6 Reasons Why You're Always Bloated
Being bloated sucks.
It’s uncomfortable and affects self esteem. Yet it’s crazy how common it is and how often people accept it as a normal product of digestion. The truth is quite the opposite. Bloating is a sensation where you feel full from too much gas, air or swelling. It is a sign of digestive distress and should not be happening on a regular basis.
The reason for bloat varies from person to person, but here we’ll explain the six most common reasons for bloat and what you can do to prevent it:
1) Eating too quickly & not chewing properly
Digestion first starts in the mouth. This is because chewing your food signals to the rest of your body that you are eating. Your mouth begins to produce saliva that contains digestive enzymes like amylase and the stomach secretes acid to break down food. By chewing your food properly you also turn larger particles of food into smaller ones, reducing the work on your stomach. Though chewing is easy to overlook, it sets the stage for the way you digest your food and whether or not you’ll experience symptoms of indigestion like bloating.
When you’re eating quickly you’re also swallowing excess air alongside your food. This air can get trapped in your stomach and gastro tract, leading to bloat too.
If you want to reduce bloating, start from where digestion begins. Slow down the pace of how you eat and learn to properly chew food with mindful eating practices. Avoid distractions like watching tv and bring your focus towards your foods’ taste, smell and texture. Put your fork down between bites and chew your food until it’s a paste like consistency.
2) Low Stomach Acid
Stomach acid breaks protein down into amino acids, assists in vitamin B12 absorption and kills off harmful bacteria. When we’re not producing enough hydrochloric acid from medication (like antacids or proton pump inhibitors), poor diet, and various lifestyle factors, food begins to sit in our stomach and ferment. Bacteria that normally wouldn’t make it into the small intestine is more likely to infect this sterile part of the gastro tract too. Both food fermentation in the stomach and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine caused by low stomach acid can lead to bloating.
Luckily there are various natural remedies to support stomach acid production.Try drinking apple cider vinegar with water about 15 minutes before meals. You can also invest in a digestive enzyme that contains betaine HCL or try digestive bitters that naturally stimulate HCL production. As everyone’s needs are unique, it’s highly recommended that you talk to a practitioner to help choose the safest option.
There are several types of anti nutrients like phytic acid, lectin and tannins, that can be found in plants. They are a plant's natural defense mechanism from being overeaten by pests and taken over by bacterial infections. Unfortunately, they inhibit mineral absorption and the production of various digestive secretions. Eating these anti-nutrients can lead to uncomfortable side effects such as bloating too.
You can decrease your anti-nutrient consumption by properly preparing food. Phytic acid is commonly found in grains, beans and lentils. It’s best to soak these foods in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar overnight before cooking. Cruciferous (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage) and Nightshade vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper) contain oxalates and lectins, it’s best to thoroughly cook these veggies. Fermenting food helps reduce anti-nutrients in plants too.
4) Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Your small intestine is where most of the nutrient absorption from the food you’ve broken down in the earlier digestive process occurs. Though our large intestine contains trillions of bacteria, the small intestine is typically sterile.
Bloating can occur when there's overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Overgrowth is usually a result of low stomach acid, problems with the ileocecal valve (the door controlling contents from your small and large intestine) and/or poor diet. This is because the bacteria are fermenting the food you eat and producing various types of gas like methane. This results in abdominal discomfort and an extended stomach, especially when consuming high FODMAP foods (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that are absorbed poorly in the small intestine).
If you suspect small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, consider trying a low fodmap diet for a few weeks. This would include cutting out foods like garlic, onion and wheat. Though it’s best to talk to a practitioner to create a full supplement, diet and lifestyle solution.
5) Food Intolerances
An intolerance is an immune response to certain foods. Food intolerances can be a result of chemical sensitivities, poor digestion, leaky gut and genetics. Though food allergies are life threatening and provoke an immediate reaction, an intolerance is not life threatening and can provoke a reaction anytime within 48 hours of ingesting a food. One of the most common symptoms of food intolerance includes bloating.
Food intolerances differ between people, but the most common include eggs, gluten, dairy, corn, soy and shellfish. You can try eliminating one or all of these from your diet for a few weeks, then take note of how you feel without them and how you feel when reintroducing them.
6) Lack of Movement
Movement stimulates peristalsis, a wave like muscle contraction that moves food through your intestinal tract. When you’re overly sedentary you limit activation of this process and can become constipated, which is one leading cause to being bloated.
Make movement a priority, take a walk once per day for at least 30 minutes, dance to your favourite music while cooking or do some active stretching as you watch your favourite show.
Bloating doesn’t have to be something you struggle with forever, but it’s important to get to the root cause of the problem and be patient with the experimentation process. You deserve to feel comfortable in your body and we’re always happy to help!