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The Battle of the Bloat: How to Deal With Bloating


Experiencing sensations of bloating, such as feeling gassy or your abdomen being uncomfortably full or tight, can be distressing. It’s not uncommon to find yourself unable to button your pants on certain days due to this discomfort.

Bloating typically occurs when your abdomen feels swollen and distended, often caused by trapped gas or constipation, according to insights from Johns Hopkins Medicine. Research suggests that bloating affects approximately one in seven Americans each week, with many individuals opting not to seek medical assistance, as revealed in a 2023 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

While women are more likely to report bloating to their healthcare providers, men also commonly experience this issue, notes Kamal Amer, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey.

“When men consult me regarding bloating, the first aspect we delve into is their dietary habits,” he mentions. Numerous foods can trigger gas, while certain food allergies or intolerances may lead to constipation or bloating.

Dr. Amer also delves into other factors such as medication usage, dietary supplements, and lifestyle choices like exercise frequency, meal patterns, and smoking habits.

Dr. Amer also assesses underlying digestive disorders to rule out more serious conditions, including infections and inflammation, which can lead to bloating. Therefore, if you experience regular bloating with no relief from self-care measures, seeking professional advice is advisable.

Bloating can stem from various causes, and there are numerous strategies to alleviate its discomfort. Here’s a comprehensive overview:

What Causes Bloating?

Gas and constipation are the primary culprits behind bloating.

While gas is a natural byproduct of digestion, excessive gas in the intestines may result from how your gut bacteria ferment carbohydrates. This fermentation process, as described by the Cleveland Clinic, occurs when a significant portion of the carbohydrates you consume remains undigested, possibly due to fast eating, food intolerances, or gastrointestinal conditions.

Constipation, on the other hand, occurs when digestive contents become backed up, leaving minimal space for normal gas passage through the digestive tract. Additionally, some individuals may experience motility disorders, where food moves sluggishly through the digestive system, leading to constipation, gas buildup, and bloating.

Bloating, alongside gas or constipation, can be influenced by dietary choices, lifestyle habits, and medication usage.

How to Find Relief From Bloating

Bloating’s discomfort can be alleviated through various means:

“Diet plays a significant role in bloating,” notes Dr. Amer. Underlying gluten sensitivities or intolerances to lactose or fructose could be contributing factors.

Dr. Amer highlights that certain foods, including dairy, wheat, oats, apples, apricots, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans, and fried foods, contain molecules that some individuals may struggle to digest, leading to diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. These foods often contain FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), which are carbohydrates that the body may not digest efficiently. While adopting a low-FODMAP diet may offer relief, Dr. Amer acknowledges its challenging nature.

To pinpoint specific dietary triggers, Caroline Susie, R.D.N., L.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests maintaining a food journal to record post-meal symptoms, which can be shared with a healthcare provider.

Fiber promotes digestion and aids in preventing constipation and bloating. Susie recommends that men consume approximately 38 grams of fiber daily, a target that many fall short of.

Increasing your intake of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables is a quick and easy way to increase your fiber intake. However, it’s crucial to gradually increase fiber consumption to allow your body to adjust, as excessive fiber intake can exacerbate bloating. Additionally, increasing water intake alongside fiber intake helps soften stool and maintain regular digestion.

Fiber supplements containing psyllium husk or methylcellulose can also be beneficial, suggests Dr. Amer, but their introduction should be gradual to avoid worsening bloating.

Evaluate Medications and Supplements

Certain medications, such as antibiotics, iron supplements, and pain relievers (particularly opiates), can contribute to bloating and constipation, according to Dr. Amer. If these side effects are concerning, consulting a healthcare provider for potential alternative medications is advisable.

Similarly, scrutinizing supplement intake is essential. Dr. Amer cautions that protein powders and creatine supplements, commonly used by fitness enthusiasts, may contain lactose or artificial sweeteners that contribute to bloating. Additionally, some probiotic supplements may initially exacerbate bloating, necessitating a gradual dosage increase.

Limit Carbonated Drinks

Although hydration is beneficial for digestion and constipation prevention, Dr. Amer advises against carbonated beverages like sodas or beer, as their carbon dioxide content can increase gas and bloating.

Prioritize Exercise

Regular physical activity enhances gut motility, aiding in gas and stool elimination, according to Susie. Engaging in regular walks or increasing overall activity levels can provide relief from bloating.

Explore Yoga Poses

Yoga promotes digestive system movement, notes Susie. Specific poses, such as a child’s pose or happy baby, may facilitate the release of excess gas, thereby reducing bloating.

Experiment with Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep-belly breathing, may benefit some individuals experiencing bloating, suggests Dr. Amer. Activating the diaphragm massages the intestines and stomach gently while stimulating the parasympathetic system, the body’s relaxation response.

Overeating or consuming meals too rapidly may result in swallowing excess air, contributing to gas and bloating, cautions Dr. Amer. Adopting smaller, more frequent meals, eating slowly, and thoroughly chewing food before swallowing can mitigate these issues.

Quit Smoking

In addition to numerous health benefits, smoking cessation may alleviate bloating. “Smoking is associated with bloating mainly due to swallowed air,” explains Dr. Amer.

Avoid Chewing Gum

Chewing gum often contains artificial sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols, which can exacerbate bloating in some individuals, notes Dr. Amer. Furthermore, chewing gum increases air swallowing, further contributing to bloating.

Consider Homeopathic Remedies

Natural remedies like peppermint, chamomile, and ginger may offer relief from bloating, according to Susie. Peppermint may relax intestinal muscles, facilitating gas and stool passage. However, individuals with acid reflux should exercise caution with peppermint, as it may exacerbate symptoms. Teas containing chamomile or ginger can be soothing alternatives.

Utilize Over-the-Counter Gas Relievers

While dietary modifications and lifestyle adjustments are preferred strategies for managing bloating, over-the-counter gas-relieving medications containing simethicone can provide short-term relief, advises Dr. Amer. These medications are typically taken as needed

Do you ever deal with bloating? How do you deal with it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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