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Bloating - how gas is formed in the belly and how to reduce bloating

In most cases, bloating is not caused by imaginary food intolerances, allergies or illnesses, but by our eating habits and lifestyle.

Everyone feels bloated from time to time - even the healthiest and most sporty of us, even those who successfully avoid all the foods that seem to cause it. Does this mean that something is wrong with all of us?

No, because bloating is not a bad thing and you definitely don't have to worry about it. Of course, a bloated stomach makes us feel uncomfortable and getting rid of gas often causes uncomfortable situations, but hydrogen sulphide (H₂S), which gives us spraying excreted from the intestine irritates the nerves in the stomach and intestinal mucosa and thus activates the excretion of many substances we need - so this process, although it causes discomfort, is essentially healthy.

The main cause of bloating is usually considered to be food, and intolerance to all kinds of products is considered, which in some cases is the case. However, the most common cause of bloating is functional bowel disorders, or more simply, gas does not flow through the intestines equally well. digestive tract is quite long, for example - the length of the small intestine in humans is on average 3 - 5 meters and they are folded in our stomachs, and if they are folded somewhat unsuccessfully, or if fluid or solids accumulate in some part of your intestines, or if your intestinal contents move too slowly through the digestive system, congestion, gas can't continue on her way and your belly inflates.


How common is bloating?

Average 16% to 31% people complain of irregular bloating. Of these, around 75% symptoms are described as moderate to severe. About 10% claims that their bellies bleed regularly.

People diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome), bloating is much more common - from 66% to 90%.

Up to 75% women experience bloating before and during menstruation.


What causes bloating?

Gas in the abdomen

Gases are a natural by-product of digestion, but if you have too much gas in your gut on a regular basis, there may be something wrong with your digestive tract. The gases that enter the stomach when you swallow air or drink carbonated drinks are mainly released as a burst before reaching the gut. The gas in the gut is mainly produced by gut bacteria carbohydrates and proteins during fermentation. If there is too much gas - it means that too many carbohydrates are not naturally absorbed before they reach these intestinal bacteria. There are a number of reasons why you may be eating too much or eating too fast and your digestive system may not be able to cope with the amount of food being delivered. Or you have an intolerance to food or a disease of the gastrointestinal tract.

Some possible causes are:

  1. Carbohydrates malabsorption. Some people have difficulty digesting certain carbohydrates (sugars), such as lactose, fructose, and carbohydrates found in wheat (gluten) and beans. Both these carbohydrates are intolerable and only difficult / longer to process. This diagnosis should be made by a gastroenterologist and not by you, for example, on your own food intolerance tests etc.
  2. Small intestinal bacterial proliferation syndrome (SIBO - Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Excessive multiplication of some types of bacteria in the small intestine can upset the balance - the bacteria that produce the gases suppress the bacteria that absorb the gases produced by others. As a result, symptoms such as nausea, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss…
  3. Functional Indigestion - This diagnosis is made when indigestion occurs for unexplained reasons. Symptoms usually include gas and bloating after eating.
  4. Hypersensitivity. Some people feel "bloated" even if the amount of gas in their digestive tract is normal. This condition is often associated with irritable bowel syndrome and other disorders involving the nerve pathways from the gut to the brain. Some people even develop abdominal muscle relaxation when they need to contract and diaphragm contraction when it needs to relax in order to free up more gas in the abdomen during digestion (Abdomino-Phrenic Dyssynergia).

Digestive tract content

If there are blockages in the digestive tract or if the muscles that move the contents of the gut do not work well enough, more gas can accumulate in the gut. As a result, the intestines "expand" and there is less space left for everything else in your abdominal cavity - it also causes the unpleasant sensations associated with bloating. The most common causes of blockages are:

  1. Constipation, usually caused by diet or lifestyle. If constipation is chronic - seek medical advice. Constipation in the colon causes freshly digested food to stay longer in your stomach, pressure increases, the bowels expand and your stomach swells.
  2. Intestinal obstructions. Both the large and small intestines can be blocked by tumors, scar tissue, intestinal strictures, stenosis or hernias. Inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's disease and diverticulosis, may damage your gut, causing narrowing (tightness) that makes it difficult to move / remove digestive contents.
  3. Motility or intestinal motility disorders These are usually muscle and nerve problems, as a result of which everything in your digestive tract moves more slowly than it should, which in turn can cause constipation. For instance - intestinal pseudo-obstruction, gastroparesis, partial paralysis of gastric muscles and pelvic floor dysfunction.
  4. Weight gain. If you have gained more than 5 kilograms in a year, even a normal meal can cause bloating, because the fat you have gained in the last year tends to get into your abdomen first. This may affect the size of your stomach, leaving less space for the rest of your stomach.


About 3 in 4 women experience bloating before and during menstruation. Flatulence is also a common complaint perimenopause during hormonal fluctuations. In women, hormones can affect the bloating in different ways, both by affecting the way the digestive tract works and by increasing your sensitivity to various irritants.

For example, estrogen causes water retention. When estrogen levels increase and progesterone decreases, bloating may occur. Hormones also interact with your digestive system. Estrogen and progesterone can cause the formation of intestinal gases, slowing down or speeding up the movement of intestinal contents. Estrogen receptors in your digestive tract also affect the sensitivity of your internal organs.


Other causes

Irregular bloating, although unpleasant, is not dangerous, but if your stomach swells regularly and you also have symptoms such as fever or vomiting, seek medical attention. Simply - safe remains safe - if these symptoms signal any of the following conditions, then it is better to diagnose them as soon as possible.

  • Ascites - gradual accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, usually caused by liver disease and sometimes kidney failure or heart failure.
  • Pancreatic insufficiency. It is a type of pancreatic dysfunction in which your pancreas is no longer able to produce enough digestive enzymes, which makes it difficult to process food.
  • Inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) or intestines (enteritis). It is usually caused by a bacterial infection (usually H. pylori infection) or alcohol abuse.
  • Cancer (cancer of the ovaries, uterus, colon, pancreas, stomach or intestines).

How to reduce or prevent bloating?

Flatulence is caused by many dietary and lifestyle factors - so to prevent or at least reduce bloating, you must first determine the cause or causes of the bloating. If bloating is associated with your menstrual cycle, you have probably already noticed it.


Limit foods that cause bloating

For many, the stomach blows after eating certain foods that contain large amounts of indigestible or indigestible compounds, such as insoluble and soluble fiber, sugar alcohols, and sugars (raffinose and fructose). Undigested fibers and sugars enter your colon, where bacteria ferment them, causing increased gas production.

The foods that most commonly cause bloating are:

  • Vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage;
  • Fruits - prunes, apples, pears and peaches;
  • Whole grain products - wheat, oats, wheat germ and wheat bran;
  • Legumes - beans, lentils, peas;
  • Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners - xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol;
  • All carbonated drinks.

You may already be wondering exactly which products are causing you to bloat. Exclude them from your diet for about 3 weeks - if your stomach blows less, start eating them again one at a time (at least 1 week apart) until you have identified the 'culprit' or 'culprits'.


Check if you are lactose intolerant

In order to break down lactose (the sugar in milk), your body needs an enzyme called lactase. At the age of majority, the production of this enzyme in our body decreases. If it's too little to break down lactose - you have to lactose intolerance.

What is going on? Lactose passes through your intestines until it reaches the colon, where bacteria ferment it to release gases that can cause bloating and abdominal pain.

If you suspect that you are lactose intolerant, reducing your dairy intake may help to relieve the symptoms of bloating. However, before making significant changes to your diet, be sure to consult your doctor because Dairy products are an important source of essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus and protein..

Or try dairy products with a lower lactose content, such as Greek yogurt, hard cheeses…


Fiber, water and physical activity

If you suspect that bloating is associated with constipation or intestinal obstruction - drink more water (flush out unnecessary and softens the intestines), eat more high-fiber foods ('clean' intestines) and exercise more (your intestines move as you move). and reduce the risk of clogging):


Try probiotics

Probiotics are living microorganisms, such as bacteria, and are available as food supplements. However, they are also found naturally in some foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombuča, miso, tempeh…

Studies show that several strains Probiotics can help reduce bloating and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. To determine if the probiotics you have chosen have a positive effect, choose one type and use it for at least 4 weeks.


Eat smaller portions, limit the amount of salt and fatty foods

Reducing portions and limiting foods high in salt and fat, such as fried foods, snacks, chips, chocolate, and pastries, can help reduce bloating.

Large portions promote bloating in two ways:

  • Stretches the stomach and thus leaves less space for other organs;
  • If foods contain indigestible or poorly digestible carbohydrates, then the more such carbohydrates get into your colon, the more gas will be produced there.

On the other hand, foods high in salt or fat can cause bloating by increasing the formation of gas and water and retention in the gut.


Try peppermint oil

Mint has a long history as a digestive aid. Peppermint oil has been shown to reduce the symptoms of bloating in people with irritable bowel syndrome. For example, in a 4-week study of 72 people with irritable bowel syndrome, Taking 180 mg peppermint oil capsules 3 times a day significantly improved the symptoms of bloating.

However, more research is needed to claim that peppermint oil significantly helps reduce bloating.


Eat slowly and avoid carbonated drinks

Too much air is ingested when eating fast, talking during meals, chewing gum and drinking carbonated drinks (aerophagia) and although ingestion of excess air is more likely to cause belching than bloating, it is still a possible cause of bloating, especially in people with impaired bowel function.


Avoid rapid weight gain

The accumulation of fat in the abdomen can limit bowel function by increasing pressure and contributing to hypersensitivity. Conversely, weight loss can help reduce bloating.


Abnormal muscle reflex

Recent studies show that in some people, bloating can be caused by an abnormal muscle reflex.

Usually, when you eat, your diaphragm rises and the front wall of your abdomen shrinks, creating more space without squeezing your abdomen, but for some people the opposite happens, with the front wall of your abdomen protruding and the diaphragm lowering.

It is not clear why this is happening, but it can be prevented through biological feedback (Biofeedback) therapy. This treatment involves proper training of the abdominal muscles while receiving visual feedback that leads to automatic correction of the muscle contractions.


Key takeaways

Transient bloating is a common occurrence and should not be a concern. But if you regularly worry about bloating, talk to your doctor.

Healthy nutrition and regular physical activity can help reduce symptoms. If certain foods cause bloating, reducing or eliminating them from your diet can help.

Try how probiotic and / or peppermint oil affects your digestive tract.

To ensure a balanced and wholesome diet, consult an experienced nutritionist, nutritionist, or gastroenterologist before making significant changes to your diet.

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