Banish the Bloat: How to get rid of stomach bloating
Stomach bloating is a common problem which can range in severity from mild discomfort to severe pain. It is an extremely familiar sensation to people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and often occurs with increased wind, burping/belching and changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation or a mixture or both). Many people find bloating gets worse over the day and becomes most severe in the afternoon and evening.
What Causes Stomach Bloating?
Stomach bloating generally occurs because of the presence of gases and water in the large intestine (also referred to as the ‘large bowel’ or ‘colon’), which can be affected by many dietary factors and food ingredients. This presence of gas and water can expand the size of the bowel, causing discomfort and pain, particularly in people with IBS, who have a more sensitive bowel. They often experience more severe discomfort compared to people without IBS who may be able to tolerate the same amount of gas or water without any discomfort.
Top Tips for Reducing the Bloat
1. Eat mindfully and with a closed mouth!
Many of us eat very quickly and don’t take the time to chew our food well. By eating more slowly, chewing food well and taking time to taste every mouthful we can also improve the digestion process by allowing our gut adequate time to digest and absorb all the nutrients in what we eat. This may minimise the amount of water and gas in our bowel which can reduce bloating. Keeping our mouth closed during the eating process is not only good manners but it can also reduce the amount of air we swallow which ends up in our bowel.
2. Avoid high fat foods
Fatty and greasy meals like fried foods, fatty meats, rich, creamy sauces and fast food tend to stay in your stomach for longer periods, resulting in slower movement through the intestine which can contribute to stomach bloating.
3. Ditch the fizzy drinks
Carbonated beverages like cola, flavoured soft drinks and soda water can contribute to stomach bloating due to the consumption of gases which can build up in the bowel. Try removing all carbonated drinks from your diet for a week to see if you notice a difference.
4. Increase fibre in the diet gradually
Whilst a high fibre diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, beans/pulses and wholegrains is important for many reasons (including maintaining a healthy digestive system, managing cholesterol levels and assisting with weight loss), increasing fibre in the diet too quickly can trigger bloating and changes in bowel habits. For some people, there are also certain higher fibre foods that can actually make bloating worse. Advice from a Dietitian can help you to gradually increase your fibre intake without worsening bloating, based on a thorough assessment of your diet and your current symptoms.
5. Identify and remove dietary triggers for bloating
It can be very difficult to identify specific dietary triggers for bloating and other bowel symptoms as our meals include a variety of different foods and ingredients in different combinations. However research has shown that there are some specific carbohydrates (known as FODMAPs) found in a wide variety of everyday foods that can contribute significantly to bloating and other bowel symptoms. Certain FODMAPs do not get fully broken down and absorbed in the gut, increasing the amount of water released and the amount of gas produced, causing bloating, pain and discomfort in sensitive individuals. A structured low FODMAP diet under the guidance of a Specialist Dietitian can help with identifying specific foods that trigger bloating and abdominal discomfort, including amounts of these foods that are tolerated to ensure your diet is as least restrictive as possible.
Through a dietary consultation and discussion of your symptoms, an assessment can be made as to whether a low FODMAP diet may be an effective approach for identifying your individual dietary triggers or whether there are other dietary factors or ingredients contributing to your bloating symptoms that can be modified or eliminated.
Our Dietitian, Sophie Cheesman has specialist training in the advanced dietary management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and managing food intolerances and is skilled in providing consultations on the Low FODMAP diet for treating IBS symptoms. You can read more about Sophie here
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