We all know the awful, blown-up feeling of being bloated. Often it comes from eating certain foods (why can't bread just love us back?) - but knowing your triggers doesn't make it any less difficult to bear when that trapped feeling hits.
Unfortunately, you can't always predict what will cause it. “Bloating is caused by a build-up of gas in the gut produced as a by-product of bacterial digestion," says The London Nutritionist, Jo Travers. "It’s actually not necessarily a sign that something is wrong, but it can be uncomfortable and it can be a suggestion that your microbiome is slightly out of kilter."
So, what can you do? Here's eight simple steps to minimising bloating, both immediately and in the long-term:
How to stop bloating right now
1. Take a probiotic
The first thing to do for bloating is to take a good quality probiotic. This will deliver lots of live bacterial cultures to your gut to help restore any imbalance, and is quick and easy to do. “Choose one with a high bacterial count and with a range of different bacteria. Gut Powered Ultimate from Holland & Barrett, for example, has over 50 billion live bacteria and contains Lactobcillus and Bifidobacteria. Once you have the bacteria there, look after it!
Sorry to be crass, but sometimes your body bloating is just its way of crying out to release air. Letting it go - ideally in the privacy of your own home or bathroom - is a sure-fire way to have you feeling better in seconds.
“Unfortunately prevention is better than cure when it comes to bloating, says Jo. “But passing wind is one of the quickest methods! If you suffer from trapped wind, doing gentle abdominal exercises and also cat, cow and child yoga poses have all been shown to be helpful for some people."
3. Try a tea
It could be worth trying a herbal tea to see if it helps - some suggest peppermint. However, be aware that this isn't a proven technique. "Although fennel tea is often recommended, there isn't much in the way of evidence for this,” explains Jo.
How to stop bloating in future
If you’re the type of person who regularly suffers with bloating, you might want to take steps to keep it to a minimum. Diet is extremely important if you want to reduce your chances of bloating, and while we all have certain trigger foods, there are some considered by dieticians to be the most beneficial to the tummy.
4. Eat more fibre
“The best gut-healthy foods are anything with fibre in them,” says Jo. “Fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and beans and lentils are all examples. Fermented food are also useful because of the naturally occurring useful bacteria like Lactobacillus. Yogurt, keffir, kimchi and kombucha all fall into this category. Getting a mix of these foods covers all the bases.
5. Try a new diet plan
“The Mediterranean diet is great for gut because it contains plenty of wholegrains and fruit and vegetables. But also what it doesn’t contain is important too. Saturated fat, processed pork products, fried food and sugary food can all disrupt a healthy microbiome and contribute towards bloating.”
Of course, it’s not always what you’re eating that has an effect on your body; your mood can play a part, too. “Aside from diet, stress can have a knock on effect to the health of your gut, but equally stress management techniques, such as meditation, can help counteract this,” says Jo.
7. Get plenty of sleep
“Likewise, it is important to ensure you get enough sleep. It may not seem like there’s a direct connection between sleep and gut health, but evidence shows that only one night of poor sleep can disrupt the gut microbiome and this can in turn make you more susceptible to bloating.”
8. Visit your doctor
If the problem persists, and switching up your diet isn’t working (or even seems to make things worse) it could be time to visit your doctor to look at the possibility of IBS - a condition which affects around a third of adults in the UK, and can have a huge impact on day-to-day life.
“IBS is not actually just one thing, but a collection of symptoms affecting the gut that someone may have one or more of, including (but not limited to) bloating, wind, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain or discomfort, and cramping,” says Jo.
“There is no specific test for IBS. It is diagnosed using strict criteria taking into account symptoms, what triggers symptoms and how often they occur. A GP should test for and rule out coeliac disease and other inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn’s disease before diagnosing IBS, so if you have any of the symptoms above I recommend going to your GP and asking for these tests to be done.
"IBS is a very individual condition that affects people in different ways. It’s affected sometimes by what we eat, but also things like stress. As well as the symptoms being different, treatment is often different too, depending on the triggers. Some people may find changing their diet may help whereas others may find stress management techniques helpful."
Remember, it's always worth visiting your GP if you're concerned about any bodily changes.
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