A problem that many people are facing nowadays and for which I receive constant complaints in my office is bloating. But luckily it can be easily treated by determining the underlying cause. Not only that bloating causes uncomfortable feeling, it also makes women feel bad about their bodies and lack self confidence because they look bad aesthetically.
The following are the regular things I am looking for when someone complaints of being bloated:
- Intolerance of food
- Irregular meal-times
- Insulin resistance
- Intestinal yeast overgrowth
- Poor food combing
- Deficiency of digestive enzymes (including lactose intolerance)
- Gluten sensitivity or celiac disease
- Some other causes of dysbiosis – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or parasites
Part of the conditions can be tested since there are tests for food intolerance, gluten sensitivity, celiac, insulin resistance, but in other cases we treat based on the symptoms and history.
1. Food intolerance
First of all we have to make a difference between food allergy and food intolerance. The difference is that in food allergies are immediate response of itching, swelling and anaphylaxis, while food intolerance is rather delayed response to the food. Intolerance of food causes immune stress and irritates the intestinal tract in that way causing bloating. Most common food intolerances are on dairy products, eggs, some fruits (like citrus, pineapple and banana), nuts like almonds and peanuts, corn, wheat, gluten etc.
Today food intolerance can be easily tasted with simple blood taste and in that way avoided all the inconveniences of testing the food with eating. Food intolerance is more common for people that have eczema, allergies, asthma or some other autoimmune disease but it is also closely related to some skin conditions, digestive disturbances, and low energy. In average it takes from 4 to 6 weeks for the bloating to stop after eliminating the aggravating foods.
2. Irregular meal-times
One more cause for bloating are irregular meals. The worst thing you can do is starve for a long time or eat immediately before going to bed. Skipping your breakfast and then consuming a large amount of food for lunch will shock your digestive system and most probably lead to bloating, but this is not the only side effect that will happen to you out of this, it can also cause big rise in blood sugar and intestines. In the end you will be bloated and tiered, searching for caffeine to stay productive in the afternoon.
Our bodies are at their best when we are consuming regular meals and the work of the digestive system is also improved with this. Make sure that you consume your breakfast one hour after you wake up every morning, and take your last meal before 7p.m. If you feel hungry in between the meals include mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.
- Insulin resistance
For those who don’t know insulin is hormone released from the pancreas in response to glucose (sugar) in the blood. The levels of this hormone is always raised after meals, when this happens to healthy people it triggers the body`s cells to utilize glucose and fats from the bloodstream. But unluckily there are insulin resistant people in whose bodies the cells do not respond and if they respond they respond weakly to the insulin signal. This causes the body to produce even more insulin and sometimes it even leads to creation of toxic levels of glucose in the blood which in known as high blood sugar.
The most common symptoms of this condition are: intense cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, weight gain (often rapid in a period of 2-3 years), increased appetite; and feeling tired and bloated after eating.
Insulin resistance is more likely to happen to you if you have family history of diabetes. If you notice some of the above symptoms you should take blood taste that can confirm insulin resistance. This is not so bad because it can be regulated with diet changes and exercises. The most important thing is to decrease your intake of sugar and carbohydrate foods and consume more vegetables, proteins, fiber and healthy fats. And don’t forget the exercises.
- Intestinal yeast overgrowth:
The cause for this condition most often is frequent and long-term use of antibiotics. In most of the cases people with intestinal yeast overgrowth had been taking many rounds of antibiotics in childhood for ear or tonsil infections, for acne or for frequent urinary tract infections. Antibiotic damage the digestive flora and allow the yeast which are an opportunistic organism, to take over.
Too much yeast in the body makes you bloated and gassy. It ferments foods and causes gassiness. Some other symptoms that appear out of this condition are sugar or crab cravings, tendency for binge eating, brain fog, fatigue, vaginal yeast infections, and possibly fungal skin infections.
The good thing is that you can treat this condition by rebalancing your intestinal flora, with yeast cleanse: eating a no-sugar diet, taking supplements to kill yeast, and replenishing your intestinal flora with probiotics.
- Poor Food Combining
Were you familiar with the fact that the types of food you consume together may significantly affect their digestion? Some people are more sensitive about this in comparison to others. The improper digestion of foods may slow down the digestive process, leading to indigestion and bloating.
The first rule when it comes to combining food is that you should eat fruits alone. Never combine them with other foods, especially not with proteins. For instance, never consume melon or some fruit salad right after a fish dinner. For most people, this is the furthest step you will need to take.
Another combination which should definitely be avoided is the combination of proteins with carbohydrates. Vegetarians may find this difficult and tricky, but the ones who eat meat, fish, or poultry should try to separate the starches and proteins and see how it goes. You will be able to notice much more ease of digestion. For instance, this is how your regular day should look like:
- Breakfast ( consisting of juice fruits)
- Mid-Morning Snack ( nuts)
- Lunch ( meat, fish or poultry with lots of vegetables)
- Carbohydrate-heavy dinner ( baked sweet potato with grilled vegetables)
- Deficiency of Digestive Enzymes
The function of the digestive enzymes is to break down of food into forms that can be easily absorbed by the body. The digestive enzymes are produced in the pancreas. They can break down fats, proteins, lactose and carbohydrates.
If for some reason, the body is not able to produce sufficient amount of digestive enzymes, this can result in pain, irregular bowel movement, bloating and indigestion. Some of the major causes for deficiency of digestive enzymes are the following:
- Food intolerances causing low-grade inflammation in the intestinal tract
- Low stomach acid
- Overgrowth of bacteria/yeast/parasites
- Chronic stress
The condition marked with insufficient lactase enzyme to break down lactose is known as a form of lactose intolerance. The final result of this condition is the poor digestion of dairy products. It can be tested with a breath test, or with 2 week-free trial. As in the case with the aforementioned gluten-free diet, it must be followed with a challenge (eating dairy product to see the reaction).
The temporal solution to this issue is to avoid dairy if you have lactase intolerance, and to take digestive enzymes with your meals. However, the most important thing is to get to the root of the problem and look for appropriate medical help. You should treat any imbalances in order to encourage the production of sufficient enzymes.
- Gluten Sensitivity or Celiac Disease
Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, a more serious form of gluten-intolerance are one the rise, mainly due to the enormous changes in wheat over the past 50 years. High consumption of grain product is another cause for these conditions. The main withdrawal symptoms of gluten sensitivity are the diarrhea, bloating, gassiness and constipation.
There are various markers for gluten intolerance, such as low vitamin B12 levels without a vegan or vegetarian diet. There is also a testing for gluten intolerance and celiac which does pick up most cases. However, many people who test negative still feel much better off gluten.
In case you suspect that gluten can be problem for you, the first thing you should do is to do appropriate blood test to confirm. Another way is do test yourself is to start a 5 week strict gluten-free trial. Once the 5 week strict gluten-free trial is over, make sure you challenge it back so that you clarify your reaction. Some of the best alternatives to gluten are millet, rice, sweet potato, quinoa, and squash.
- Other Causes of Dysbiosis – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or Parasites
Having an imbalance in the organisms in the intestinal tract is very common issue. It is mainly caused by the aforementioned yeast, but many people may carry parasites and extra pathogenic bacteria in their digestive tracts as well. In case you have recently travelled (South America, Asia, Africa) you are more likely to pick up some bugs. This type of digestive imbalance is accompanied with fatigue, diarrhea, and weight loss.
There is a comprehensive digestive stool analyses which can accurately test for bacterial overgrowth. US labs are the most accurate when it comes to pin-pointing the growing itself. Once the organism is identified, the treatment is much easier.
In brief, there are numerous causes of bloating that a Naturopathic doctor is looking for. This condition is not harmless, as it is very responsive to treatment. However, you need to understand that it is not normal to be too bloated of the end of the day, or to feel the urge to loosen your pants after dinner. Luckily, this article managed to persuade you to start paying attention to your digestive health and to follow the mentioned guidelines in order to do so.