Do you ever feel that you start your day off with a flat stomach, but as the day progresses you feel that your belly is expanding, your pants are suddenly tight, and you feel uncomfortable? Even if you are exercising daily and eating a healthy diet there are still many factors throughout the day that may be contributing to your increasing belly by the end of the day.
Bloating can result from many possibilities ranging from, over eating, food sensitivities, constipation, stress, over growth of bacteria in the small intestine, hormonal fluctuations, heartburn, sugar substitutes, and certain medications. As well, more serious health issues such as certain cancers, crohn’s and celiac disease can also cause bloating.
Bloating is a common complaint and can affect as many as 30% of people. Abdominal bloating can interfere your lifestyle and even your ability to work. Sufferers who experience regular bloating tend to take more sick days and use medications to mask the symptoms.
The good news is that in many cases bloating can be diminished or prevented by making a few lifestyle and dietary changes.
What are some common causes of bloating?
Some of the causes are:
- Food sensitivities
- Swallowing too much air
- Eating too fast
- Over eating
- Stress and anxiety
- Menstrual cycles
- Overgrowth of bacteria in the small bowel
- Sugar substitutes
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Some medications
- Chewing gum
Foods That May Cause Bloating
- High Fat, Greasy Fast Foods
High fat, greasy foods such as burgers, fries, fried chicken and donuts can cause bloating because it takes the stomach much longer to breakdown and digest efficiently. On the go meals can be healthy and don’t have to be loaded with unhealthy trans fats. Most fast foods establishments offer many healthy variations such as; grilled chicken sandwiches, egg sandwiches, chicken salads, fruit bowls and mixed nuts. It is up to you to make the healthiest choice!
- Salty Foods
Salty foods are one of the main causes of bloating and can easily be controlled. Foods that are high in sodium can cause your body to retain water and bloat. Sodium can be hidden in many foods especially processed foods, foods that are packaged, restaurant dishes, dressings, soups, sauces and even spices. In most cases try to choose fresh 1 ingredient foods, and season with fresh herbs and sodium free spices to add flavour.
- Carbonated and High Acid Beverages
Carbonated or “fizzy” drinks all cause abdominal bloating because of the carbon dioxide in the bubbles creates uncomfortable gas and swelling in the stomach. Many beverages that are high in acid can also irritate your gastrointestinal track (GI track) such as; alcohol, coffee, tea, caffeinated drinks, fruit juices, sports and energy drinks. Replace these beverages with water flavored with fresh fruit, herbal teas and almond milk.
- Sugar Substitutes
Many artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, mannitol, and sucralose can increase abdominal swelling. Artificial sweeteners are predominately found in diet drinks, dressings, sweets, baked goods, energy protein bars, candies and chewing gum. Artificial sweeteners linger in the stomach because your body cannot recognize them as food and be digested. With time, they build up and eventually create bacteria leading to production of gas in the stomach. Replace artificial sweeteners with stevia, fresh fruit, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and cocoa. Dangers of Too Much Sugar
- Grains, Starches and Gluten
Many starches and grains including wheat, pasta, breads, white flour, and baked goods provide very little nutrition and may cause discomfort as they are broken down. Using a process of elimination and substituting with foods that do not cause bloating or gas such as; rice, wheat and gluten free foods.
- Dairy Products
Many people have challenges digesting lactose (sugar milk) and as a result suffer from bloating and discomfort. Lactose intolerance is a common sensitivity that many people experience. When your stomach cannot properly digest lactose it will pass through to the colon where bacteria attempt to break it down resulting in the production of gas. If you suspect that you have lactose intolerance, it is important to consult with a dietician, nutritionist or naturopath to ensure that you are including adequate calcium rich foods.
- Gassy Vegetables and High Sugar Fruits
Just like lactose intolerance, certain fruits and vegetables may cause bloating and gas. Everyone is unique and varies in the ability to digest gassy vegetables and high fructose fruits. If you find that you are sensitive to certain vegetables you may try to eliminate some of the high gassy vegetables such as; broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, beans and lentils. As well, choose fruits that are low fructose such as; berries and melon and avoid high fructose fruits such as; bananas, cherries, grapes and dried fruit.