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Is bloating normal?

Posted 2 years ago by Clare


Well, that’s a very good question. It’s also a frequently asked question. The fact is the answer is ... it depends!
Helpful? Not really you say.
Let’s take some scenarios. You’ve just eaten an unusually heavy meal at a restaurant or Christmas dinner and you feel like a balloon – normal? Yes. You never used to feel bloated but now you are starting to feel rather full or windy after meals. Normal? No. You get more and more bloated as the day goes on. Normal? No.

Bloating is unpleasant but often avoidable

So let’s look at some causes for bloating.

But firstly – be safe. If you have recently developed bloating and it’s getting worse without any changes to food or medication, or if the bloating is combined with pain, tiredness or changes in bowel habit or rectal bleeding, then see the doctor. Bloating can be a sign of something more serious such as bowel or ovarian cancer. This is unlikely but go with your instinct and have that checked first.


However bloating can also be due to a myriad of things so let’s look at whether these causes are normal or not:


Antibiotics 

Have you recently taken a lot of antibiotics? This medication kills not only the bacteria we don’t want in our bodies but also wipe out all our ‘good’ bacteria too. This can lead to what is called dysbiosis, when your gut bacteria is imbalanced. Gut dysbiosis can mean food is not properly digested and it starts to ferment which causes gases and bloating. Is this cause of bloating normal? No its not. Action: Take a probiotic and avoid antibiotics where safe to do so.

Food intolerances 

Are you possibly intolerant to certain foods? Wheat and also dairy are very common bloaters. This usually happens because digestive system is finding it hard to process these foods, or because your gut lining has become inflamed and if you eat the same food again and again it starts reacting to it. (This is not the same as an allergy which is where you get an immediate and severe reaction to a food). This is one of the most common causes of bloating but doesn’t have to become normal! Action: Keep a food diary or remove a food you suspect doesn’t agree with you. You may need to follow a gut healing protocol and taking probiotics can help this.

Gluten 

Our bodies are not designed to digest gluten and it can easily upset our gut if we eat too much of it. Again we are not talking allergies here but something more subtle. Action: consider whether you are gluten sensitive and try removing it from your diet, keep a food diary

 Consider how much you are eating and whether you have any intolerances


Sugar

Are you eating a lot of sugar or sugary foods? Yeast and some bacteria feed off sugar and release gases which will make you feel bloated. Sugar is going to be a particular problem if you have a yeast growth or dysbiosis. This bloating is not normal. Action: Reduce sugar, fizzy drinks and check labels for sugar content in yogurts, cereals and processed foods. Consider taking probiotics or Saccharomyces boulardii.

Large meals or lots of protein or fatty foods 

Eating a heavy meal or big portions will overload your system. Western cultures have developed a habit of eating too much! We are also eating foods our bodies are not meant to digest huge quantities of such as pastries, pizzas, huge super sizes lattes. Yup- this bloating is normal! Your body is saying enough thank you! Action: Reduce portion sizes, eat quality meat, cut out non-healthy fatty foods and drink smaller and fewer milky coffees.

Impaired gastric acid and digestive enzymes 

This is different from feeling bloated after eating too much food and is not normal. If for example eating fatty fish or avocado makes you feel bloated then it’s possible these factors are low in production or impaired. Action: Add apple cider vinegar to your food and consider taking digestive enzymes.

Chewing food 

The digestive process starts as soon as you put food in your mouth. Chewing breaks down food into smaller particles. Saliva also contains enzymes which break down food for example Lipase which breaks down fats. Chewing also stimulates gastric juices. When you don’t chew this hinders proper digestion of food. Its normal to feel bloated after NOT chewing your food! Action: Slow down!!! Life won’t stop if you enjoy your food. You are more likely to keep weight down as well if you chew your food you will feel satiated more quickly.


Constipation 

Being constipated causes a build up of waste, more fermentation and toxicity in your bowels which all lead to bloating. Action: include more fibre and water in your diet and try taking a probiotic. If constipation is a long standing issue get some more advice. Try reading constipation experts

Medications and treatments 

Some of these provoke bloating as a well known side effects – some are very commonly used medications such as anti-depressants, the mirena coil and iron tablets (these cause constipation). This bloating is not normal. Action: Consider an alternative to these medications. 

Hormones

Your hormones can cause bloating – for example many women feel bloated before their period although some of this may be water retention. I hate to say it but it is very common and normal to feel bloated around your period however maybe you can lessen the bloating? Action: If this is very pronounced then consider following a hormone balancing diet.


Parasites

You don’t have to be a backpacker to get these little blighters. They can cause bloating that is not normal. Action: has your bloating started since you were staying somewhere different? If all else fails there are some stool tests that can test you for these.

Stress 

Yes -it's common and normal to experience bloating when stressed but there are ways you can lessen this. Action: Try reading this blog here


These are just a few causes for bloating. However, everyone is unique and your reasons may be different or a combination of a few of them. You may find seeing a nutritional therapist helpful to find the causes and help with diet changes and supplements.
The bottom line is that you should not be feeling uncomfortable all the time. Keeping a food diary is a really good way of noticing any trends and then being able to address them. Digestion is key to absorbing your nutrients which is key to your health and vitality. Listen to your body – its telling you something.

Try reading this page if you would like some more advice on products to take when bloated.

Picture Sources: womenshealthmag.com, huffingtonpost.com

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