Stomach bloating is a very common occurrence – all of us will experience it at some point in our lives. It is that feeling of “fullness” or “pressure” in the abdomen that can make you feel weighted down. Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether the cause of a flabby belly is abdominal fat or abdominal bloating, but it is important to be able to differentiate the two, because abdominal exercises will never reduce bloating.
What causes bloating?
The most common reason for abdominal bloating is gas trapped in the small intestine. Gas and abdominal pains, especially after meals, are an indication of this problem. Doctors believe that bloating is usually the result of an intestinal disorder such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), usually also associated with diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits.
Here are some of the common causes of stomach bloating:
- Too much alcohol
- Too little proteins in the diet – proteins speed up the rate the food goes through the system
- Too much salt – even the smallest excess amount of sodium causes bloating
- Fizzy drinks – the carbon dioxide (bubbles) creates gas which increases the volume of the stomach and slows down its emptying
- Lactose intolerance – in this case the stomach cannot properly digest the lactose in dairy products, which leads to bloating
- Pre-menstrual tension – in this case, the symptoms should disappear once menstruation starts
- On-going stress
- Certain medicines, including the contraceptive pill
- Caffeine and smoking
- Last but not least, there are certain foods that cause bloating. These are: beans, vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels, broccoli, onions; fruits such as apples, peaches and pears and some dietetic foods that contain artificial sweeteners such as sugar-free candies and gum. Fatty foods also delay the process of emptying the stomach causing abdominal bloating.
Stomach bloating after eating is the most common symptom of IBS. If this abdominal bloating lasts for more than a couple of days up to a week, you may be suffering from chronic stomach bloating. You may be surprised to find that if you avoid the causes presented above, your problem will be solved without any additional efforts. Below you can find some tips that will help you flatten your stomach if you suffer from IBS.
How can you get rid of bloating?
Drink plenty of water! Water offers great bloating relief; it helps with digestion encouraging your body to flush out toxins and emptying the stomach. You should drink at least 2 liters of plain water or herbal tea a day (fennel, cinnamon, dill and sage teas are just some of the herbal remedies for bloating). Avoid fizzy drinks and drinks that have artificial sweeteners or caffeine.
Avoid the use of antibiotics. These antibiotics destroy the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract that are beneficial for the digestion of food. If you do have to take antibiotics, take B-complex vitamins with it, or drink yoghurt to protect these bacteria.
Avoid foods that are either too hot or too cold. Eating foods that have a temperature out of your comfort zone makes you unconsciously take in air. Very cold beverages and chewing gum can also make you swallow air that goes right to your stomach and bloats it.
Limit your salt and sugar intake: You may be taking in too much salt without even knowing it. Read the label of the products your buy and try to stick to low-sodium products. Also you may want to make healthier diet choices that will help your stomach look flatter (choose a fresh cucumber over a pickle or a baked potato over French fries).
Eat slowly! Take your time to chew or food! You’ll be helping your stomach break down the food faster and you’ll be swallowing less air.
No heavy meals at dinner time! A heavy meal, especially one that is not burnt for energy right away, encourages the buildup of acid which in turn leads to bloating.
Stomach bloating is a very common affection, usually caused by unhealthy eating habits. This problem can be corrected if you apply some healthy eating principles, and it usually doesn’t take a lot of effort to turn a flabby, bloated belly into a firm, flat tummy. However if bloating persists over a longer period of time, or gets worse in time, you should seek medical advice.