Bloating is one of the most common symptoms I see in women, with jeans being kicked to the curb in favour of something more comfortable, and concerns about looking 6 months pregnant are regular conversations in my clinic.
It’s also not just the physical appearance of bloating that’s a problem but a lot of the time it’s accompanied by gas, burping and running off to the loo, which can make socialising a pain in the bum (no pun intended…)!
The thing is, there is never just one answer for bloating, as annoying as that seems, but we have to dig around a bit to see what the cause may be. It’s also about finding out what triggers your symptoms, so start taking a note of what else goes along with it i.e. are their skin issues? Constipation? Period problems? Fatigue? Weight loss?
Bloating isn’t about being fat, as this expansion in the stomach is temporary and is mostly a reflection of a gas build up.
Whilst this is not an extensive list, here are some of the most common reasons why bloating could occur:
1) Food Sensitivities & Allergies
If you have food allergies or you’re intolerant to certain foods, your gut isn’t going to be happy… and with that, bloating happens! Honestly, the amount of women who have gut out certain foods and seen a flatter tummy is immense! The most common culprits are gluten (found in wheat, barley, spelt, rye and some oats) and dairy. Other common foods that people have issues with are eggs, soy, nuts, fish and even celery! You could start with an elimination diet and see how you go.
2) Low HCL & Digestive enzymes
Stomach acid (HCL) and digestive enzymes are responsible for breaking down our food. If they’re low and the food doesn’t get digested properly, we not only get gassy and bloated, but we also don’t absorb our nutrients properly. When we’re stressed too, our production of HCL decreases, and it’s also found to be low in those consuming a vegetarian/ vegan diet. Signs of low stomach acid are very similar to high stomach acid with symptoms like reflux, heartburn and pain under the ribcage. Sometimes, supplementing with a good HCL and enzymes at meal times can make all the difference, but if you feel more burning sensations then of course it’s advised to stop.
3) Imbalance In Gut Flora
In our gut we have a very delicate balance of ‘good’ bacteria and ‘bad’ bacteria. When the balance swings in favour of the bad guys who like to create gas, we can again become bloated! It’s not just bacteria but also an overgrowth of yeast and potential parasites that can do this, AND if the bacteria moves from the large intestine to the small intestine where it shouldn’t really be (SIBO), then this can AGAIN cause bloating. Lots of gut fun right there! You could try supplementing with a good probiotic capsule or include more fermented foods to see if this helps improve things. However, if it’s SIBO or parasites then you may need to work with a practitioner to help you do a more intensive gut cleanse. (JUST FYI though, ‘IBS’ is just a name given to many different digestive issues, it’s not getting to the root cause)
If you’re not having a good poo, you’re going to create gas and bloating! We need to be having a poo at least once a day, if we’re not its considered to be constipation. Again, you could try probiotics but also make sure you eat lots of veg, fruit and beans or pulses… basically things rich in fibre and magnesium to help get things moving
If you’re dehydrated you can get bloated… it’s so simple to rectify, just aim for 6-8 glasses of water a day, perhaps more if it’s hot weather.
6) Hormonal Changes
Hormones change throughout our cycle and can cause fluid retention and constipation. It’s worth tracking when you get the bloating to see if it’s linked to certain time of. Bloating could also be linked to conditions like endometriosis or fibroids so it’s always worth getting it checked by a doctor too.
Bloating has many causes so it’s just about working with our body to discover WHY it’s happening and then dealing with the root cause!
Of course this is not an extensive list of all the possible causes of bloating, these are just the most common ones I see in my clinic. There may be other structural reasons or other issues for bloating so definitely run it past your doctor if you have any concerns!