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What Causes Bloating?

by Adam Whitby

We have already said in 'What is bloating' that it is an uncomfortable and tight feeling of fullness in the stomach or abdomen, which may also be accompanied by abdominal pain and flatulence. The abdomen becomes larger than normal (distension) and bloating may also cause a very noticeable increase in various noises from the gut, such as loud rumblings and gurglings.

The main causes of such symptoms may be excess liquid in the intestine, or more likely excess gas produced by the digestive process. We are all very aware of our own wind, which we release by burping or breaking wind. The mixture of gases such as oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and others formed in the gut during the digestive process can become a very unpleasant problem.

If you feel bloated, you could try a probiotic supplement.

Diet

Whilst the causes of abdominal bloating and swelling are often down to simple over-eating, bloating can also be caused by the frequent consumption of too much processed or rich and fatty foods, dairy products, constant over-indulgence in alcohol or fizzy drinks, too much salt in the diet or too little protein.  But there are certain foods which are particularly involved in bloating. Bread can be a common cause, or any foods containing gluten such as wheat, rye and barley. Other causes include a sudden change of diet, or taking in too much air when chewing and swallowing, or eating lots of beans, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage and onions. In some people high fibre foods such as baked beans and brown rice can cause bloating. If you use sweeteners instead of sugar in your tea or coffee, they could act as a mild laxative and also cause wind.  Try to cut out the sweet altogether!

Food intolerance

Bloating can also be caused by intolerance to a certain food type in your diet, such as gluten already mentioned. If you think that might be the cause, you could give up a certain type of food such as bread or dairy produce for two or three weeks to see if there is any improvement in your bloating. If not, then eliminate another type of food for the same period. If you feel much better after not eating dairy produce, then you may have lactose intolerance. You would need to have this confirmed by a medical professional. To read more about lactose intolerance click here and if you are wondering why bread is associated with bloating take a look here.

Bacteria

Gas in the intestine is produced by bacteria attempting to break down some difficult to digest food. The balance of good and bad bacteria in our intestines is essential, and even the slightest imbalance (known as 'dysbiosis') can lead to discomfort at best, or illness at worst. A lack of probiotics in the gut can be the reason for that imbalance, and the cause of bloating in the first place; therefore in these cases taking a high quality probiotic supplement could help. I have included a video below from Carly Rowena, a blogger who swears by probiotics to help reduce bloating.

Hormones

Women often suffer from bloating more than men. This could be because of gastrointestinal problems or gynaecological conditions, or a combination of the two. Bloating can be associated with menstruation and the hormonal activity that it entails; for more information on this read this fantastic article on menstrual bloating by nutritionist Lorna Driver-Davies. Alternatively, perhaps women are just more aware of their bodies and speak up about symptoms like bloating more than men do!

Next Steps

Whatever the cause, bloating is a sign that you should take notice of, particularly if it is prolonged and uncomfortable, because the body is trying to tell you that all is not well in the food processing department, and it is having some trouble digesting food properly.  For more information take a look at natural remedies for bloating

What causes you to bloat?  Please add your comments below.

About Adam Whitby

Adam has been involved in health and medicine for over thirty years, mostly reviewing clinical studies for general practitioners, writing patient information leaflets and producing medical video programmes.

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