This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions.
Are You Bloating More Than Average?
When the feeling of bloating strikes, it can become painful and a nuisance. Most people are likely to have experienced bloating at least once in their lifetime. For a large majority of us, it occurs randomly, perhaps after an indulgent weekend or during the festive season. But bloating is becoming more and more common with the modern day diet and is often the source of many complaints I encounter.
So what is bloating?
Bloating is described as the feeling of an inflated balloon in your tummy. It is uncomfortable. Bloating may feel like a tight, overstretched stomach. It might also make you feel nauseous after eating. We can produce an average of 3 litres of trapped air in our intestines per day.
What is distension?
Distension is the actual swelling of your stomach and ‘distension’ of your belly outwards. Now, most of us really do not want our stomachs sticking out unnecessarily! The good news is that it is linked closely to what we eat, and thus we can relieve bloating and distension by avoiding foods which are likely to be a trigger.
Causes for Bloating and/ or distension
Bloating and/or distension is caused by three major factors:
- Aerophagia (literally meaning ‘eating air’) is caused by swallowing too much air during talking and/or eating. This will mean that air enters your digestive system from your mouth. This will certainly increase the feeling of bloating and potentially distension too. In some cases, it can feel like severe stomach cramping and will be painful. If it is painful, this is caused by air bubbles trapped around the bends in your intestines. Aerophagia can be increased by your posture during eating – leaning backwards or lying down whilst eating makes the symptoms worse. Additionally, talking whilst eating and the speed at which you eat can also affect the amount of air taken into the stomach.
- Bacteria in the digestive system. We have millions of bacteria in our small and large intestine. The bacteria in our digestive system are unique to each and every one of us – our microbiological makeup is like a fingerprint; everyone’s is different. We harbour bacteria which can provide beneficial effects for our digestive system but there are bacteria that can affect us negatively. When we eat yoghurt, we increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria in our guts. A study by Nobaek discovered that some of us may have more bacteria that produce higher quantities of gasses than others. This study additionally found that they could change the bacteria in our digestive systems for the better, as participants reported a reduction in pain and wind.
- Malabsorption. If our food is not fully absorbed in our small intestine, it can reach the large intestine where we harbour the greatest number of bacteria in our body, where they have access to the undigested food. In particular, carbohydrates are a good energy source for bacteria. For example lactose intolerance – when you are unable to digest and absorb the lactose, it will reach the intestines. When bacteria start to utilise these carbohydrates, one of the by-products is gasses, essentially causing bloating and/or distension. Certain foods in our diet, and some types of fibre increase the risk of malabsorption of carbohydrates and thus worsen the effect of bloating.
Sensitivity to Gas and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Bloating is a very common symptom in IBS, and it may be that you have a regular amount of gas in your digestive tract, but your body is more ‘aware’ of its presence. Despite many symptoms in IBS sufferers, IBS does not cause any digestive damage (such as inflammation or lesions in the intestines), however, the effects can be felt very intensely. IBS is thought to be caused by oversensitivity of the nerves communicating from the gut.
What can I do to help ease my bloating / distension?
There is no exact science or miracle for bloating and/or distension.
Nutritional science has identified a number of foods, which could trigger the problem and thus be avoided. Adriana can work with you to personally investigate your diet and discover your bloating triggers. By managing these dietary triggers, this will help to improve your symptoms. If you are having symptoms of bloating and/or distension, book an appointment with Adriana at ROC Private Clinic on Harley Street.