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Getting rid of bloating

Posted 5 years ago by Brendan

Everybody knows how uncomfortable bloating and an upset stomach can make you feel. Not to mention abdominal swelling stopping you from squeezing into an outfit or trapped gas escaping at an ill-timed moment. So with countless supplements claiming they can help, just which natural products are worth trying? Here we take a look at some of the best options from a naturopathic point of view, keeping in mind how long you’ve got and how quickly these products are likely to produce results.

Want a natural remedy for bloating? How long have you got? 

If you have one hour

When bloating has you buckled in discomfort, this isn’t the time to hear prevention is better than cure. (Although of course it is!) Your best options for acute relief are carminatives and exercise. Herbs with a carminative action are those with a recognised ability to prevent the formation or promote the elimination of excessive gas from within the intestines i.e. they alleviate bloating and calm the digestive system. Some of the most effective carminatives for bloating include ginger, peppermint, chamomile (especially for children), parsley, balm, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel and cloves. Pukka’s Three Ginger or Three Fennel tea bags would have to be my favourites, or try making your own.

Peppermint oil effectively calms tense gastrointestinal muscles helping to relieve bloating and digestive upsets. Several studies support using enteric coated peppermint oil capsules in managing digestive upsets and IBS [1]. You may prefer to apply some peppermint or other carminative essential oil topically, diluting a few drops in some olive or coconut oil before massaging into the abdomen.  If you need something a little stronger, Iberogast is a great option. This specifically formulated liquid herbal medicine has proven efficacy with 19 clinical trials supporting its use in managing gastrointestinal complaints including bloating.

A simple 10-15 minute walk or run may be all it takes to encourage movement within the intestines and the release of trapped gas. Jumping on a small exercise trampoline can also help. If that isn’t enough you may like to try the yoga pose Pawanmuktasana or ‘the gas release posture’. This places added pressure on the abdominal organs helping to promote the expulsion of gas [2]. So be warned!

If you have one day

Abdominal bloating is a process, generally getting progressively worse as the day goes by. Taken as directed throughout the day, digestive enzymes and activated charcoal can help to minimise bloating later on. Essential for digestive health, digestive enzymes are produced by the body to catalyse the breakdown of food in the gastrointestinal tract so nutrients can be absorbed and utilised. Without sufficient amounts, undigested food remains in the gastrointestinal tract allowing for fermentation and putrification. Bloating associated with burping may be an indication gastric enzyme production in the stomach is insufficient whereas bloating associated with flatulence is more often related to insufficient pancreatic enzymes in the intestines. Supplementing with digestive enzymes after meals can help to ensure ingested food is properly broken down. Taking enzymes before meals or over a long period can alter the body’s ability to make its own, so best consult a practitioner. Rather than supplementing, you may prefer to stimulate the production of endogenous enzymes with some apple cider vinegar or a few drops of gentian and ginger tincture diluted in a glass of warm water before meals.

Activated charcoal is another popular product available in health food stores. A concentrated source of carbon, this ‘rigid sponge’ has enormous surface area and absorption capacity that soaks up excess intestinal gas. It may also soak up medications or leech essential nutrients so take away from medications or supplements and avoid prolonged usage [3]. Be prepared for a very dark stool the next day.

If you have one week

Aside from making dietary changes, pre and probiotics are the most effective way of ‘treating the cause’ of bloating. That’s why they may take a little longer, but often work much better than products that simply alleviate symptoms. Probiotics or friendly bacteria help to maintain a healthy balance of microbes living within and supporting the digestive system. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found probiotics to be of significant clinical benefit in helping to prevent and manage gastrointestinal problems, including abdominal bloating and discomfort [4]. Prebiotics are dietary fibres that help support probiotic growth and function.

For best results, you want a therapeutic dose of high quality probiotic strains; unlike the majority of sugary drinks and yoghurts with added probiotics available. My favourite probiotic for bloating would be 'One week flat'; a specifically formulated combination of well researched probiotic strains in addition to prebiotic FOS. A one week course taken as directed can help to naturally correct the gut flora imbalance that promotes fermentation, bloating and altered bowel habits. In addition to improving digestive function, research suggests probiotics may also improve immune function [5], increase energy levels [6] and improve skin health [7]. That’s why when following a course of One week flat, I encourage also taking For every day EXTRA Strength for ongoing systemic support. 

So if uncomfortable abdominal bloating is something you could live without, why not give some of these well recognised bloating treatments a try and see what works for you. Tell us about it when you do or let us know what you use to help alleviate bloating.

NB: This post was updated in May 2014 to reflect the name change of the probiotics mentioned in the post. Their ingredients remain the same. 

References

[1] University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011, Peppermint, http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/peppermint-000269.htm, viewed 29/03/2012.
[2] Kate Woodworth, 2011, “Pawanmuktasana – Gas Release Posture”, http://www.yogapoint.com/asana/pawanmuktasana.html, viewed 29/03/2012.
[3] Fardy, J., et al., 1988, “Gastrointestinal gas”, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 139(12):1137-1142. 
[4] Saavedra, J., & Tschernia, A., 2002, “Human studies with probiotics and prebiotics: clinical implications”, The British Journal of Nutrition, 87:S241-S246.
[5] Berkes, J., et al, 2003, "Intestinal epithelial responses to enteric pathogens: effects on the tight junction barrier, ion transport, and inflammation", Gut, 52:439–451.
[6] Meng, Q., et al, 2010, “Influence of probiotics in different energy and nutrient density diets on growth performance, nutrient digestibility, meat quality, and blood characteristics in growing-finishing pigs”, The Journal of Animal Sciences”, June. 
[7] Owe., W., & Logan, L., 2011, “Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis - back to the future?”, Gut Pathology, 3:1.

 

About Brendan O'Loughlin

Brendan is a integrative naturopath, nutritionist and yoga teacher. He has completed training in Naturopathy, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Yoga, Iridology and Live Blood Analysis.

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