Bloating. A problem many of us face but very few people (including those on TikTok who claim to have all the answers) know the actual causes. Lucky for us, accredited nutritionist Jamie Wright is on hand to provide some answers.
Before we get into the causes, we should really break down the three different levels of bloating identified by Jamie. Number one, mild bloating.
“This is the most common form of bloating and usually involves a feeling of fullness or tightness in the abdomen. This may occur after having a meal and or following the consumption of fluids.”
Ever had a “food baby”? That’s probably mild bloating.
Next up, moderate bloating.
“This type of bloating can be more uncomfortable and may involve visible swelling in the abdomen.”
And lastly, the final boss of bloating — severe bloating.
“This is the most intense degree of bloating and can involve severe discomfort, pain and visible distension of the abdomen.”
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) experience these symptoms regularly
Top 10 Common Causes of Bloating
“Eating too much food at once or rapidly can cause the stomach to stretch leading to bloating. Likewise, having a lot of fluids at once and or rapidly can have a similar effect.”
When you finally get to eat after a long day at work, it’s easy to simply inhale your food. Problem is, you can often eat too quickly and be left feeling overfull. Instead, practise mindful eating by slowing down and paying attention to your body’s hunger cues.
2. “Be wary of gas-producing foods”
“Certain foods such as beans, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, onions and carbonated beverages can produce gas in the digestive system, leading to bloating. The obvious fix here is to be wary of these foods and how they may affect your gut.
“You may want to pay particular attention to high FODMAP foods. FODMAP simply stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polysaccharides. These are types of carbohydrates that are fermented and lead to increased gas production and bloating.”
So… this one probably doesn’t need explaining so much. To help keep things moving, Jamie advises that you increase your fibre intake or try taking a fibre supplement. Physical activity is also a great way to promote healthy digestion. And, as always, stay hydrated.
“IBS is a condition that affects the digestive system and can cause symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits. There are many different approaches to address IBS, but I would recommend working with a specialist dietitian, accredited nutritionist or your GP to first identify what leads to your individual IBS flareups and then put in place a range of strategies to deal with that and or avoid flare ups in the future.”
5. The menstrual cycle
Due to changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, some women may experience bloating because of effects on water retention and changes in the rate of gastric emptying.
“Just prior to menstruation there is a surge in the hormone progesterone, which impairs gastric motility, often leading to constipation and bloating”. As mentioned before, there are some ways to tackle constipation. Here’s a reminder:
- Increase your fibre intake
- Physical activity
- Stay hydrated
6. Food intolerances
Plenty of people experience food intolerances without even knowing. For example, an intolerance to lactose or gluten can present itself via bloating. If you experience consistent bloating it could be worthwhile to introduce a food diary to determine which foods contribute to your bloating. Once you’ve identified the potential culprits, you can cut them out.
7. Digestive disorders
“Digestive disorders such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause bloating as a symptom. I have one tip for you here, work with a professional who knows what they are talking about. These are serious conditions that should be treated with care and in an evidence-based manner by an educated and qualified professional. I would sincerely advise you avoid Dr Google and any social media gurus.”
Dehydration can cause both constipation and bloating. If you’re terrible at remembering to drink water throughout the day, first, buy yourself a water bottle to carry around with you.
Then, set some reminders on your phone to help you remember to drink. Also, introduce more water-rich foods into your diet, like cucumber, watermelon and strawberries — all of which can contribute to your daily water intake.
“Stress can affect the digestive system and lead to bloating as a result. How? Well stress can alter the production of digestive secretions, reduce the blood flow to the digestive system, increase inflammation, and even alter the gut microbiota.” Stress can be tricky to manage, but Jamie recommends a few tactics to reduce stress:
Programme dedicated relaxation time into your day to help you unwind
- Plenty of good sleep
- Regular exercise
- Active social life
- Nutritious diet
- Spend time outside
- Ashwagandha supplements
- Magnesium supplements
“Certain medications such as antibiotics can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the digestive system, leading to bloating. If you have finished a course of antibiotics, you may wish to consider introducing a probiotic supplement into your daily routine for a while after.
“Supplementation appears to reconstitute the gut with good bacteria faster and may help reduce the risk of certain antibiotic treatment associated effects such as diarrhoea and bloating.”
Take home message
There you have it — 10 common causes of bloating, and plenty of tips to help reduce it.
While Jamie is an accredited nutritionist, it’s important that if you’re struggling with your diet or bloating to speak to a professional for advice tailored to you, your body, and your lifestyle.
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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.