., Belkhir, L., Enaud, R., Leclercq, S., Philippart de Foy, J.-M., Dequenne, I., de Timary, P., & Cani, P. D. How Probiotics Affect the Microbiota. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. – https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2019.00454

[28] IBS Diets. FODMAP Food List. – https://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/