No one likes the feeling of being swollen or feeling excessively ballooned up. Bloating is a very uncomfortable feeling that looks and feels bad. It can make you feel completely out of shape, filling you with lethargy and sluggishness.

Know All About Bloating

Simply explained bloating signifies the collection of the excessive amount of solid, liquid or gas in your digestive system.  Bloating typically occurs with air that is trapped in the colon or small bowel. It refers to abdominal bloating which causes a distended belly and is accompanied by digestive problems like belching, flatulence, discomfort in the stomach and a feeling of being full. Bloating is a temporary extension of the stomach and does not necessarily mean an extra build up of fat.

Common causes of bloating

Given our fast-paced and busy lives, involving frequent eating out at odd hours, bloating has become a very common problem. It is usually not a ground for real concern unless caused by medical conditions like liver or heart diseases. Bloating can normally be treated at home with minor dietary changes and usually goes away within a few days. Bloating is usually used interchangeably with water retention, which is incorrect.

There are many possible causes of bloating, which if paid attention to, follow a pattern and can be treated accordingly. The more information you can collect about your reaction to different food and circumstances, the easier it will be for you to pin the exact reason for your bloating. Some common reasons for bloating are:

  • Excessive gas due to swallowing air or chewing too fast.
  • Digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea, indigestion.
  • Dietary issues like eating too much, having excess alcohol or eating foods that cause gastric like cauliflower, beans, lentils, and wheat.
  • Food allergies and intolerance like lactose and fructose intolerance.
  • Women tend to bloat up around their menstrual cycle.
  • Other gynecological problems like endometriosis and referred pain in the pelvis.
  • Gastroparesis, which leads to improper functioning of the stomach muscles due to which food passes much slower through the stomach and intestines.

When should bloating be considered a cause of worry?

Though bloating is commonplace, it is important to know the causes and symptoms that are indicative of a serious health condition and requires medical attention:

    • Intestinal problems like Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
    • Unintentional weight loss which is noticeable.
    • Ascites or an abnormal build-up of fluid in the abdomen or pelvis can cause bloating or weight gain.
    • Bowel obstruction from scar tissue or a tumor pressing on the bowel can cause severe abdominal pain and sudden bloating.
    • Blood in stool or vaginal bleeding caused by bloating is a serious cause for concern.
    • Bacterial infection, inflammation, and fever due to bloating needs medical attention.
  • Commonplace signs of bloating can actually be related to more serious issues like cancer of the ovary, uterus, stomach or pancreas.

Remedies and treatment for bloating

Simple changes in daily lifestyle and dietary habits can give a lot of relief from bloating.  In addition to these there are several over the counter medicines and natural treatments that can help in reducing bloating in the long-term:

  • Dietary changes

Bloating is directly related to what you eat, how you eat it and how much you eat.  When the food you eat is not digested properly it festers and ferments inside the body creating gas and bloating. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to and make changes in your diet for relief from a bloated tummy.

  • Add fiber to your diet, but do it gradually

Eating fiber reduces instances of constipation and bloating. But fiber should be added to the diet gradually, giving the body a chance to adjust to the change in diet. A sudden switch to a high-fiber diet can increase abdominal discomfort.

  • Say no to carbonated beverages

Aerated drinks and sodas contain gas and carbon dioxide that bubble up in the stomach and cause it to bloat up. Fizzy beverages are high on sugar and sweeteners that are difficult to digest, leading to constipation and bloating

  • Junk the junk food

Junk and processed food are high on salt and other preservatives. Together these make the body prone to retaining fluid all over the body.

  • Throw out the gum

Chewing gum causes you to swallow air causing stomach bloating. 

  • Go big on fruits and vegetables

The inclusion of certain fruits and vegetables improves digestion and reduces bloating. Pineapples and papaya fasten the metabolism process and aid digestion. Dandelion greens contain diuretics that help in the reduction of excess fluid retention.

  • Cut out on dairy

Dairy can be heavy on the stomach for people producing low levels of the digestive enzyme lactase. Here it is better to cut down the quantity and frequency of dairy consumed for relief from dairy intolerance.

  • Pile up on good bacteria

Good bacteria found in probiotic-rich foods help with regulating colon bacteria responsible for producing gas and causing bloating.

  • Increase fluid intake

Increased intake of plain water, lemon water or simple ginger tea can help counter the effect of eating spicy food or consuming too much caffeine. This, in turn, reduces the inflammatory effect on the stomach.

  • Lifestyle changes

Increased work pressure and shorter turnaround time leave little time for exercise or any other form of physical activity. We sleep late, eat late and get up late, factors which directly affect our digestive system negatively causing problems like bloating. Lifestyle changes which can help alleviate bloating are:

  • Take out time for a walk

Physical activity like taking a walk and taking steps instead of the elevator can get our bowels moving, giving relief from stomach pain and gas. This aids in decreasing instances of bloating. Keeping your bowel functioning smoothly helps in easing bloating. 

  • Go the yoga way

Yoga has special postures which put pressure on the abdomen that induces the release of excess gas stuck in the stomach. This is a great way of reducing bloating in the long-term.

  • Cut down on alcohol

The beer belly is so named for a reason. Alcohol not only harms the digestive tract but messes with the good bacteria in the gut.

  • Quit smoking for good

Smoking has a three-fold impact on bloating. It makes you swallow excess air, causes inflammation in the stomach lining and kills the good bacteria found in the digestive tract. Alone and together,  the three factors encourage bloating.

  • Have an early dinner

Increasing the time between your dinner and breakfast next morning gives the digestive system enough rest helping with any swelling around the tummy.

  • Find ways to de-stress and stay relaxed

Stress aggravates problems like IBS and ulcers. It can also interfere with your digestive system. Make it a priority to be active, get enough sleep, meditate, and relax.

  • Natural and home remedies

Bloating is easily curable by adopting a more natural way of living which helps detoxify the system along with deflating a puffed up body:

  • Drink herbal tea

Have herbal tea to boost your metabolism, cleanse your system and to get your intestines working properly. Peppermint and chamomile tea are good options to choose from.

  • Eat fresh-ground herbs and spices

Fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, and rosemary act like diuretics and help the body release extra fluid. They greatly improve your gut health. Spices like fennel, turmeric and ginger root naturally soothe digestion.

  • Use essential oils

Essential oils get their tummy bloating relieving powers from the powerful phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and amino acids they contain – which often have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects. They can either be taken internally or applied externally for soothing an irritated and aggravated digestive tract.

Tests and diagnosis associated with bloating

To determine the seriousness of reasons causing you gas and bloating, a doctor will base his diagnosis on your medical history, dietary habits, daily lifestyle, and a physical examination. A physical exam would probably include the doctor feeling your abdomen for tenderness and other sensitivity. He could also want to determine the functioning of your digestive tract with the aid of a stethoscope.

Along with the results of additional tests and presence of serious symptoms like unexplained weight loss, blood in stool or vaginal bleeding, doctors can determine the seriousness associated with your bloating and follow the correct course of treatment.

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