6 Reasons Why You’re Bloated
Bloating refers to the feeling of fullness, tightness, or swelling in the abdomen caused by an accumulation of gas or water retention in the digestive system. It is a common and often uncomfortable symptom that many people experience that may occur due to a number of different reasons.
Here Gabi Zaromskyte, a registered nutritionist and founder of Honestly Nutrition, does a deep dive into what could be bloating your belly and how you can feel more comfortable.
Not eating enough, or dieting leads to a decreased speed at which food moves down the GI tract, contributing to less frequent bowel movements. This can result in constipation, which can cause bloating. Instead of basing your eating habits on set macros and calories, try eating more intuitively.
- Restricting food groups
Restricting food groups or not eating a wide range of plant foods in general leads to reduced gut microbiome diversity. Dietary diversity is extremely important for overall health. This is particularly relevant when following a low-carb diet, as carbohydrates contain fibre, which works wonders for the gut. In terms of GI symptoms, reduced fibre intake leads to a smaller gut microbiome diversity. This means that you may not have the necessary metabolites to help digest certain foods, hence the constant bloating.
Widen your dietary variety by including at least 30 different plant foods a week, including vegetables and fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, as well as different combinations of herbal tea. Eat the rainbow – aim for your plate to be rich in bright colours.
A common mistake is getting frightened by the bloat once more foods are reintroduced and going back to a restrictive diet, concluding that you are intolerant or sensitive to those foods. What you need to do instead is reintroduce foods in small amounts, so the gut can repopulate with the necessary bacteria needed to aid digestion. Think of it as a baby’s gut learning to accept and get used to new foods. It takes time, so be patient. The bloating, cramps and general discomfort will go away eventually.
- Intentional Detox
Detox happens naturally in the body and if the body is healthy and the organs responsible for the detoxification processes are healthy, the body doesn’t need any help detoxing. However, if you’re in detox mode trying to get as many greens and vegetables as possible, you may be increasing your fibre intake too quickly. This also applies to a general change in diet when more fibre is introduced. To avoid bloating, increase your fibre intake gradually and drink more water as you’re eating more fibrous foods to avoid constipation.
- Relying on Diet or Low-Calorie Foods
Low-calorie and sugar-free foods contain sweeteners, which can be the culprit of your bloat. Have a look at the ingredient labels and look out for sweeteners, particularly those ending in -ol. Also limit fizzy drinks, fruit juices and smoothies and avoid gulping down your liquids fast or drinking through a straw, as this may lead to swallowing air and in turn, bloating.
- Messy Eating Habits
Eating while scrolling and walking at the same time, eating and driving, or watching TV are all signs that there is a lack of mindfulness in your eating habits, which may also mean you are probably eating faster than you realise, which can result in bloating. Eat slowly – set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Avoid screens and other distractions and do your best to be mindful when eating. If this is new to you, it can be hard at first. Chew well and avoid eating on the go. You need to rest to digest and not be in flight mode and this is why staying rested after a meal to allow relaxation for good digestion can be helpful.
- On-going Unmanaged Stress
Stress is known to be the culprit of multiple GI symptoms and even a factor in gastrointestinal disorders. Starting a mindfulness practice might be a good idea if you don’t already have one to help manage your stress. Start with daily meditation and 3 things you’re grateful for if you’re new to this. Exercise is another great way to release negative energy and load it with uplifting endorphins.
Also, light movements like walking, Pilates or yoga can help to maintain the parasympathetic nervous system activated, which is responsible for rest and digestion. Twisting yoga poses can also help reduce bloating and gas.
Don’t forget: It’s important to remember that bloating is a normal part of the digestive process. The digestive system naturally produces and releases gas as a result of breaking down food and fermenting certain substances in the gut. However, excessive or chronic bloating may indicate an underlying issue that requires medical attention.