Do you ever feel like you’re still full even though the last time you ate anything was hours ago? Does your stomach feel like it’s distended? If you answered yes to these questions, then you may be suffering from abdominal bloating. Bloating is described as a buildup of gas in your stomach and intestine. Oftentimes, it is accompanied by abdominal pain that is either sharp or dull, mild or intense. The gas and general feeling of bloating is usually relieved by either belching or passing gas. This is also sometimes called flatulence (Tips on how to get rid of flatulence). There is no visible sign of abdominal swelling in bloating, so if you see something, you should have it checked by a competent physician.
Bloating: The Beginning
There are many ways gas can build up in your stomach and intestines. For example, when you talk and eat, you usually swallow small amounts of air in the process. Improper eating, specifically, tends to cause a lot of air to get in. When you eat fast or improperly chew your food, the action causes you to swallow air more than usual.
Sipping from straws is also a good way to take in extra air. While these may not be the reasons your parents taught you to eat your food properly, the effect can probably be attributed to reinforce the idea. Most times, when you overeat, extra gas is forced out of your body through your mouth in the form of a belch.
The second main cause for gas build up in your stomach is the breaking down of the food you eat. Usually, food is completely broken down by enzymes and bacteria, with the essential things the body needs distributed to all parts of the body and the refuse sent to be expelled via urine and waste.
There are certain foods, however, that are not easily digestible and broken down. For example, insoluble fibers present in vegetables and legumes take a very long time to break down. Now, every time food is in the process of being broken down, the digestive system releases wind. If it takes a particularly long time for food to be broken down, the enzymes and bacteria make an extra effort, increasing the production of wind. When you couple this with overeating, your digestive system has to work overtime just to cope again, resulting in the production of more gas.
Certain conditions can also cause gas build up in your system. If you notice that you feel bloated after eating ice cream, cheese, or any other dairy products, then you might be lactose intolerant. Your body cannot process lactose, or milk sugar in your foods. Like insoluble fibers, people suffering from lactose intolerance have a hard time breaking down lactose and this allows the formation of extra wind and gas.
Lactose intolerance happens more frequently to aged people, since people produce less lactase as they age. It could also be due to your ethnicity — studies have shown that people who are of Native American, Asian, or African descent have low levels of lactase by nature.
Uncommon causes for bloating include the presence of intra-abdominal tumors resulting from ovarian, uterus and stomach cancer. Megacolon resulting from diseases such as Chagas disease or some parasitic infection can also cause bloating. Stress may also be an indirect reason for bloating, as stress and anxiety often make you not eat properly and smoke (if you’re a smoker), which makes you take in air more than the usual (Learn how to get rid of stress).
Just as there are varied reasons that can cause gas buildup in your body, there are also several ways you can get rid of it , and thus get rid of your bloating problem, or at least minimize its effects and symptoms.
Control the intake of gas-inducing foods.
As mentioned before, there are several foods that increase the production of gas in your body. Those with the most impact are food rich in fiber—especially insoluble fiber—such as bran cereals, beans, cabbage, apples, and bananas.
Since fiber is an important part of one’s diet; however, the trick is to control its intake, not eliminate it altogether. For example, drastically cut back on fiber. Then, slowly re-introduce it in little bits every couple of days or so. Doing so will enable your body to slowly get used to digesting the food so it will become much easier when you finally take it all in.
Change your eating habits.
Just like your parents taught you table etiquette when you were still little, eat properly. Do not talk while chewing your food and while on the topic of chewing, chew your food properly. Take your time; after all, food is meant to be enjoyed, not inhaled. Also, do not overindulge and overeat. Overeating gives you more chances of taking in air together with the food. If you think you can’t stop eating fast, try to put down your fork and spoon every time you chew.
Try to eat little batches of meals scattered throughout the day instead of eating three full meals. Doing so will make sure that your digestive system is able to break down those foods properly. Also, if you’re in the habit of changing your diet every so often, eating new food in small batches will get your system to adapt quickly to new food.
When drinking, try to avoid using straws. Sipping will cause you to take more air in.
Reduce dairy consumption if you’re lactose-intolerant.
If you’re lactose intolerant, reducing the intake of dairy and other milk products will also reduce the production of gas in your system. You can also try to substitute low-lactose products for regular dairy. For example, you can use yogurt instead of milk. Like food consumption, eating small, manageable batches will also help.
Learn how to quit smoking.
While smoking, you take in air when you inhale the smoke. While most air will go directly to your lungs, it can’t be avoided that a small part of it will go to your stomach, adding to the excess gas. Smoking increases the risk of you getting a respiratory disease, as well as bloating. (For more tips, see how to quit smoking)
Take medication for gas.
Some medications pull gas bubbles together, reducing the amount of gas in your system. There are also medications that can help address conditions like lactose intolerance that help in the production of gas. Lactaid and Lactrase are examples of this. You can also take in charcoal tablets that break up and pull gas bubbles, so you can expel them from your body through belching or farting, lessening your bloating.
There are also certain practices that help in the proper functioning of your digestive system, thereby easing the passage an accumulation of gas. For example, exercise helps make your digestive system active. It also release hormones that encourage activity in the bowels, thereby helping in the regular elimination of waste in there, including gas. Regular bowel movement also releases any pent-up gas in your digestive tract, alleviating any feelings of bloating especially in the early morning, when you can control gas intake while sleeping.
If your bloating persists even after all the tips given, then it is about time that you have yourself checked by a physician. Your bloating may be the cause of an underlying symptom that is potentially serious.