Ugh, the horrors of bloating: pants that fit too tight, uncomfortable and awkward gas, painful indigestion and water retention. Most of us have suffered from bloating and it’s safe to say no one enjoys it. But is it just a temporary, annoying condition that can be managed by lifestyle changes–or can it be the sign of a more serious illness?
What’s behind occasional bloating?
The wellness experts at Web MD note that bloating and gas are often connected to eating too much–or too fast–and consuming rich and fatty foods, which take longer to digest. And changing simple habits like limiting gum chewing and carbonated beverages can also help reduce symptoms. Foods that are hard to digest can also lead to bloating, such as beans and lentils, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, arugula, etc.), artificial sweeteners, dairy products and even whole grains, which are packed with fiber. Many of these foods are healthy so rather than eliminating from your diet, take it easy when you eat them; introduce additional fiber to your diet slowly; and drink more water to help food move through your system faster.
When it’s time to ask your doctor
If you regularly have bloating–and if it’s accompanied by other symptoms–it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor or health care provider. Bloating and gassiness can sometimes signal a more serious condition, such as a physical obstruction in your intestine, diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome or a malignancy. Bloating is a recognized symptom of ovarian cancer and the swelling is caused when ovaries become cancerous, along with hormonal changes that can occur.
How to stop the bloat monster in its tracks
As mentioned above, bloating can be a reaction caused by excess gas in our digestive tract, often because our bodies are not able to break down certain foods we’re eating or drinking.
- Gluten or dairy Intolerance is a common culprit. Try cutting out one of these food groups at a time for two weeks and see if you can fit into your skinny jeans more often.
- Sodium makes many foods taste better but excess salt could be behind uncomfortable bloating. If you’re eating too much sodium, your body retains water to keep from getting dehydrated. Combat it by drinking lots of water, and if you’re eating a lot of packaged food, check the labels so your salt consumption doesn’t sneak up on you.
- Foods like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and legumes like beans are good for us but they contain raffinose. We don’t have the stomach enzyme needed to break raffinose down so these foods can move to our lower intestine undigested, where they can ferment and produce gas and bloating. When you’re eating these healthy and tasty veggies, chew them thoroughly and limit portions, especially if you don’t consume them regularly. There are also over the counter remedies that contain the alpha-galactosidase enzyme that can help your body digest these foods.
- If the bacteria in your intestines are out of whack from taking antibiotics or your diet, probiotics can help restore balance and ease bloating. Based on a study conducted at Northwestern University, the probiotic bifidoifidobacterium infantis 35624 strain was shown to relieve GI symptoms but people also report relief by taking more common probiotics.
You may also enjoy “6 Pilates Moves to Prevent Bloating”.
 WebMD.com, “Bloating 101: Why You Feel Bloated,” Peter Jaret, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
 DoctorOz.com, “The 3 Causes of Toxic Bloating,” March 2010
 PubMed.gov, “The utility of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review,” April 2009