One of the most common symptoms I see in clinics is clients with stomach bloating. Bloating can take on so many different forms: feeling like your stomach has distended (“I feel like I’m 5 months pregnant”) anywhere between 1 - 4 hours after eating; only at the end of the day; sometimes involving flatulence (with smelly farts!); sometimes not gassy at all but uncomfortably expanded; sometimes the bloating also involves some kind of pain either higher or lower in the abdomen.
The most important thing we work on is investigating what are the root cause(s) of the bloating, as the steps we take to reduce and relieve those symptoms are different from person to person depending on what's causing it.
Root causes of bloating can span the range from:
Food allergies/ intolerances/ sensitivities
Gut flora imbalances
Candida yeast overgrowth
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Lack of digestive enzymes
Lack of stomach acids
…and the list goes on. It could even be something as simple as overeating, or more serious as inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis; or autoimmune conditions like Celiac disease.
Sometimes the root cause(s) may be a combination of the above issues.
The following foods may help provide you some temporary relief while you work out what your underlying bloating causes may be.
Foods That May Help Relieve Bloating:
(aka “carminative” herbs and spices)
Fennel (especially good for bloating relief)
The herbs can be taken as herbal teas (Pukka makes an excellent range), or used in your cooking.
Indian chai teas are an excellent digestive, as many of the above spices are used in it.
Bear in mind too that while the above might provide short-term symptomatic relief, if you're not finding out why you're bloating in the first place, you're not getting to the underlying cause. Eg. Maybe you need to stop eating a particular trigger food, or maybe you need to address a yeast overgrowth that's causing the bloat as no amount of fennel tea will help that. It's like the analogy of taking an anti-inflammatory to reduce the pain from a nail you've got stuck in your foot - ultimately you need to remove that nail to be free from the pain!
Supplements That May Help Relieve Bloating:
Activated charcoal (for temporary symptom relief only - but this doesn’t address any root cause)
Digestive enzymes (that contain bromelain, papain, proteases, lipases, amylases)
Apple cider vinegar
Herbal antimicrobials (only if following a guided gut protocol)
Fibre (eg. psyllium husks, flax seeds, chia seeds - these may make bloating worse initially, but if constipation is one of the issues, this needs to be addressed first)
Foods That May Aggravate Bloating:
High FODMAPs foods (eg. the allium family - onions, garlic, leeks)
Gluten foods (including all wheat, barley, rye products)
Caffeine (including coffee, black teas)
Yup, unfortunately many of the foods you love (eg. coffee, croissants, cheese, wine, desserts, etc) contain the above ingredients that either irritate and inflame your gut wall lining leading to intestinal permeability (aka "leaky gut"), or they feed the bad bacteria and yeast in your colon, leading to increased toxic gases in the gut or a gut flora imbalance. Often, many of these issues happen simultaneously, so you need to work step-by-step to remove the trigger foods, improve digestive secretions, rebuild your gut wall linings and rebalance the gut flora.
Working with someone like me, a nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner, you may be put through a series of blood/ breath/ stool tests and/ or some form of a short-term elimination diet to get to the bottom of what’s causing your bloating. Then, you’ll be better able to pinpoint which exact foods may help or aggravate your symptoms.
Stay tuned for next week’s article where I’ll show you some yoga poses that may help relieve your bloating symptoms.
If you found this article helpful, you might be interested in joining my Facebook group, where we hold different monthly 7-day challenges to help you develop healthy habits. Our upcoming May challenge: 7 days of daily meditation.
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