Does this sound familiar? You wake in the morning feeling great with a nice flat belly, but by the evening your gut is swollen and aching, or at the very least uncomfortable and tight? Is bloating a problem for you? It is for many people. Chances are if you answered ‘yes’ then you’re probably a woman, with about one in three women experiencing abdominal bloating. But,while bloating is more common for women it’s also a problem for many men. For some unlucky people, bloating is a constant and serious problem. However, there are many natural remedies for bloating.
CAUSES OF BLOATING
There are many causes of bloating. Sometimes it’s simply the result of overeating. But if it happens regularly it could be due to any of the following:
- Food allergies
- Food intolerance
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Gas-producing foods
- Swallowing air (aerophagia)
- Intestinal parasites
- Menstruation, period pain, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Diverticulosis, Splenic-Flexure Syndrome, partial bowel obstruction
- Visceral fat
After eating or drinking gases are produced in the colon. Normally they move through the gut where they’re mostly absorbed or they’re passed out of the body. But if the gas gets trapped along the way then discomfort and distension occurs. Sometimes bloating can be so severe that it makes you suddenly look pregnant.
STRESS AND BLOATING
A big problem and sometimes the cause of bloating is STRESS. When you’re stressed your gut doesn’t work properly. When your body goes into ‘fight or flight mode’ the digestive system closes down. If you’re living with ongoing stress your body stays in a prolonged state of ‘high alert’, as do all the digestive repercussions.
If you can’t remove the stress from your life then you need to introduce practices to break the stressful state apart. These practices could include yoga, meditation, walking the labyrinth, deep breathing, tai chi, exercise, relaxing music, walking. In fact whatever it is that relaxes and calms you will create the result you want.
Importantly you need to make the commitment to continue the activity on a regular basis.
HORMONES AND BLOATING
Bloating can be the result of gynaecological problems and often related to the hormonal cycle. Together with constipation it’s often worse right before periods when hormonal activity is high. HRT can also contribute to bloating in older women.
Isolating the offending cause of bloating can become further complicated when something as seemingly innocuous as calcium supplements may cause bloating in some people. The range of causes can be diverse and a complicated mix from a number of different sources.
FOODS AND BLOATING
Foods often cause bloating, with food intolerance probably being the biggest cause. Food intolerance is often very difficult to identify, especially if there;s more than one single food involved. Symptoms don’t always show up immediately after eating the food and may take days to become evident.
Problem Foods For Bloating
Problem foods often come from these groups:
- Vegetables – Onions and garlic, and brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale)
- Dairy foods – milk, cheese, ice-cream, and foods containing milk solids
- Grains – wheat, corn (including popcorn)
- Fruits – such as apples, peaches and pears
- Sweets – hard candy, chewing gum
- Highly spiced foods
- Carbonated drinks and champagne
Processed foods are high in bloating-promoting ingredients and can lead to bloating. Fructose, one such ingredient, is often added to processed foods.
Fructose intolerance is a problem affecting more and more people. The FODMAP diet can really help those with fructose intolerance. However it needs to be done under the supervision of a practitioner as it varies a little from one individual to another and can be very complicated to put together.
Salt can be a problem, particularly in highly processed foods as it can cause or worsen bloating and water retention. It’s far better to avoid processed foods and to use other seasonings in your cooking.
PROBLEM FOODS FOR BLOATING
Gluten, lactose and fructose intolerance are the three most common causes of bloating in my clients. If you believe one of these is behind your problem eliminate it completely for a week and watch the effect. But these ingredients are often hidden, for instance gluten is present in many medications.
Lactose, sorbitol and wheat as well as vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and onions can cause increased gas production. But the underlying problem is usually that your digestive tract isn’t contracting properly. When this occurs gas gets trapped in the digestive tract and leads to gurgling and bloating.
Avoiding problem foods helps lessen symptoms. But in the long term it’s better to fix the problem at a deeper level and that’s where natural remedies for bloating can help.
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR BLOATING
There are a number of Homeopathic remedies that stimulate the gut so it starts contracting properly and then keeps on working efficiently. Using homeopathy for bloating is a bit like a ‘re-training’ for the gastrointestinal tract.
There are pre-mixed homeopathic remedies for general gut issues. However you’ll get best results under the care of a fully trained Homeopath who’ll select a remedy to match your specific symptoms. Homeopathic remedies should be selected and taken according to homeopathic prescribing guidelines.
Herbs are another natural option that can help bloating. Peppermint is well-known for its soothing effect on the digestive system. However it’s not great for everybody. While it works like a treat for many people about 40% actually experience a worsening of their symptoms and so are better avoiding peppermint altogether. Other mints are also helpful.
Ginger is another good digestive herb that might help you.
Fennel is probably the most effective herbal digestive aid and relieves gas magnificently as well as reducing bloating and cramps. Either chew fennel seeds or drink fennel tea.
Teas are one of the easiest and best ways to take herbs at home. You can make your own herbal teas or buy one ready blended containing fennel. Select a brand that specialises in therapeutic herbal teas.
It is easy to make your own Fennel Tea, simply crush one teaspoon of fennel seeds and add to a cup of water. Bring to the boil, cover and steep for ten to fifteen minutes. Cool and strain. Drink two to three cups each day.
Try the herbal tea out and if you don’t get a positive response try a different herb instead. My favourite digestive tea contains cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, peppercorn and spearmint amongst other ingredients, which are all digestive aids.
Taking probiotics, bifidus and acidopholus, can be helpful. They repopulate your gut with ‘good bacteria’. They help redress the imbalance between ‘good’ and ‘bad bacteria’ that often accompanies bloating. Look for a reputable brand from your health food shop, one that is for ‘practitioner dispensing only’ is the better choice.
There can be insufficient enzymes in the small intestine. In this case Digestive Enzymes can be a great help in breaking down the gas-forming foods. They are available over the counter.
Activated charcoal can help to relieve gas and bloating. Take it before and after meals. But don’t use it if you’re taking the contraceptive pill or other medications and don’t use it long term.
Essential Oils are great for symptoms due to stress. Choose from peppermint, orange, rose, cinnamon and basil oils. Alternatively buy a stress-relieving or balancing blend from your health food shop.
EXERCISE FOR BLOATING
Certain exercises can help when the pain of bloating is really bad.
- Rolling a soft ball over your abdomen can help move the gas along the digestive tract.
- Lie on your back and hug one leg to your chest while keeping the other flat on the floor. Hold for the count of 20. Then repeat with the other leg. Doing this at least five times may alleviate symptoms.
- Five minutes of deep abdominal breathing is one of the best ways to get some relief. This is a good practice to adopt every day whether you’re bloated or not.
YOUR HAPPY GUT CHECK LIST
- Maintain a healthy diet, keep regular eating patterns and don’t skip meals. Eat slowly and chew everything well.
- Avoid problematic foods from the list above.
- Increase your water intake and cut back alcohol which irritates the gut
- Replace white wheat bread with different grains such as rye or spelt, or even gluten-free. Broaden the range of grains you consume
- Avoid dairy products as many people are actually lactose intolerant
- Combat your symptoms with natural remedies
- Reduce your stress
- Limit sugar intake especially fructose found in fruits and juices
Persistent chronic bloating can be a symptom of intestinal blockage or more sinister diseases such as ovarian cancer or uterine fibroids. Get checked out by your doctor particularly if you also have unexplained weight loss or gain.
It’s becoming more widely recognised that many serious health problems stem from problems with the gut not functioning well. Keeping your digestive system working happily really is fundamental to maintaining good health.
Natural remedies for bloating are a simple and effective way to get relief
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All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.