7 reasons why you’re bloated
...and how to fix it so it never happens again.
#1 – You’ve got food intolerances
This is the biggest reason why people suffer from bloating after eating. It’s a direct result of your digestive system reacting to something it perceives as potentially harmful.
You might think you’re not intolerant to anything, but that’s very rarely the case. Everyone has foods that they are sensitive to in some degree. Unlike clinical allergies, food intolerances can go undetected for years as the symptoms can be hard to spot. But if you swell up like a balloon after eating a certain food, it’s a sign that it’s probably not right for you!
How do you know if you are intolerant to a particular food? Keep a food diary for a week and monitor how you feel after every meal. When the week is up, go back through the diary and look at the times when you weren’t feeling so good after eating. Look at the meals you ate directly before this point, and see if there is a common offender.
Once you have established the foods that you think are causing you problems, cut them out for two weeks to see if your symptoms improve. If they do, you have found the culprits! If not, start the process again.
Common food intolerances include gluten, dairy, eggs, shellfish and soy. Some people are also sensitive to a group of foods called the nightshade family, which include peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines.
The good thing about food intolerances is that once you have found the problem, you can adjust your diet accordingly to fix it!
Another common problem is maldigestion or malabsorption of carbohydrates. Unabsorbed carbohydrates in the colon act as food for bacteria, and this breakdown produces hydrogen gas and short chain fatty acids. At the low end of the scale this can produce wind, and at the high end, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Lactose intolerance is a potential culprit, as is celiac disease. For Lactose intolerance, an enzyme supplement such as Lactase Plus will deal with the issue. If one is celiac, then a gluten exclusion diet is advised.
Only 60% of fructose, the sugar found in fruit and soft drinks, is absorbed in the gut, and as little as 37.5g can cause bloating symptoms in individuals. Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener in diet foods, is malabsorbed by over 40% of the population. Some subjects are susceptible to as little as 5g of sorbitol, whilst nearly all develop severe symptoms with 20g. Isomalt, xylitol and sucrose can cause problems to varying degrees. Oligosaccharides like FOS, which are often added to probiotics, may also make the situation worse.
#2 – You don’t have enough ‘friendly’ bacteria
The ‘friendly’ bacteria in our gut, also known as probiotics, help us to break down and assimilate nutrients from the food we eat. Before modern times, we didn’t use herbicides and pesticides all over our food, or chlorine in our water killing all the good bacteria. And we didn’t have a high sugar diet to feed bad bacteria, or antibiotics to kill off good gut bacteria. All these things can lead to an imbalance in our gut microflora. bad bacteria and yeast organisms in the gut can produce gases that cause us to bloat. For some reason a predominance of bad bacteria or yeast organisms has occurred in the gut, and these often produce hydrogen or methane gas. These symptoms will be alleviated once this imbalance has been corrected.
If you get bloated after a meal or suffer from any other digestive troubles, try consuming a daily probiotic such as Custom Probiotics CP-1 to help top up your good bacteria.
#3 – You’re not producing enough stomach acid
Low stomach acid is a problem that affects people of all ages and walks of life. When our body fails to produce enough of its natural digestive juices to break down our meal, food particles pass partially undigested through the stomach and into the colon, which causes cramps, bloating and even constipation.
If you suspect you have low stomach acid, try taking Betaine HCl. This is hydrochloric acid and thus assists in the breakdown of food. Do this before every meal for a week and see if you notice the difference.
#4 – You’re not drinking enough
Water is the transporter for the digestive system. We need it to lubricate the waste matter as it moves through the colon. When we’re dehydrated, waste material can get ‘backed up’ which leads to bloating and constipation. Hard dry stools are difficult to expel, and the longer that they are in the gut, the more that they putrefy inside us, producing gases and toxins. Lack of water is the number one cause of constipation, so aim to drink more fluids each day, and avoid chlorinated water. Constipation is known to be a major factor in gas production. Recently, densities of the well known beneficial bacterial species Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus were observed to be lower in patients with constipation, and concentrations of potentially pathogenic bacteria and yeasts such as candida albicans were higher.
#5 – You’re drinking too much with meals
Drinking with our meals dilutes our natural digestive juices, which makes it harder for us to break down food properly. Food is broken down in the stomach by acid and enzymes. Drinking with your meal dilutes the stomach acid, making it less effective. Cold drinks with your meal stop digestive enzymes working. The result is that food stays in the stomach for longer (indigestion), and moves through the colon only part digested.
Instead of drinking with your food, aim to leave a 30 minute gap before mealtimes and a 2 hour gap after mealtimes. If you can’t bear the thought of your meal without a drink, have a small glass of pineapple juice. It contains the enzyme bromelain, which helps in the assimilation of protein.
#6 – You’re eating too much protein
Protein is the hardest to digest macronutrient. It’s the reason why many people complain of feeling bloated or lethargic after a protein rich meal. We know it’s tempting to pile protein onto our plate, especially if you’re trying to build muscle, but eating too much at a time can cause serious digestive problems!
Our body can only assimilate a maximum of 30 grams of protein at each meal, so any more just puts extra strain on your gut. Instead of eating large high protein meals, spread your protein intake into 4 – 5 smaller meals throughout the day to make it easier for your digestive system to break it all down.
Another common problem is maldigestion or malabsorption of carbohydrates. Unabsorbed carbohydrates in the colon act as food for bacteria, and this breakdown produces hydrogen gas and short chain fatty acids. At the low end of the scale this can produce wind, and at the high end, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Lactose intolerance is a potential culprit, as is celiac disease. For Lactose intolerance, an enzyme supplement such as Lactase will deal with the issue. For non-celiac gluten intolerance, try Glutenase Plus, an enzyme supplement that completely breaks down gluten before it is a problem to the gut.
You can also take a good digestive enzyme support like Supergest.
#7 – You’re stressing too much
When our body faces a stressful situation, it produces a hormone called cortisol. This hormone severely interferes with our digestion, as it encourages blood flow away from the stomach and into the brain. The lack of blood flow to the stomach weakens our digestive power, making it harder to break down food. Stress is bad at any time of day, but is particularly problematic at meal times!