What Causes Stomach Bloating and What Remedies Can I Use?
Stomach bloating is caused by gas trapped in the intestines and colon. Gas in the digestive tract is a normal by-product of its functioning. Everybody experiences gas passing through the mouth (burping) and rectum (flatus) on a regular basis. In fact, a healthy individual may pass flatus up to 20 times daily. Gas is basically air that we ingest with eating and drinking and volatile compounds formed during chemical reactions of digesting foods. Composed mainly of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and hydrogen, gas passes unnoticeably for most of us. While gas is normal, too much gas can lead to unpleasant sensations of fullness, bloating and pain in the abdomen. This article will introduce the main causes of stomach bloating and break down different medical conditions that may be behind your gastrointestinal troubles.
Bloated Stomach Causes
Diet is the main culprit behind bloated stomach. Foods that we eat unavoidably affect our whole bodies, and digestion is no exception. Some foods like cruciferous, legumes, foods high in fructose and fats are much more likely to lead to excessive gas because they require a lot more enzymes for break down. Stomach acids might not have enough enzymes necessary to digest them leading to gas formation. Some individuals also experience food sensitivities to gluten (protein found in wheat), lactose (milk protein), soy foods and tree nuts triggering unwanted bloating symptoms. Beverages are also known factors behind a bloated belly including carbonated drinks like sodas, beer, champagne and high fructose juices. Sugar substitutes found in drinks and foods cannot be fully digested by our bodies also leading to gas and cramping. High salt foods raise the concentration of sodium in blood triggering water retention in the abdominal area, upper and lower extremities. Certain behaviors have also been known to lead to air trapped in digestive tract like breathing through your mouth when congested, smoking, drinking from straws, chewing gum, eating on the go and medications that can have bloating as a side effect. Hormonal fluctuations in women very often cause flatulence during menstrual period, ovulation and pregnancy. During these sensitive times females might also experience the swelling in the hands and feet because according to the gravity law liquids tend to pool in the extremities. Bloated stomach and constipation are common companions once again caused by unhealthy diets and lifestyle choices. Not consuming enough liquids, high fiber foods and being sedentary most of the day makes stools very hard in consistency and difficult to pass. Excessive weight exacerbates the problem by putting extra stress on the internal organs making digestion sluggish and ineffective. But junk foods and lack of exercise are not the only causes of abdominal bloating, there are lots of medical conditions affecting the organs of the GI tract leading to bloated bellies, including acid reflux conditions and H. pylori bacteria associated peptic ulcers. Below we uncover the relations between different factors contributing to bloated stomach.
Stomach Bloating and Constipation
Over 4 million of Americans suffer from chronic constipation. Normally our bodies need to continuously evacuate waste products from our GI tract. If this does not happen daily or weekly in some patients, product wastes harden and become compacted. Needless to say those pounds of waste accumulating in the colon cause impaired digestion and stomach bloating. One of the easiest to manage condition, Americans spend millions of dollars annually trying to combat this problem with laxative medication. Medications address the problems only in the short run because the underlying problem stays unresolved. The best solution for bloated stomach and constipation is diet and lifestyle modifications and there is no way around it. Drinking plenty of purified water along with consuming fresh and wholesome foods, dried fruit choices like prunes, dates and raisins and supplementing with natural fiber capsules will almost immediately bring on the desired results without dangerous side effects of medications. Daily exercises provide gentle stimuli to the colon making evacuation a breeze. However, if despite your best efforts you are unable to address abdominal bloating due to constipation, it is time to see a gastroenterologist to rule out other potentially serious conditions that could be to blame.
Stomach Bloating and Gas
Modern food consumption leaning towards high fat and heavily processed foods make us consume less and less “live foods” abundant in naturally deriving enzymes. Our bodies have to work double time to produce stomach acids to digest high in fat and protein foods. High paced lifestyles and eating on the go, smoking, chewing gum also contributes to ingesting too much air that subsequently leads to poor digestion and trapped excessive gas. Certain foods have a tendency to produce extra gas during digestion, such as cabbage, beans, peas and some fruits. To avoid painful bloated stomach occurrences, it is important to consume processed foods in moderation, consider supplementing with digestive enzymes with every meal, incorporating probiotic rich foods like yogurt and naturally fermented foods. Daily exercise also helps remove trapped gas from the abdominal cavities. Staying away from carbonated beverages, alcohol, sugary foods may cut down on the number of “gassy” situations. Among other helpful remedies to cut down on stomach gas, many patients reported drinking peppermint, fennel or ginger tea that naturally soothe and ease gassy bloated stomach. If natural remedies fail, you can also try over the counter medications like Simethicone, activated charcoal tablets or Beano.
Stomach Bloating and Water Retention
Water retention occurs for various reasons and normally is not life threatening. If you indulged in a late night buffet and consumed high salt foods, you are bound to wake up feeling bloated, with puffy face, arms and legs. This can be explained by high levels of sodium in the cells that naturally retain water in the efforts to dilute sodium. Sodium imbalance is easily controlled by eating less salty foods and drinking more water to help flush the system. If you are healthy and have no underlying medical conditions, the diet itself should be able to alleviate sodium induced bloating and swelling in the extremities. Women can also experience stomach bloating and water retention during PMS and/ or pregnancy due to hormonal fluctuations. The rise and fall of the hormones also tends to trigger holding on to water in the abdominal area. Healthy low salt diet is the only proven way to control water retention caused bloating. Among other natural ways to reduce swelling in the body is to consume diuretic foods or herbs like celery, parsley, green tea and dandelion, just to mention a few of them. Those who are pregnant, have a chronic heart, lung or kidney condition, should talk to their doctor immediately in case of swollen extremities and bloating symptoms.
Stomach Bloating and Indigestion
We all know the common causes of stomach bloating and indigestion including consuming large amounts of processed and fried foods, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, overuse of antibiotic prescription medications and chronic stress. Sometimes these causes go beyond lifestyle factors and may involve medical conditions that make digestion physically difficult if not impossible in some cases. Some viruses or bacteria like H. pylori may cause erosion in the lining of the stomach and intestines leading to intense pain, heartburn, severe gas and malabsorption of nutrients over time. Patients infected with H. pylori bacteria can develop serious peptic ulcers that are treated with a course of antibiotics, acid controlling medications and anti-inflammatory drugs. Doctors might recommend ruling out stomach cancer, especially if serious ulcers are present by performing a biopsy of the affected areas. Patients who reach for an antacid at the first sign of heartburn or those who take large doses of non-steroid anti-inflammatory over prolonged time might develop dyspepsia symptoms characterized by an array of gastrointestinal discomforts. Doctors find that using proton pump inhibitors along with a special diet is one of the best ways to keep the condition under control. Unfortunately, there are no quick fix solutions to manage impaired digestion and sometimes it make take many months of treatment to see any improvement.
Stomach Bloating and Acid Reflux
Cells lining the stomach produce gastric acids and other compounds necessary to break down proteins and release nutrients for absorption. Under normal circumstances the production of stomach acids is controlled by bicarbonate which neutralizes excessive acids, also secreted by other cells in the stomach and mucus that protects the delicate lining from being damaged. At times those who consume high fat processed diets might experience acid reflux and other conditions caused by excessive production of gastric acids. High fat foods require copious amounts of acids to break down proteins to compensate for the lack of enzymes in the food itself. The unfortunate result is stomach bloating and acid reflux resulting from excessive gastric acids being pushed up the esophagus. Though acid reflux and bloating are entirely different conditions, they can occur at the same time. Patients suffering from acid reflux conditions may be prescribed acid neutralizing medications that unfortunately lead to too little gastric acids that are needed for proper digestion and stomach bloating symptoms. However, bad diet and lifestyle are not the only causes of acid reflux, among other conditions leading to that are hiatal hernia, pregnancy, smoking, alcoholism, being overweight and taking certain medications leading to gastric side effects. Today acid reflux is mostly managed by lifestyle modifications, diet restrictions, medications and even surgery in some cases.
Stomach Bloating and IBS
Affecting up to 20% of population, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is defined as a condition accompanied by various symptoms affecting different organs of the gastrointestinal tract such as esophagus, stomach, intestines, colon and rectum. Stomach bloating, excessive gas, pain, nausea, diarrhea and constipation are just a short list of symptoms reported by the patients suffering from this condition. Stool consistency helps doctors categorize IBS by four main groups, namely, IBS C, IBS D, IBS M and IBS U. These letters stand for constipation, diarrhea, mixed and unsubtyped stools. Only about a third of patients see doctors to diagnose them with the condition, the rest may suffer for years without knowing the actual causes of their stomach bloating symptoms. Today IBS is not well understood but doctors were able to narrow down the main causes of IBS stomach bloating, such as bacterial or fungal overgrowth, sensitivity to certain foods (especially coffee, chocolate and dairy), neurological and mental disorders, excessive motor function of the colon, heredity and other factors. To diagnose IBS doctors perform a series of stool tests, colonoscopies, blood work ups and x rays to determine the condition of the GI tract. Currently there’s no one time fix for IBS spectrum disorders, however, many patients report less symptoms if managed by diet alterations, mental health therapy, physical exercises and medication.
Stomach Bloating and Food Intolerance
Food intolerances account for a large percentage of stomach bloating causes. Not to be mistaken for food allergies, food intolerances lead to a plethora of gastrointestinal discomfort including diarrhea, pain, nausea and vomiting. Though food intolerances are not life threatening but are definitely nothing to be taken lightly. The most common foods leading to dietary intolerances are fructose, gluten, lactose, soy, eggs and tree nuts. These foods irritate the delicate lining of the stomach and intestines making impossible proper digestion and nutrient absorption. This in turn triggers excessive gas production and indigestion symptoms. The only way to alleviate the symptoms for good is to avoid food triggers. It is not always easy to track down what exactly might be causing your food intolerances, however, following elimination diet and slowly reintroducing foods in question while keeping a food diary might help along the way. At times some patients are advised to re-introduce food triggers after some time to see if their intolerances return. Some immunologists believe that only lactose and gluten sensitivities have genetic causes in their nature, while the rest might simply be reactions of immune systems taxed by copious amounts of stress and environmental toxins people are facing daily. In their opinion, bodies do not produce enough enzymes to digest certain substances leading to unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. To see if you have fructose malabsorption, gluten or lactose intolerance, ask your doctor to perform special tests like IgE RAST blood test or live blood microscopic analysis.
Bloated Stomach Remedies
Since the causes of abdominal bloating vary, the remedies should only be used after the exact cause of the condition is established. In rare cases of unexplained bloated stomach, the reasons of the symptoms are far more serious to be managed at home including ovarian cancer, liver disease and abdominal tumors. Some of the well known ways to relieve unpleasant symptoms include everything from anti bloating foods, herbal preparations, natural supplements and even exercises. Among effective anti bloating foods it is worth mentioning natural fermented yogurt aiding in establishing favorable intestinal flora, celery acting as a natural diuretic and protecting from water retention, pineapple containing ample amounts of digestive enzymes and many others. There are also a number of natural supplements you can try to address stomach bloating issues like probiotics, digestive enzymes, fiber, Vitamin C and B-complex group of vitamins (especially Vitamin B6), and minerals including potassium, magnesium and calcium. For ages our ancestors prepared various teas and brews to help move along digestion and prevent excessive gas symptoms. They used a plethora of natural herbs like ginger with its stomach calming properties, which helps break down hard to digest proteins, warm up blood and reduce bloated stomach. Peppermint is another beneficial herb, a potent soother of all stomach ails, including IBS, diarrhea, cramping and indigestion. Every meal in India and some other Asian countries is followed by a handful of fennel seeds that are meticulously chewed to release their powerful digestive properties. It can also be used in a form of drinking fennel tea. Incorporating certain essential oils into your everyday life can also help you combat bloated stomach issues. Make certain you are using high quality therapeutic grade essential oil like peppermint, rosemary, fennel, tarragon, cumin, ginger, wintergreen, nutmeg, juniper and ocotea. You can add a few drops of these oils in your drinks or put directly on a warm compress over the stomach to soothe the symptoms. Certain yoga asanas are also great remedies to alleviate gas, bloating and other uncomfortable symptoms. Use Seated and Standing Twists, Boat pose, Child’s pose and Shoulder Stand to naturally push gas along the intestines and out of your body.
Also please watch this YouTube recorded replay of the Dr.Oz recommendations how to beat bloating on Good Morning America show:
As you can see there are hundreds of causes of abdominal bloating symptoms ranging from poor nutrition, lack of exercise, food intolerances, stomach bacteria, acid reflux and many more. In most cases home remedies for stomach bloating are great to relieve occasional problem. However, if it becomes frequent and diet changes do not bring desirable results, it may be time to see your physician. Your doctor will order a series of tests to pin point the exact reason for your condition. The general strategy to address bloated stomach is to eat smaller portions, limit trigger foods and plan for daily exercise sessions even if it is just a simple walk after lunch.
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