What is Bloating?
Bloating is swelling in the stomach or intestines due to un-digested food that starts to ferment. Fermentation of food in the digestive tract causes bloating or tightening in the abdomen which can lead to cramps and gas. Having a weak digestive system can slow down the reactions needed in proper digestion. If your food is not being digested properly due to a weak digestive system you may be lacking in certain biochemical reactions that your body needs in order for proper digestion to happen. Stomach acid (HCL), bile and digestive enzymes are just a few of the necessary reactions that are going to break down your food and help with nutrient absorption and assimilation. I work in a health food store and one of the most popular things people tell me is that they bloat, or ask what would you recommend for bloating? There are several factors and foods that can contribute to bloating and digestive disturbances. This post is dedicated to those who are concerned why they bloat and who want to eliminate everyday bloating!
Factors That Cause Bloating
BLOATING = STRESS?
Stress and anxiety may not be the cause of all bloating but it is a huge trigger for some people. You know that feeling when you get in your stomach when you are under high stress or anxiety? It could feel like a bunch of pressure in your abdomen, a temperature increase or nausea. Reducing your stress levels can also reduce the stress in your gut! Since the mind and gut are so closely related, stress and anxiety can actually shut down a part of the brain that handles food digestion. In this environment the creation of bloating and gas can happen. When you eat your meals, don't think about anything else. Try to eliminate all thoughts of stress and anxiety from your mind. Focus on digestion and nothing else but peace and quiet!
TIP: taking a yoga class can help reduce your stress levels and digestive stress.
EATING LARGE MEALS
Eating smaller meals throughout the day is best for those who suffer from digestion imbalances. When large amounts of foods are eaten your stomach acid can't cover all of the food you just ate. This leads to the food sitting in your stomach starting to ferment; causing bloating, gas etc.
IMPROPER FOOD COMBINATIONS
The macronutrients in our food actually digest differently at different times. When we properly combine these nutrients there should be no digestive problems! If you eat foods that shouldn't be necessarily combined together such as protein and starch (steak and potatoes or pasta and cream sauce), they should be eaten on a empty stomach in order to ensure separation from each other in the stomach to prevent fermentation. Protein = Slowly digested. Digested in the stomach and small intestine. Carbohydrates = Fast Digested. Digested in the mouth and small intestine. Fat = Slowest digested. Digested in the small intestine. If your looking for more information about food combining with food charts, etc. search "proper food combining" in the search engine located at the top of the page!
PROBIOTICS AND SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
Your small intestine absorbs nutrients from food through tiny micro-villi which are located on the intestinal walls. If bacteria starts to grow in your small intestine (the bad/toxic kind of bacteria) it can destroy the micro-villi, blocking the absorption of the nutrients in food. Since these villi are damaged by bad bacteria, larger pieces of food can find their way deeper into to the intestines where other gas-producing bacteria starts to ferment the food; causing bloating. Bacteria is everywhere in our gut and is important to our immunity. Probiotics improve digestion by stimulating intestinal peristalsis (how your intestines move the food) and decreases the bad bacteria. Taking a probiotic is excellent for support when you are under stress, wanting improved digestive function or simply wanting to increase your health. Taking probiotics (good bacteria) in the form of supplementation or food can stop the overgrowth of bad bacteria and help eliminate bloating & gas. Although for most situations taking a probiotic in a capsule is a much more effective way of providing ENOUGH bacteria to stop the overgrowth.
Foods That Cause Bloating
THE WRONG FOODS FOR YOUR BODY
Food combination can be a culprit for bloating like I mentioned above but there could be foods that may work with your body or not. Every body is different and reacts differently with certain foods - this is why it's important to experiment with different foods. Use a food diary and food elimination to keep track and find out what works best for your body to avoid unnecessary bloating and digestive imbalances!
Eating too many raw foods can cause bloating and digestive issues. Especially foods from the cruciferous family like broccoli, cabbage and kale. For those who bloat after eating these foods raw, its better to lightly cook them to eliminate the goitrogen - which is a nutrient that causes the bloating. I also recommend to keep your nut portions small and avoid eating dried fruits regularly! You can also try to prepare your grains by soaking them overnight before you cook them. This will break down the grain and help with digestion.
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS AND REFINED SUGAR
Artificial sweeteners and 2 ingredients called sorbitol and fructose (types of sugar) are added into hundreds of thousands of packaged foods that many people eat on a daily basis. Like cereals, protein and granola bars, etc. Sorbitol and fructose are not easily digested in the small intestine which can lead to bloating, gas and cramps. Look at the ingredients in what you are eating and watch out for added sweeteners that can cause bloating!
MILK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS
Dairy-free is a popular health trend at the moment. It seems more and more people are becoming sensitive to dairy, especially milk. It could be either the whey, lactose, casein or hormones and antibiotics that people are building up a sensitivity too! Dairy is a very heavy and creamy food for the body to digest and absorb. I know some people who instantly blow their nose or cough due to the mucus production that the dairy can cause - think of what this mucus production from dairy may be doing to our digestive system. Not good! Overtime as we get older our body also loses the ability to digest dairy properly which as you know after reading this post undigested food will cause bloating! What's great for dairy-free folks is that there are plenty of milk substitutes available at grocery stores. Like nut milk, rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk and soy milk. It's simple to make the switch to dairy-free milk or products for a few weeks to see if your body may be sensitive to the dairy!
Taking a digestive enzyme will help break down the nutrients that are in your food. There are vegan and non-vegan options available! If you find you suffer from very serious bloating I would recommend taking a digestive enzyme supplement containing enzymes, stomach acid and bile (which usually comes from an Ox). Ask your health care practitioner if this is best for you!
TAKE A PROBITOIC & EAT FERMENTED FOODS
Like I said above, a probiotic (good bacteria) in the form of supplementation or food can stop the overgrowth of bad bacteria and help eliminate bloating & gas. For most situations taking a probiotic in a capsule is a much more effective way of providing ENOUGH bacteria to stop the overgrowth. But adding fermented foods to your daily meals is a simple way to increase the bacteria inn your gut and help with the digestion of your meal. EX. sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh.
Bloating is a natural reaction to happen in the body. But if you find you bloat everyday or after most of the foods you eat - you may want to start looking into healing your gut! Search my post: tips to keep your digestive system healthy!