Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Bloating Diet & Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle adjustments such as a low FODMAP diet, supplements, natural remedies, and regular exercise can all help to moderate and prevent bloating.
In gut-typical people, FODMAPs are absorbed through the lining of the small intestine. In those with IBS, unabsorbed FODMAPs move to the large intestine, draw fluid and then become fermented by gut bacteria. This process creates gas and causes bloating.
Substituting high FODMAPs with a low FODMAP diet can significantly reduce bloating.
Examples of high FODMAP foods include wheat, artificial sweeteners, certain fruits, garlic, onions, mushrooms, legumes, dairy, and honey. Cutting back high FODMAP foods has been clinically proven to lessen or alleviate symptoms in up to 75% of those with IBS.
If you want to follow a low FODMAP diet, consult a dietitian that specializes in that diet. They can help ensure that you're getting enough nutrients since you'll be eliminating or cutting back important food groups. You’ll want to closely monitor your symptoms to figure out which foods you can tolerate.
Your body breaks down fat very slowly. Excess fat can increase hypersensitivity in the colon and cause discomfort and bloating. However, your diet requires some fat for you to feel well and stay healthy without triggering your symptoms and the level you can tolerate will differ for each person. Example: a drizzle of olive oil on a small salad might be okay, but an empanada will aggravate your symptoms.
Sodium is an essential electrolyte, but excess salt can cause bloating. Get in the habit of reading food labels and select ones that say, “low sodium”, "sodium free”, or “very low sodium”. Prepackaged and fast foods contain a lot of salt. And remember: Just because you can’t taste it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Fibre is necessary for healthy bowel function and it is recommended that you consume 25-30 grams of fiber per day. But in those with IBS, increasing certain types of fiber can cause gas and bloating. Drinking plenty of liquids with high fiber foods helps them pass through the digestive tract and prevents bloating.
Carbonated drinks including soda, sparkling water, champagne, beer, and seltzer can lead to gas bubbles in your intestinal tract. Burping can release some of it, but gas that enters your bowels can cause bloating. Some carbonated beverages are loaded with sugar that can additionally trigger bloating.
When you chew gum, you swallow more often and air along with it. This air can get into your bowels, mix with digestive gases, and cause bloating.
Additionally, artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, in sugar free gum can make you bloated.
Very few people today sit down to focus and enjoy the act of eating. Distracted eating, eating too fast, or mindless eating with your mouth open leads to swallowing a lot of air that can cause bloating.
If this describes you, try mindful eating. Avoid distractions like Netflix, eat slowly and with a closed mouth in a quiet environment. As much as possible enjoy meals at the dining table.
Natural remedies such as chamomile and peppermint tea, caraway, anise, fennel, coriander, turmeric, and ginger may help alleviate gas and bloating.
Consult your dietitian before using natural remedies because they may have adverse side effects or interactions with medications you currently use.
Some supplemental enzymes can help break down FODMAPs and may provide relief from bloating. Examples include:
Lactase: An enzyme that breaks down lactose for those with lactose intolerance.
Beano: Contains the enzyme which can help break down FODMAPs.
Stress and anxiety is often accompanied by fast and shallow breathing that can lead to swallowing air. Furthermore, stress throws off the balance of the gut microbiome, triggering IBS symptoms such as bloating. Practice ways to reduce stress and anxiety, such as breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation that can help reduce excess gas and bloating.
Physical activity helps your intestines move more regularly, which results in the discharge of air and gas.
Relaxing positions including some yoga poses may also reduce bloating and cramps. Particular yoga poses position your abdominal muscles to expel excess gas from the intestinal tract to decrease bloating. Child’s Pose, Happy Baby Pose, and squats can all help release a buildup of gas.
Digestive problems are complex, and it is recommended that you consult a specialist dietitian for support and guidance. At Gut-Loving Dietitian, we specialize in gut health and are very passionate about helping people with IBS live better through dietary and lifestyle changes.
Zahra is a Monash University FODMAP Certified Dietitian with years of experience in supporting clients with digestive issues. She will work closely with you to implement the low FODMAP diet and guide you through the challenge phases, holding your hand through the whole process.
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