Wondering why you’ve got a bloated stomach? Discover the causes of bloating and natural ways to stop it.
Linda explains bloating
Do you wake up first thing in the morning with a relatively flat tummy, and then find that by lunchtime, it has expanded to double its size and you are having to loosen your belt or undo your buttons? Bloating is a common, yet distressing, condition, with millions living with a tummy that expands like dough rising in an oven. There are many reasons for bloating, including:
- Undiagnosed coeliac disease (allergy to gluten). If the bloating tends to get worse after you have eaten gluten-containing foods such as pizza, bread or cakes, it’s a good idea to get a blood test from your GP to eliminate coeliac disease.
- An over-use of antibiotics. Many antibiotics kill beneficial tummy bacteria, leading to an imbalance in the gut which may result in excess gas and bloating. If this is the case, daily use of a high-strength, multi-strain live bacteria for at least four weeks will help re-populate and re-colonise your intestines with ‘friendly’ strains of bacteria.
- Intolerance to lactose (the inability to break down the lactose content in dairy products). Lactose intolerance is more common in Asian and African-Caribbean people and is due to the absence of the enzyme lactase, which the body needs in order to break down dairy products. Contact your GP for a lactose intolerance test if dairy seems to exacerbate the bloating. Some people with lactose intolerance take a lactase supplement before meals to help break down the milk sugar.
- Eating your food too quickly, not chewing properly, eating too much, and not giving sufficient time for enzymes to mix with the food. This creates irritation and gas in the tummy.
- Eating lots of fruit thinking it is the healthy thing to do, when in fact, the contents of your stomach and intestines are fermenting away due to large amounts of fructose, creating gas and bloating. Fructose is absorbed in the small intestine but if you are fructose-intolerant, the fruit sugar will not be absorbed. It will be ‘pushed’ into your large bowel where colonic bacteria ferment it, creating gas, fluid retention and expansion of the intestines.
- Worms or parasites. Do you travel long-haul? Do you eat sushi? Do you have cats or dogs? Have you ever worked in a veterinary surgery? Are you a nurse? All of these situations can put you at risk of picking up an unwanted visitor who will then sit in your tummy creating gas, irritation and bloating.
- When certain stress hormones are released they have the effect of shutting down the digestive system. The brain does not want us to eat and digest food when it needs blood, oxygen and energy to survive. Supplementation with a digestive enzyme is useful in supporting digestion at times of stress.
- Taking antacids. An antacid reduces stomach acid, allowing in pathogens which can cause irritation and inflammation in your intestines, creating gas and bloating. If you take a regular antacid, consider taking a daily high-strength, multi-strain live bacteria, plus a plant-based digestive enzyme supplement before meals to help break down and absorb nutrients from your food.
For bloating, I recommend supplementation with live bacteria and digestive enzymes.
Live bacteria (sometimes called probiotics) help re-colonise your digestive system with “good” bacteria. My high-strength, multi-strain Live Bacteria replenishes gut flora and brings your digestive system back into balance.
A digestive enzyme is useful to help the body digest food so that painful bloating is less likely to occur. I’ve added calcium to my plant-derived Digestive Enzymes to give your digestive system extra support. Take a Live Bacteria with your breakfast and a Digestive Enzyme with your main meal in the evening – I’ve found this to be the best combination of supplements for bloating.
Linda’s tummy tips
Here are the tips I’ve found are most helpful for my patients suffering bloating:
- Try reducing your fibre intake – cut down on bran and wholemeal bread. Insoluble fibre can irritate the delicate lining of the digestive tract.
- Reduce your intake of fruit and vegetables – five-a-day can be too much for some people.
- If you are taking a regular antacid, go and talk to your GP about other ways of controlling the acid reflux. If you have reflux, eliminate coffee from your diet (the caffeine dilates the valve at the top of the stomach, allowing the stomach contents, including acid, to flow out and up your oesophagus).
- Don’t drink water with your meals. The water will dilute your digestive enzymes, and you need the enzymes at their most concentrated to help break down and digest your food.
- Avoid fizzy drinks, including sparkling water.
- Think about worming yourself! You can get worming tablets over the counter – ensure you worm the whole family because the worm eggs can get passed around. There are also naturopathic and herbal worming remedies available.
- If you can’t resolve the bloating, get help from a registered colon hydrotherapist, or other complementary therapist, who specialises in disorders of the digestive system.
If you have sudden onset bloating and abdominal pain, make an appointment to see your doctor – your bloating could be masking something more serious.
Live Bacteria and Digestive Enzymes are the supplements I recommend most often for bloating. However bloating is often accompanied by excess, pungent gas or constipation. Depending upon your individual symptoms, you may also need to take Garlic, Charcoal or Fibre – visit my Bloating Plan page to find out more.
For more in-depth advice, our Diet Plans section includes nutrition plans and lifestyle tips, including my Bloating Plan.