The 10 Most Common Causes of Bloating
Bloating is described as an increase in abdominal size along with abdominal pressure or feeling tight and swollen in the abdomen. Bloating is often accompanied by several other symptoms like abdominal pain, flatulence, burping, belching, or gurgles.
WHAT IS THE PHYSICAL PROCESS OF BLOATING?
There are three types of bloating, all of which can cause abdominal distension:
- FLUID RETENTION: Bloating caused by fluid retention can come from what you eat (salty foods, carbs), hormones (pregnancy, menstrual periods), or and illness (heart or liver disease).
- AIR: This type of abdominal bloating is caused by swallowing air. The most causes include chewing gums, smoking, anxiety, eating too fast, drinking with a straw, or carbonated beverages.
- GAS: This is actually the most common type of bloating. Gas is produced in the gut during the digestion process. Although, it is completely normal to produce a certain amount of gas daily, producing gas in excess, and not being able to eliminate it naturally can cause great discomfort.
COMMON CAUSES OF DIGESTIVE BLOATING
Here are some of the most frequent reasons why you might be experiencing bloating:
Constipation is a common cause of bloating because the build-up of fecal matter in the colon can produce abdominal pain and pressure. Stool stuck in the colon can produce more gas leading to abdominal discomfort. This problem can occur when your body is low on water, fiber, or a combination of both. In this situation, your bowels have difficulties moving the waste and start to cramp up, as they try to deal with the built-up pressure inside.
2. You Ate Too Much or Too Fast
When your body has to work extra hard to digests and break down the foods that you eat in a short period of time, you can experience some bloating and cramping. Additionally, gas can build-up in our digestive tract when undigested food gets broken down, or when you swallow too much air while eating.
3. Stress and Anxiety
Anxiety does not cause all bloating episodes, however, when your bloating is accompanied by other anxiety symptoms, it's possible that exists an association between them. Some causes of this connexion are:
- Affected Digestion: Anxiety and stress can impact a part of the brain that regulates digestion. Stress interferes with our normal gastrointestinal processes and with the secretion of gastric juices. Also, stress upsets hormone and neurotransmitter balance. That may create an environment where foods cannot be normally digested, leading to the creation of gas and bloating.
- Hyperventilation and over-breathing: Hyperventilation happens when you breathe in more air than you need. This problem can happen when we are very anxious or during panic attacks. As a result of the extra air in the stomach, gas and bloating can occur.
4.Gas and Bloating Producing Foods
- BEANS/LEGUMES AND CABBAGE FAMILY (Brassica oleracea):
Beans contain raffinose, which is a sugar that's digested in the small intestine, which then moves to the large intestine to be fermented causing gas and bloating. Raffinose is also present in foods like cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. For eating these foods, it is best to soak them in water for an hour (up to overnight) before cooking them to reduce these gas-causing sugars, always making sure you discard the soaking water.
- FODMAPS FOODS
FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols): are a set of different foods, all carbohydrates, that some people may not digest well. Because FODMAPs foods are poorly absorbed they sit in the small bowel and intestine, where they are fermented and produce excess gas, leading to bloating and stomach pains. When it comes to FODMAPs, some individuals are more sensitive than others, in which case some specific FODMAP compounds cold be eliminated from the diet to improve symptoms. You can find a very wide range of foods classified as FODMAPs, so consult with your doctor or a health expert before removing them from your diet.
5. A Vegan or Vegetariam Diet
A vegan or a vegetarian diet does NOT lead to digestive problems or bloating. However, in some cases it could exist a relationship between veganisme or vegetarianisme and bloating, mostly due to their diet is high in:
- FIBER: A vegan/vegetarian diet is typically very high in fiber (fruits, veggies, beans, and legumes.) While fiber is important for keeping us regular and carries numerous health benefits, a diet too rich in fiber may cause some bloating. People that initially transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet tend to report unpleasant gut issues like constipation, bloating, or diarrhea, however, these symptoms tend to go away after a few weeks. If you are vegan or vegetarian and you are not consuming an excessive amount of fiber, especially beans and legumes, and you are suffering from intense gas and bloating, your problems may come from a different source.
- FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols): A vegan/vegetarian diet can often be high in carbs. In that case, they are more likely to consume certain FODMAP-containing foods because they're found in carbohydrates. As I have already pointed out in the section above, FODMAPs are not digestive well for some people and are often associated with digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
5. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is the most common food intolerance. Lactose intolerance is different from an allergy. An allergy is caused by your immune system's reaction to a certain allergen, and an intolerance, on the other hand, is caused by the digestive system's inability to digest food. Many people are low in a digestive enzyme called lactase, which is used to break down the lactose in many dairy products. Without this enzyme, lactose enters the large intestine and causes typical GI distress symptoms (diarrhea, gas, and bloating). If you have trouble understanding the differences between an allergy, an intolerance and a food sensitivity check my blog post here.
- CELIAC DISEASE
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition where your immune system attacks your intestine lining destroying the villi. When the villi is damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients from foods. Celiac disease can cause symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, extreme fatigue and lethargy, anemia, migraines, depression (and other mental health symptoms), unexplained weight loss or weight gain, and many other non-gut related symptoms. Celiac disease is very dangerous due it can cause intestinal lymphomas and other gastrointestinal cancers. The celiac diagnostic test requires that you regularly consume gluten for at least 12 weeks before the test is taken.
- GLUTEN SENSITIVITY
Though there is controversy around what exactly happens in the body of someone with food sensitivity, it appears that exposure to specific foods may create an immune reaction (IgG) that can produce gut-related and non-gut related symptoms like stomach pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, or migraines. The best way that we have nowadays to find out if we have gluten sensitivity is an elimination diet, a process of careful observation and experimentation where we remove gluten from the diet for two to four weeks, to later reintroduce it watching for symptoms. However, it is important to have been tested for celiac disease beforehand, because if you have stopped consuming gluten for a certain period of time and then want to be tested, the results will not be reliable.
7. Candida Overgrowth
Candida overgrowth is very common and causes symptoms such as bloating, constipation, rashes, fungal infections, fatigue, and more. The bloating is caused by excess yeast that impacts your gut microbiome. The excess Candida can begin a fermentation process in your gut that produces swelling, gurgles, and abdominal discomfort. Read more about candida overgrowth in my blog post here.
8. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
SIBO is a condition where people develop excess bacteria in their small bowel leading to severe bloating and distension. SIBO is difficult to diagnose due to the diagnostic methods are not very developed yet. However, where SIBO is identified, it can be managed through a combination of dietary changes and antibiotics, preferably natural "antibiotics " or natural antibacterial compounds.
9. Other gastrointestinal conditions
- IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS): is defined as a group of intestinal symptoms that typically occur together. IBS symptoms vary in severity and duration from person to person. Some symptoms of IBS include, but not limited to: cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Bloating has been reported in up to 96% of patients with IBS.
- INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD): is defined as a group of intestinal disorders that cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract. The two main forms of IBD are Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. In Crohn's Disease, inflammation can occur anywhere along the digestive tract, however, is usually located in the lower part of the small bowel and the upper colon. In Ulcerative Colitis, inflammation typically occurs only in the large intestine, including the rectum and anus. Both main forms of IBD can often cause bloating and gas.
10. Other Possible Causes
- CARBONATED BEVERAGES: Sodas, sparkling water, and other carbonated drinks can add significantly to the amount of air you swallow. This causes burping and may also increase how much gas you pass to the intestines.
- GUM: work similarly to carbonated beverages by increasing the amount of air you swallow.
- SWEETS: As sugar is processed through our gut, some of it can get fermented in our lower intestine tract by bacteria, causing bloating, gas, and cramps.
- ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Many artificial sweeteners are made of sugar alcohols like sorbitol which is notorious for causing bloating, cramping, and even diarrhea.
- ALCOHOL: Alcohol in excess can damage the stomach lining, resulting in pain, cramps, and diarrhea.
Read in my blog about How to Prevent and Treat Bloating to find some efficient ways to reduce your problems.
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