Most of us have experienced bloating before, especially during times when you were not following your normal diet and maybe indulged a bit more than usual. Even though it usually only causes mild discomfort, it can be quite painful for some people and can be quite frustrating to manage, especially if nothing you do seems to help.
We have put together 5 tips to help you get your gut back on track and prevent feeling bloated.
What is bloating?
Bloating is defined as a sense of gassiness or a sense of being distended. Bloating feels like there is more pressure in your abdomen and about half of the people that feel bloated will actually have a distended/swollen stomach as well.
What causes bloating?
Gas in your gastrointestinal tract (GIT) usually comes from the gas that is produced when your gut bacteria breaks down certain materials like fiber, sorbitol, fructose, etc. or from the air you swallow. There is always around 200 ml of gas present inside your gastrointestinal tract.
The development of bloating is quite complex and involves the gut bacteria, gas production, impaired gas handling, delayed intestinal transit and visceral sensitivity, among others. 1 There are many factors that can lead to bloating. For example, small changes in your gut bacteria can change the content of the gas that is produced (methane, hydrogen or carbon dioxide) and potentially lead to a change in how the gas moves through your gut and the visceral sensation it creates. Apart from that, some people also can’t effectively get rid of the gas inside their GIT, which can cause pain and distention. Others are just more sensitive to the stretch, and distention of the GIT and thus feel uncomfortable much quicker. Even your posture can have an effect on bloating.
Luckily, there are many things you can try to get rid of bloating. Here are our top 5 tips:
Manage your stress levels
This tip is listed first for a reason. There is a connection between psychological aspects, such as anxiety and bloating.1 Many people underestimate the effect that stress can have on their gut. Most people start to exclude almost everything from their diet (causing more anxiety) without realizing that it is actually stress that is causing their symptoms. One way to reduce stress is through exercising. Not only will it help you manage your anxiety, but exercise can help reduce symptoms of bloating as well.
Keep a food diary
This is one of the most important things you can do to combat bloating. Keep a diary of the food you eat (including the amounts and preparation methods) and the symptoms you experience. It is very important to also note the time of your meal and snacks as well as the exact time that your symptoms start. You can also include other information such as your stress levels and exercise. When you do this for a few days or weeks, you can get enough data to start identifying possible triggers that might be causing your symptoms. You can then slowly start to address these possibilities and rule out those that are not causing your bloating. Just be careful not to cut food out of your diet unnecessarily.
Avoid swallowing air
The air you swallow also contributes to the gas inside your gut and so limiting swallowed air can help you prevent bloating. Make sure you eat slowly, avoid drinking with straws, chew with your mouth closed and chew your food well to limit the amount of air you swallow. Carbonated cold drinks can also lead to more gas, so rather stick to still water. Also avoid chewing gum because you are also more likely to swallow air while you are chewing gum. Gum also usually contains sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol, which are also digested by the bacteria in your gut and can lead to more gas production.
Consider supplementing with probiotics
Probiotics are living microorganisms that can be beneficial when consumed in adequate amounts. A few studies have found that probiotics can improve symptoms of bloating. Due to the fact that your gut bacteria also plays a role in the development of bloating and distention, probiotics can be used as a possible strategy to prevent bloating. Just keep in mind that the effect of probiotics will vary from person to person so you might need a different strain and a different amount than someone else that is also struggling with bloating.
Zoom in on your diet
Bloating can often be improved by just changing the food you eat. There are many foods that can in some way, cause discomfort. FODMAPS (Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) are types of carbohydrates that are readily fermented by the gut bacteria and can contribute to bloating. Some people might benefit from using a low-FODMAP diet to identify certain foods that trigger their symptoms and help them manage it. Some high-FODMAP foods include onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, apple, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks, mushrooms, baked beans, chickpeas and kidney beans. Also make sure that you are consuming enough fiber daily as a low fiber intake can compromise your gut health. However, if you need to increase your fiber intake it should be done gradually as too much fiber too soon can lead to more bloating.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to bloating and you must see what personally works for you. Although bloating and distention can be difficult to get rid of, there are many things you can try to improve it.
 Lacy, B., Gabbard, S. and Crowell, M., 2011. Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating: Hope, Hype, or Hot Air? Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 7(11), pp.729-739.
 Issa, B., Wafaei, N. and Whorwell, P., 2011. Abdominal Bloating and Distension: What Is the Role of the Microbiota. Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 57(1), pp.4-8.