Bloating 101: What’s Normal & What’s Not

Feeling bloated from time to time is all part of normal digestion, but when does bloating become a bigger problem and what can you really do about it? From common culprits to simple tweaks for a flatter stomach, here’s what the experts want you to know.
By Tor West /

It’s Normal Up To A Point

“According to a recent study, 86% of all British adults have suffered from some form of gastrointestinal issue, including bloating, in the last year. No one is completely bloat free, however perfect your diet and however robust your gut health. Gas is naturally part of the digestive system as a by-product of digestion. In someone with good gut health, bloating will resolve on its own within 24 hours or so. Bloating happens when your gastrointestinal tract is filled with air or gas – most people describe bloating as a stretched, puffy and uncomfortable feeling in the stomach. In some cases, the stomach can feel hard and look swollen in appearance.” – Dr Ayesha Akbar, consultant gastroenterologist at The London Digestive Centre at The Princess Grace Hospital

It’s Likelier Later In The Day

“The digestion process usually takes around six hours for someone who has normal gut health, therefore you’re more likely to experience bloating or gas later in the day as your body has had longer to ferment what you’ve eaten. At night, your circadian rhythm slows, and your gut’s ability to move internal contents, such as food and waste, through the digestive system also slows. This explains why it’s not uncommon to feel fuller and more uncomfortable in the evening. If you are a very stressed person, bloating can also happen in the afternoon as stress impacts digestion by diverting blood away from the stomach.” – Ross Austen, nutrition & research lead at MOJU 

NO-ONE is completely BLOAT-FREE, however perfect your DIET and however robust your GUT health.

It Can Be Linked To Hormones

“Bloating can occur before and during your period as hormones fluctuate. As your period approaches, levels of progesterone fall, which causes the uterus to shed its lining, which is what results in menstrual bleeding. Progesterone can also cause the body to retain more water, which can result in bloating and feeling puffy or heavy.” – Ross

It Can Be A Sign Of A Sensitive Stomach

“You may have heard of the term ‘FODMAP’, an umbrella term for a group of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed and rapidly fermented in the gut. Not everyone struggles with FODMAPs, but if you have IBS or poor gut health, you might. In people with IBS, for example, instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream, FODMAPs can continue into the large intestine where they are fermented by gut bacteria, giving rise to excessive gas. Because people with IBS have a highly sensitive gut, the extra gas can cause bloating and discomfort.” – Dr Justine Butler, head of research at Viva! Health

Thinking About What & How You Eat Can Help

“Balanced digestion is of paramount importance in Ayurveda, as it believes that everything starts in the gut. When your digestive fire (also referred to as your ‘agni’) is low, you are more likely to experience bloating after a meal. What and how you eat can have a significant influence on your tendency to experience bloating. According to Ayurvedic wisdom, the causes of bloating include eating cold and raw foods such as salads, drinking cold and carbonated drinks, eating a meal that’s too heavy for your digestive fire, snacking before your previous meal is digested, eating when stressed or upset, talking while eating, and eating foods that promote gas, like broccoli, cabbage and legumes. After a meal, it’s normal to have a slight distention of the stomach, along with some mild gurgling. This is a sign your digestive system is doing its job. However, tightness or discomfort signifies bloating.” – Colette Park, Ayurvedic practitioner at Deja 

Looking Out For Other Symptoms Is Crucial

“Bloating after eating isn’t usually a cause for concern, especially if a meal is particularly large or rich, but if your bloating is regular, causes discomfort and affects daily life, it’s worth looking into. If your bloating is also accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and weight loss, it may be an indication of a more serious condition that requires medical attention. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause bloating, diarrhoea and constipation, which comes and goes, lasting for days, weeks or months at a time; while coeliac disease is caused by an issue absorbing the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley products. It can lead to bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and fatigue. Speak to your GP if you are at all worried as it’s always better to rule more serious conditions out.” – Ayesha

If your bloating is REGULAR, causes DISCOMFORT and affects daily life, it’s worth getting CHECKED by your GP.

Beat The Bloat With These Expert Tips…

Keep A Food Diary: “If your bloating is persistent and bothersome, keeping an eye on what you eat can help you identify which foods may be a problem. Some people are sensitive to gluten and dairy, which can be a source of bloating.” – Colette

Drink Warm Water: “Warm water and herbal teas activate the digestive tract and have a cleansing effect by flushing the stomach and intestines. Avoid ice and cold drinks, which, according to Ayurveda, slows digestion and increases bloating.” – Colette

Stick To Regular Mealtimes: “This allows the body to get into a rhythm where you experience proper hunger at mealtimes and thus digest your food with ease.” – Colette 

Take Probiotics: “Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines. Taking a probiotic supplement may help regulate the bacteria in your colon that can produce gas and cause bloating.” – Ayesha

Try Peppermint Oil: “Peppermint oil capsules are usually marketed as a treatment for the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but people without IBS can also use them to relieve bloating.” – Ayesha

Stay Hydrated: “Drink more still water and fewer fizzy, carbonated drinks, which contain gas that can build up in the stomach. Drinking water will also soften your stools, which makes them easier to pass.” – Ayesha 

Maintain Activity Levels: “Regular exercise will get the bowels moving more regularly and can help to release excess gas and stools.” – Ayesha 

Chew Thoroughly: “Chewing each mouthful at least 20-30 times with your mouth closed will ensure you’re not overly taxing your digestive system nor swallowing air when you eat. Both can help avoid bloating.” – Ross

For more information visit HCAHealthcare.co.uk, MOJUDrinks.com, Viva.org.uk & Deja.Life.

 

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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