Bloating is never a good time and can often seem to strike randomly and without warning. For some it’s a rare occurrence but for others it often seems to strike daily after almost every meal. "Very quickly it can make you look like you have a bit of a pooch. There's an enlargement of the abdomen and a sensation of distention," explains Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard. It’s unpredictability is a result of the complexity of the digestive system, with so many variables at play and with most capable of causing bloating it’s hard to track exactly what might be causing you to bloat. This article will aim to explore a few different causes of bloating and suggest a few well known and lesser known solutions that are worth testing out.
One of the key phenomena being explored as a culprit for bloating in modern science today is leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is a condition where your intestinal permeability increases because of inflammation and damage to the gut wall lining. This allows unwanted food particles, toxins and bacteria to pass into the bloodstream from your digestive tract, this issue can cause bloating as well as a number of other symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and autoimmune problems such as psoriasis and eczema. But what causes leaky gut syndrome and how can it be prevented?
Marcelo Campos, MD states that it can sometimes be genetic but more often than not it’s diet related. The standard western diet which is highly processed, low in fibre and high in dairy, gluten, sugar and saturated fats can disrupt your gut’s ecosystem causing slow and ineffective digestion and a leaky gut. Eating healthier is therefore the best and most essential solution. Next time you have a meal, consider what you’re eating. Chances are that if the food is processed, fatty or high in sugar you may find you have inflamed or irritated bowels and bloating afterwards. Try eating food groups that are naturally high in prebiotics and fibre and low in gluten e.g fresh steamed vegetables, there’s a good chance you won’t experience such a negative reaction from your gut especially if you keep eating well consistently. Beyond eating more healthily, there are further supplements that can assist this dietary transition. Apple cider vinegar can help speed up the digestive process and help to break down foods a lot quicker so they pass through your digestive tract with less issues. The natural acetic acid found in ACV works wonders for people with low stomach acidity, using ACV may help raise stomach acid levels to aid digestion. In theory, this could prevent gas, discomfort and bloating, which inefficient digestion can cause. ACV is also a natural antimicrobial substance, meaning it may help kill off the unwanted bacteria in the intestines (This is condition is known as SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth which is also linked to post meal bloating).
Leaky gut isn’t the only cause of bloating though, the bacterial balance in your gut is also important. To elaborate: your stomach is full of a vast flora of gut bacteria that help process food travelling through your digestive tract. Keeping this ecosystem balanced and happy is incredibly important but often neglected in the Western diet. Maria Kechagia et al. in their review of the ‘Health Benefits of Probiotics’ discovered that incorporating fermented foods such as kefir and kombucha into your diet daily helps support your gut health by introducing healthy bacteria. When your gut ecosystem is well balanced your digestion is more efficient and less wasteful meaning the chance of building up gas or causing yourself discomfort is far lower which is why it’s considered important to regulate your gut health constantly. For those not fond of sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha, it’s easy to also buy probiotic and prebiotic supplements that will do the same job.
Both of these causes of bloating indicate several key facts. Firstly, that diet is the most important thing effecting your gut health; if you don’t eat a diet rich with prebiotic foods such as fruits, nuts and vegetables then you can expect to suffer in more than one way. But secondly, that being informed about the right supplements like apple cider vinegar and good quality multi-strain probiotics is an easy way to stay on top of your gut health and keep bloating away.