BEATING THE BLOAT
By Dr Sunni
I recently had the privilege to give the 2020 Miss Universe GB Finalists a brief session on gut health and bloating, and thought that as we approach the Summer season, but also for those that worry about bloating all year round, be it from IBD or IBS, especially at social events, that this article would be both relevant and important.
Firstly, lets cover the misconceptions around bloating. Bloating isn’t water retention but air pressure that builds up in the intestines as a by-product from the gases created by gut bacteria. For that very reason it means bloating doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to alleviating; as we are all so different in terms of our gut bacteria composition. Finally, and most importantly of all, it’s not just about eliminating, or increasing foods that are known to cause or reduce bloating respectively. There is much more to beating the bloat than meets the eye.
It really is important to look at gut health as a whole in this instance. It has been shown that the imbalance in gut bacteria; known as dysbiosis, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) underlies bloating and gastro-intestinal issues (1). Therefore, maintaining gut health and balance will in turn help keep gut gassiness in check.
So, here are a few tips and reasonings to beat bloating.
Understanding allergies and intolerances
Certain intolerances may lead to bloating, so it is important you seek medical or diet advice to understand if the bloating (only if it is long term as opposed to intermittent) is due to certain dietary issues.
Look at what you are eating (and drinking)
Ensure you are getting adequate fibre in your diet; the recommended daily intake is 30g per day. This not only helps to support gut health as a prebiotic for the gut bacteria, it also helps to avoid constipation; known to affect bloating and worsen symptoms (2).
As well as fibre, ensure you are achieving optimal gut health by adding appropriate sources of probiotics to your diet. This can come in the forms of kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented foods like tofu as well as kefir water.
Some advocate taking on the low-FODMAP diet over some time, which excludes gassy foods like garlic, onions, bananas, artichokes, beans and pulses to name a few and have proven its efficacy in combating IBS symptoms (3).
Keep hydrated but be sure to reduce and avoid carbonated drinks and sugar alcohols. Water is always best.
However, it’s also about how you eat
Try to avoid the indulgence of gluttony and over-eating, and when you do eat, ensure you are chewing thoroughly to aid digestion and transit of food through the gut. Small and regular portions throughout the day can help to maintain digestion. There is also some research on chronobiology and circadian rhythms, i.e. your natural body clock, and around time-restricted eating, but ensure you allow for 3 hours digestion time before sleeping where possible (4).
Most importantly, stay gut healthy by focussing on you
Gut health and beating the bloat isn’t just about the food you eat, but the lifestyle you lead. Ensure you make time to minimise stress, keep active, get adequate rest and sleep as well as avoid long periods of wearing tight clothing.
GB Saffouri et al., Small intestinal microbial dysbiosis underlies symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders. Nature Communication. 2019 May; 10:2012
A Agrawal et al., Bloating and Distension in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The Role of Gastrointestinal Transit. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 Aug;104(8):1998-2004.
WM Wong. Restriction of FODMAP in the management of bloating in irritable bowel syndrome. Singapore Med J. 2016 Sep; 57(9): 476–484.
A Chaix et al., Time-Restricted Eating to Prevent and Manage Chronic Metabolic Diseases. Annu Rev Nutr. 2019 Aug 21; 39: 291–315.