How to manage bloating

Most of us have probably felt bloated at some point in our lives. For those who have experienced it, you’ll know that it is a very uncomfortable feeling. On top of affecting your daily life, it can also leave you feeling frustrated by masking your fat loss efforts. You may look in the mirror and feel like you aren’t making any progress when in reality you are losing body fat, you just can’t notice it due to feeling/looking bloated.

So we thought we’d give you some of our top tips on how to manage bloating so that you can get back to feeling your best.

Firstly though, what causes bloating?

Bloating refers to a sense of fullness, pressure, or excess gas in the abdomen. Bloating has many potential causes, from your diet and eating habits to your gut microbes, which can make it difficult to pinpoint what’s causing it. Certain factors like the timing of the sensation after meals, or the presence of other symptoms, can provide clues about the potential cause of your bloating.

Regular bloating can be caused by other problems, including:

  • constipation
  • coeliac disease
  • food intolerances & sensitivities
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • hormones, including before your period or during menopause
  • some medications
  • stress 

How can you manage/prevent bloating?

The first step to managing bloating is to try and identify the cause. As we mentioned, that’s not always easy, so here are some strategies to work your way through. We recommend trialling one at a time so that you can determine what is actually helping and what isn’t.

1. Rule out allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities

If you have a medical condition such as coeliac disease, you will need to follow a strict diet to prevent bloating and other symptoms. If you have IBS, following a high-fibre diet or a low FODMAP diet may help. If you suspect that you have a food intolerance, you may need to keep a food diary and try an elimination diet to find out which food or foods are causing your problems. Your doctor or dietitian can assist you with specific dietary changes.

2. Regulate your meal times and adjust your portions

Aiming to keep your meals across the day roughly a similar size is also a good idea. Avoid eating too much in one meal. When you are eating, pay attention to fullness cues and make sure you stop when you are starting to feel full. 

3. Minimise swallowing air and gas

Slowed clearance of gas from the intestinal tract is also a known cause of bloating. For this reason, it may help to avoid things that increase gas volume, such as drinking carbonated beverages, chewing gum, and drinking through straws. Additionally, slowing down your eating speed and avoiding talking while eating might also help.

4. Avoid sugar alcohols

Many products labelled low-carb or sugar free (e.e protein bars, low calorie ice-cream, sugar-free lollies, etc.) are often sweetened with sugar alcohols. When you eat foods containing these compounds, the undigested sugars end up in your large intestine where bacteria ferment them, leading to increased gas and bloating. Excess consumption of these foods can also have a laxative effect. It may be worth removing these foods from your diet and seeing if you notice a difference.

5. Treat constipation

Gas isn’t always the culprit when it comes to bloating. In some cases, infrequent or incomplete bowel movements could cause those feelings of uncomfortable pressure and fullness. Bloating caused by constipation may be treated by increasing your fibre intake and increasing your water intake. Keep in mind that you may need to increase your soluble fibre intake with caution, as this type of fibre is fermented in your colon and may contribute to feeling bloated. Additionally, adding fibre to your diet too rapidly may worsen constipation, so it’s important to increase your intake slowly, and ensure that you are well hydrated. For some people though, increasing fibre and water intake may not be enough and laxatives may be required to keep things regular.

6. Move your body on a regular basis

Exercise can help move gas through the digestive tract, thereby reducing bloating. ​​Additionally, light exercise has been found to help reduce the feelings of bloating and fullness in your stomach that occur following a meal, which makes it a simple strategy to try. Exercise can also aid psychological symptoms like stress, fatigue, and depression, which themselves are linked to digestive symptoms.

Takeaway message

Bloating is often a temporary issue and usually resolves with dietary and lifestyle changes. However, if you are struggling with extreme bloating and on a regular basis, or you are experiencing other symptoms such as frequent diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pain, vomiting, unintentional weight loss, or bloody stools, it is important to seek medical attention.

Remember that these tips go hand in hand with a well structured nutrition plan and training program so be sure that you’re optimising those too. If you need help with either of these, we’d love to help! Click here for ways to work with us.

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