Bloating is caused by excess air in the digestive tract, a common and very unpleasant problem. If you experience a feeling of weight in the stomach, abdominal pain, pressure on the bowels and occasionally the ribcage, or abdominal cramps, you are likely suffering from bloating.
As with most functional gastrointestinal problems, bloating is a consequence of the fast-paced modern lifestyle and diet. It is usually caused by:
- lack of time;
- excessive consumption of fast food;
- poor diet;
- eating too quickly and not chewing food thoroughly;
- functional constipation.
In most cases, bloating can be eliminated by diet and lifestyle changes. An important change we can make is to improve our breathing and chew food thoroughly. Many people use medications to reduce bloating, but this offers only temporary relief, since it treats symptoms rather than causes.
How to prevent bloating?
The good news is that bloating can usually be prevented, unless it is caused by an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. As with all functional disorders, prevention is primarily aimed at changing diet and lifestyle. Most important is to establish and maintain a regular routine of bowel movements. We should introduce high-fibre foods in the diet. The intake of fibre should be increased gradually to avert the initial worsening of symptoms. Some experts believe that food combining is also effective in reducing bloating. What this means is that we combine meat with vegetables instead of potatoes, rice, and pasta. Conversely, when the meal is based on carbohydrates, we combine these with vegetables rather than meat.
First aid – natural remedies for bloating
Some plants and herbs are rich in essential oils that have a soothing effect on the digestive system and can be used as remedies for bloating. They are known as carminatives and function by promoting the release of enzymes required for effective food digestion. The better food is digested, the less undigested “leftovers” are available to the gas-producing bacteria. These plants include anise, caraway, dill, basil, ginger, mint, and cinnamon. It is recommended that they be consumed after the meal.
Other plants are better consumed prior to the meal in order to reduce bloating. These include mainly bitter herbs such as dandelion, artichoke, and wormwood.
In short, bloating is a common problem that can be prevented with small changes in diet and lifestyle.
Simple ways to reduce bloating
- regulate your digestion;
- gradually introduce high-fibre foods into the diet or consume them in smaller portions over the day;
- avoid carbonated beverages;
- eat and drink slowly and chew food thoroughly;
- eat several smaller meals over the day;
- talk less while eating;
- take a short walk after a meal, if possible.
If diet and lifestyle changes fail to help, bloating might be caused by other conditions, such as the lack of lactose and fructose enzymes, or a functional disorder of the liver and gallbladder. There are also medications that may cause bloating. If nothing seems to help and other symptoms are present along with bloating, you should see your physician to get the right diagnosis.