Bloating is a common yet uncomfortable feeling that everyone will experience at one point or another. There are several different causes of bloating, and a few different types of bloating, all of which affect different parts of the body. To find a cure for bloating, you first need to identify where your bloating is happening.
Bloating in the Chest
Bloating up high behind the breastbone that feels like a tightness after eating may be caused by stomach distension or pressure. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce this kind of bloating.
Chew food well. Byusing your teeth as the first part of mechanical digestion, you can help your stomach digest food more rapidly, leading to less bloating.
Cook your vegetables. Cooked food generally takes on more water, making it softer. Softer food is easier for the stomach to break down and mix with digestive enzymes in the stomach.
Drink while eating. Drinking a little fluid with your meals can help the stomach mix and break down food more easily.
Eat slowly and without distractions. Your stomach is a muscular sack, and like most muscles, it works better if you give it time to warm up. Eating slowly allows your stomach time to stretch and relax, making more room for food and less of a tight bloated feeling. Eating while watching TV or scrolling through your phone is likely to promote faster eating, so you may not notice those fullness cues until you're past the point of being too full, which can feel like bloating.
Don't overfill your stomach. Imagine a mixing bowl for baking; if you fill it too much with ingredients, then it becomes harder to mix them all together without spilling over the edges. The same goes for your stomach. Overeating or drinking too much fluid with meals will make it harder for your stomach to perform the mechanical mixing required to break down your food. This can lead to a prolonged full and bloated feeling.
Try not to skip meals. Having a regular meal pattern is one of the fundamentals of a happy gut. With regards to stomach bloating, spreading your food intake more evenly across the day will help you eat smaller portions and eat more slowly.
Lower abdominal bloating
Food arrives in the colon between five and seven hours after eating. The colon starts by your right hip bone, comes directly up from there, then along under your ribs, down the left-hand side of your lower torso, then out the back to your rectum.
The duration of the passage of food through the colon varies greatly on the person. For some, it can be as short as seven hours, whereas for others it may take over 100 hours. Liquid stool is an indicator of a fast colonic transit, while a hard and dry stool indicates a slower moving colon.
Bloating in the lower abdomen is typically related to gas production by the gut microbiota, most of which live in the colon. The gut microbes produce gas as well as other beneficial metabolites (e.g. butyrate) when they have a lot of fermentable fibre to "eat".
Some commonly consumed foods high in fermentable fibre that may lead to an increase in this gas production are lactose (the sugar found in milk and yogurt), fructans (present in wheat, onion and garlic), and galacto-oligosaccharides (beans and pulses). However, not all these foods will cause bloating in everyone, and the effects of bloating are not always instant.
Due to the length of time it takes for food to pass through the gut, a veggie bean chilli eaten at lunchtime is unlikely to make you feel bloated until after dinner. This often causes people to believe that it was their last meal that caused the bloating, when in reality it may have been food consumed earlier during the day.
Finally, stress and anxiety can also lead to bloating. Tensing of the muscles within the chest can both reduce room for the stomach to move and also push down on the lower abdomen, constricting the space for colonic gas to move. Conducting breathing exercises before eating or practicing flow yoga once a day during stressful times may help with this. More research in this area is needed, but CT scans with contrast have demonstrated that at least in some people with bloating, this compression of the gas, rather than increased gas, is the cause.
If you have digestive issues, meet with one of our specialist dietitians today.