Abdominal bloating is normally caused by the food you eat, how you eat it or the amount and quality of food you consume. There are more serious reasons for your stomach getting blown up like a balloon ready to burst, but the most likely cause is your diet.
Today’s lifestyle habits can often seem as if we don’t have time to eat a proper diet, let alone sit down and chew our food long enough, preparing it to enter our digestive system. Eating on the move, eating lunch while we walk or while we sit at our desks can all provoke indigestion and gas.
So common sense should really prevail when it comes to consuming the building blocks of our bodies. But what typically happens (and I have been guilty of this in the past), is that we starve ourselves for long periods throughout the day, because of our busy schedules.
We then tend to snack a great deal, until such time (usually at night) that we can eat a good meal. Now this meal may contain everything we need – protein, high fiber foods, carbohydrates and fats – but this meal is usually far too big for our system to cope with, particularly if it is eaten late at night. This often leads to constipation, a swollen belly and discomfort and in chronic cases, severe abdominal pain and a great deal of flatulence.
Constipation symptoms are one of the biggest causes of a bloated stomach, and once again this condition relates directly to the diet we eat and the life we live (as described above). When you’ve eaten a food (or foods) which your digestive tract finds it difficult to expel from your body (waste), it remains undigested in your intestines.
What happens when we get a blockage is the undigested food starts to ferment. This fermentation process produces gases which continue to build up in our system, causing an increased belly size, discomfort and often pain. Symptoms will continue until the blockage has passed, either naturally or if you have to use supplements to help speed up the digestive process.
Here are a few vital tips to help you avoid constipation:
- Consume an adequate amount of fiber.
- Drink the required amount of water (and other fluids, including fruit juices – although water is the best option). The amount of water you should drink in one day is two liters. This will increase your tolerance to constipation.
- Ensure you get regular exercise.
What Foods Cause Abdominal Bloating?
Here is a list of foods to avoid.
- Brussels sprouts
You should also avoid foods that contain the following.
Sugar replacements may certainly be better for reducing your calories intake, but they can actually cause intestinal gas. Your digestive tract cannot absorb many of them, so they ferment in your system causing a bloated stomach, distension and diarrhea.
High Salt Foods
Salt is generally high in processed, pre-packed, tinned and take-out foods. Consume them at your peril because the salt (sodium) absorbs water which makes you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
Glycogen Based Foods
Glycogen is found in carbohydrate based foods such as rice, bread, pasta and pastries. Many people live on these types of foods without realizing that they are ‘bulking up’ on excess water, carbohydrates and energy. Your body simply does not require an elevated amount of carbohydrates, unless you are a sports fanatic where you are able to burn off my calories.
Eat tons of carbohydrates and how do you feel? Bloated right? That’s because your body holds three grams of water, for every gram of glycogen.
This was the basis of low carbohydrate diets – stop eating high amounts of carbohydrates and you’ll lose weight. I can give you testament to this, the only problem is that once you start eating them again, you gain weight – and quickly.
We all love to season our meat and vegetables with all kinds of spices, but if you suffer with a swollen belly after some foods, those beloved spices could be causing the release of acid in your stomach which could be causing it. Avoid, or rather research by process of elimination, if (and which ones) are causing your condition..
High Fat Foods
Why do you feel so ‘slow’ after eating a fatty meal? Simple. Fat takes a considerably longer time to digest in your system than other (healthier foods). I’m talking about bad fats, like the bacon and fried food kind. Healthy fats, like nuts and oils work the other way – they are good for you all round.
Do You Have Food Intolerance’s?
Another major cause of a bloated stomach is food intolerance’s, such as wheat and dairy. If you have a gluten intolerance (wheat) or lactose intolerance (milk products), you may need to have this diagnosed by a doctor.
The only way to be sure if you have reactions to these food types, is by the process of elimination. Try cutting out all dairy products for a week, and then do the same for wheat products. If your symptoms ease in either phase, this is a good sign that you are intolerant. You should consults a physician to confirm the condition, who will also give you nutrition and diet advice.
Among other minor bloated stomach causes are carbonated (fizzy, soda type) drinks which contain air (the bubbles). Consume enough of these and they will only add to your problems. The same goes for chewing gum and chatting while you chew your food. You will swallow too much air when you chew gum because you repeatedly open your mouth. The medical term for this condition is Aerophagia.
Sorbitol is a sweetener found in many sugar free products (including chewing gum), and is a cause of chronic abdominal cramps, diarrhea and bloated stomach. This food additive is a laxative which when consumed in large enough quantities, can actually cause weight loss in some people and they don’t even realize that it is sorbitol which is doing it to them.
Other Causes of Abdominal Bloating
- Menstruation in women
- Diverticulosis (chronic colon condition)
- Gastric distension – caused through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (when someone needs reviving from not breathing)
- Alvarez’ syndrome – abdomen become bloated for no apparent reason, usually caused by abdominal wall contractions
Abdominal Bloating Treatment
If you are unconvinced that you need to talk to your doctor, the following tips will help reduce your bloated stomach. If you are eating a high fiber diet, stop consuming these foods in any great quantity, then increase it again after slowly after a couple of weeks as they could be causing too much gas to be produced.
If you get constipated quite regularly, try to eat less food in one sitting, but increase the amount of meals you eat throughout the day. This will stop your stomach getting bloated so much and this way of eating smaller, more frequent meals is also good for your overall health.
Reduce your sodium intake. One of the best ways to limit sodium level (apart from not adding it and cooking with it) is to limit the amount of processed food you eat. I do not eat any processed food and since I’ve started cutting it all out of my diet, I no longer get problems of this kind.
Don’t eat too fast, don’t drink carbonated soda’s and don’t chew gum. Do this and you will help reduce the amount of air you swallow.
Finally, if you are one of those people who live extraordinarily busy lifestyles and can never find the time to eat regularly, you may want to consider making small adjustments to your schedule to reap the benefits. Because this will definitely help alleviate your bloated belly.
You can also try to make your meals last longer, take a definitive and regular lunch or break time and chew your food for longer. If after making these adjustments to your life, you find that you still get a bloated stomach you could supplement your diet.