What is bloating?

If you’ve ever noticed an unexplained bulging around the middle causing your buttons to inexplicably strain you may have already fallen victim to the dreaded bloat. Unfortunately for some, this swelling of the belly is a daily and chronic issue that not only causes major discomfort but embarrassment as well – but what exactly is bloating?

Simply put, bloating is the presence of excess gas or liquid in the body resulting in a distended abdomen, a feeling of pressure, extreme fullness or weight within the stomach.

Bloating is rarely a stand-alone issue and often presents with a variety of other symptoms including nausea, cramps, belching, sharp pains, tightness in the stomach, shortness of breath and pain in the lower back.

With the location of bloating being primarily the belly area, gas tends to shift around causing discomfort at surrounding organs and is sometimes mistaken for more serious conditions in the chest or appendix.

Often, the cause of bloating may simply be a direct result of the type of food eaten, the ingestion of too much air, run of the mill digestion issues or even IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

The good news is, more often than not, bloating is easily helped naturally and needn’t require expensive pharmaceuticals with a myriad of nasty side effects and long-term consequences.

What causes bloating?

Most people will suffer the uncomfortable effects of bloating at least once in their lifetimes but for some, bloating is a terrible everyday ordeal that can make anything from eating a meal to just having a cup of tea a dreaded experience.

Bloating itself is, however, a vague indicator of the larger issues within the processes of the body and will usually present as one of several complaints.

So what are the causes of bloating?

Bloating is most commonly gas trapped within the gastrointestinal tract that causes abdominal swelling, cramps, flatulence and belching, sharp pains and occasionally shortness of breath or lower back pain.

The gas can often become trapped as a result of the following things:

  • The type of food eaten: Processed foods and “white starches” are particularly resistant to digestion – especially white carbs that have been reheated such as pasta leftovers. The molecular structure of these foods are such that when the bacteria in the body assists in breaking them down, gases are released as a by-product causing the abdominal cavity to swell. Meals high in beans, legumes, pulses and even diets considered “Healthy” (i.e. high in vegetables and fibre,), can also cause bloating as the body works to break them down and the fibre begins to ferment within the gut.
  • Over-eating or Eating too Fast: Over-eating and eating too quickly commonly results in swallowing a lot of air in the process, which directly results in a bloated abdomen. About half the gas in the digestive system is from swallowed air, the other 50% is as a result of the digestive process itself.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome: IBS is a functional disorder, which means that though the gut itself is normal, the processes within it are highly sensitive or erratic. The most common symptom of IBS is bloating, often severe, as the gut struggles to process foods.
  • Hormonal Fluctuations: Fluctuating hormones, particularly just prior to a woman’s menstruation, are often a cause for bloating. Most women put this down to fluid retention but studies show the cause is actually a relaxing of muscles in the abdomen as the progesterone level increases. Muscles in the bowel also relax slightly, which means food is moved less efficiently along the gut.
  • Chewing Gum: Apart from an increased swallowing of air when chewing gum, most gums contain sweeteners such as sorbitol or xylitol that ferment by bacteria in the gut, causing bloating. This is also the case for sugar-free drinks that have the added issue of being carbonated.

Other possible causes of bloating include: Stress, antibiotics and other meds, Coeliac Disease, Lactose Intolerance, High Fructose Diets, High Protein Diets, Food Allergies, Constipation, Partial Bowel Obstruction.

The good news is that bloating, whether simply as a by-product of a specific meal or whether part of a larger issue, can be easily and naturally prevented or remedied. 

How to prevent and remedy bloating?

Few things put a dampener on your day like bloating – whether it be the bulge prevents you from wearing your favourite jeans or perhaps the resulting cramps have you curled up on the couch- bloating isn’t fun.

Short of popping antacids like candy (which will only cause a knock on effect of OTHER digestive issues), what are the best ways to beat the bloat naturally and without unpleasant side effects?

  • Cleanse, Nourish and Balance – A detox protocol that cleanses nourishes and balances the body, naturally, can help to set the processes back into place to assist the body in healing itself. This approach’s focus lies on correcting the underlying cause of your symptoms rather than simply pandering to the symptoms themselves.
  • SBO (Soil Based Organism): SBO complex is a supplement that helps to cleanse the digestive system of toxic build-up. The SBO’s do not stay in the system but carry built up toxins out. SBO assists in: cleaning the small intestine villi, alleviating malabsorption, helping the body absorb vital nutrients, removing parasites and relieving inflammation of the colon.
  • Assimil8: An enzyme mineral complex, Assimil8 is a digestive formula which contains rare, natural plant enzymes and ionic trace minerals and vitamins to assist the body with digestion and absorption. Assimil8 helps to reduce food allergies, bloating and heartburn as well as maintain colon health and enhance the digestive process. It breaks down fats and uric acid crystals as well as increases white blood cell size and activity and increases blood flow and energy.
  • Fennel Seeds – You can chew on fennel seeds or crush and add them to hot water to make a tea. The compounds in the seeds relax the muscles in the digestive tract and allow gasses to pass through with minimal bloating and cramping.
  • Lemon Water – Lemon water aids in digestion and assists in flushing toxins from the body. Lemons are high in minerals and vitamins and their digestive properties encourage bile production as well as relieve symptoms of indigestion, which includes bloating.
  • Caraway Seeds – Active compounds within caraway seeds are carvone, limonene, carveol, pinen, cumuninic aldehyde, furfurol, and thujone. These are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties that massively aid in the prevention of bloating. 
  • Ginger – Ginger contains several active ingredients, including gingerols and shogaols, long used in traditional medicines. The Ancient Greeks used ginger to prevent digestive issues. Herbs that help soothe the digestive tract are known as carminatives of which ginger is particularly effective as it also improves circulation, which further aids the digestive process. Chewing fresh ginger root or crushing it for a tea are two ways to relieve bloating and abdominal pain.
  • Peppermint tea – Apart from the refreshing flavor, peppermint tea assists with bloating as it has antispasmodic and relaxant properties. This helps to reduce spasms in the gastrointestinal tract, bile duct and gall bladder. Compounds in the tea also relax the smooth muscle within the digestive system, allowing smooth passage of food and gases without bloating, pain and discomfort.