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Can eating more slowly help to reduce bloating?

Posted 4 years ago by Jo

A recent report has explored how dietary adjustments at a Danish pig farm has had a significant improvement on the digestion of the pigs, reducing bloating they were experiencing. The Danish farm owner, Kim Heiselberg, noticed that his sows and piglets were experiencing some discomfort and as result made some changes to their diet in March 2009. He observed that the pigs were suffering digestive problems such as bloating due to their diet which consisted mainly of barley and wheat, oats and soy with additional vitamins and minerals. The pigs were fed three times a day. He noticed that the sows were uncomfortable after feeding, clearly experiencing stomach pain which then affected their ability to feed their young.

Pigs feeding

Dietary changes at a Danish pig farm has led to happier pigs with less digestive discomfort 

Feed company Vestjyllands Andel (VA) developed a feed recipe involving rolled barley in flat particles, which leads to more feed surface becoming available for pig stomachs, as well as dried alfalfa which slows the feeding process. Adding the rolled grain and alfalfa to the feed slows down the digestive process and although feed intake remains the same, it is more evenly balanced throughout the day leading to less digestive problems and bloating. A live yeast product was also added to the sow's feed, which presumably also helped increase their digestion. As a result of making these changes, Heiselberg was pleased to observe the pigs looking much more comfortable after feeding. Importantly post-weaning mortality figures have also reduce by up to 30%.

Heiselberg states, "We do not know if it was the structure of the new feed and/or the addition of the yeast product but the new mix seems to have boosted the sow performance, as they need to eat!".

Piglets feeding

The Danish sows are able feed their piglets more comfortably since the dietary changes 

Although this experiment was carried out on pigs rather than humans, there are certainly relevant parallels amongst human digestion. Many studies are carried out trialling animals in the initial stages, and then will be carried out using human volunteers at a later stage. This technique has been used for many years and provides the basis for many research trials today, many of which include prescription medicines available.

How does eating more slowly help prevent bloating?

In short, taking more care to eat more slowly can be really helpful in preventing bloating and improve our digestion. We will explore this further and explain how eating more slowing can positively impact our digestive health.

In today's busy lifestyles we are notorious for eating 'on-the-run' and at best, grabbing our lunch at our desks whilst trawling through emails or other work related correspondence. As a result our full attention is not focused on our digestion which can impact the way in which we digest our food, leading to digestive problems such as bloating and abdominal discomfort. There is also research to show that eliminating any distractions and focusing entirely on what we are eating may help us to stay in shape - an interesting area, maybe subject matter for a later blogpost!

Practicing mindful eating can help us to focus on our food and chew more slowly, reducing bloating 

Perhaps surprisingly for many people, digestion starts as high up as in our mouths, where salivary glands produce enzymes in our saliva, known as amylase, protease and lipase, which start to break down the food molecules. This prepares the food it for its journey towards our stomach where it further gets combined with stomach acid and digestive enzymes. If we eat too fast, we reduce this introductory process which in turn affects may affect our digestion.

As our grandmothers taught us, by chewing our food properly, as simple as it sounds, really can help to improve our digestion and as a result help reduce symptoms such as bloating. The very act of chewing triggers messages to be sent to our stomach that we are in the process of eating, and as a result the appropriate hormones and enzymes start to be released which kick starts the whole digestion process.

For many people however, the importance of chewing in the digestive process is often overlooked. Chewing is necessary to expose as much surface area as possible on the food particles so that enzymes can begin to digest our food. If food is not chewed thoroughly, this puts stress on our digestive system and may lead to digestive problems like bloating.Understanding that digestion starts in the mouth may encourage us to chew properly & slow our eating.

After swallowing, the food is moved through the pharynx and oesophagus, which acts as a pathway to the stomach. Digestive enzymes from the saliva are still at work and the more digestion that takes place here, the less work the body has to do later. If the food is eaten too quickly however (ie. not chewed properly) minimal digestion is taking place. Amazingly, this all takes place before the stomach begins its own digestive process.

Although pigs clearly have a different digestive system to us humans, the fundamental principles are the same and the results of their dietary improvements definitely provides food for thought. By slowing down the process of their digestion, it allows more time for the enzymes to take effect, therefore reducing bloating and discomfort. We can therefore all learn a valuable lesson from the dietary improvements made on the Danish pig farm by ensuring that we chew our food thoroughly and practice more 'mindful eating' by taking time away from our desks to focus on what we are eating.

There are other potential causes of bloating in addition to rushed eating, and you make like to read about natural remedies for bloating here.



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