Bloating, which is generally caused by the buildup of gas in the digestive tract, is a common complaint; but just because it is common doesn’t mean it’s normal. Many people think that bloating is an unavoidable response to eating – and while it may be depending on the foods you eat – you shouldn’t be living with discomfort and misery after every meal. If you constantly feel bloated, it’s beneficial to figure out why you’re experiencing this and what you can do to change it.
Bloating of any type signals that there’s something wrong with your digestion. It may be a problem with your digestive process itself, like your gut bacteria is off and you can’t properly digest any foods; or it could be a problem with the foods you’re choosing – like an undiagnosed food intolerance.
The bacteria in your gut help you digest food properly. They break down the food into smaller components that you can absorb. Without the right balance of gut bacteria, food moves through your digestive tract partially digested. This can cause bloating as well as gas, pain, belching, or flatulence (excuse me!). If you’re intolerant to a specific food, your body cannot fully digest that food regardless of the state of your gut bacteria. If you eat that food, you’ll be left with symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation. Gluten and dairy are the most common food intolerances, but anyone can be intolerant to any kind of food.
This one kind of ties into improper digestion because constipation is a surefire sign that you’re not digesting your food properly, but there can also be other reasons. When you’re constipated, whether it’s due to stress, lack of fiber in the diet, or dehydration, normal gas gets trapped behind the fecal matter that’s trapped in your intestines. When you eat, the gas increases (which is totally normal), but since you’re constipated, it results in bloating and abdominal pain. If you experience constipation, you’re not alone – 42 million Americans are plagued by it.
The Carbohydrates You Eat
Although any food can cause constipation, foods that are high in carbohydrates are the most likely culprit. The bacteria in your digestive tract LOVE carbohydrates. When undigested portions of carbohydrates reach these bacteria, they feed on them and create gas as a byproduct. As the gas builds up, you begin to feel bloated. Some carbohydrates, like fructose (the sugar found mainly in fruit) and lactose (the sugar found in milk and milk products) are more poorly-digested than others.
It may seem silly that not drinking enough water can leave you feeling bloated, especially since a stomach full of water tends to distend, but it’s true. When you’re dehydrated, your body holds onto excessive water in an attempt to keep the amount of water in your body balanced. By drinking more water, you tell your body that it’s safe to let some of that water go, since there will be more coming shortly.
If your bloating tends to follow a cycle, like you experience it only before your menstrual cycle is due, then it could be related to your hormones. When estrogen levels rise, the body holds on to more water, which causes discomfort and bloating.
The good news is that even if you’ve dealt with bloating for a long time, you don’t have to continue to live that way. We have some tips that can help you deal with all of these underlying causes and beat the bloat for good. We’ll share these tips with you in our blog post next week, so make sure to come back and check us out!