Gas and bloating are two of the top complaints when it comes to dietary issues. Do you find that you always have a lot of gas after eating, or that your stomach feels so distended after a meal that it could burst?
The thing is, the term “bloat” can mean different things to different people. While some would say that yes, they would say they feel bloated if they are experiencing either of these symptoms, others see bloating as purely an appearance thing – like when you say you’re having a “food baby” when you look a little pregnant after eating.
Causes of Bloat
Unfortunately, because of the wide range of symptoms that bloating covers, it is often difficult for doctors to properly diagnose your condition without you providing them with more detail. To a doctor, bloat means that you either have trapped gas or a legitimate abdominal distension (the pregnancy look), so if neither of these is true, then you and your doctor need to work together to figure out what’s causing you so much trouble.
If you’ve been thin all of your life and you are suddenly noticing that your belly looks more “pregnant” lately, then you may just be carrying excess belly fat. Your body may have just decided that it has some extra fat, and that’s where it’s going to store it.
But why your belly, of all of the places on your body? Well, for one thing, do you drink alcohol or smoke? Interestingly, cigarettes can determine where your body stores fat, and for some reason, they tend to prefer your belly.
The same goes for chronic drinkers, though this tends to be more common in men than women. And don’t let the term “beer gut” fool you – it’s not just beer that can lead to excess belly fat, but any alcohol you drink.
Let’s not forget about your body type here, either. You know how everyone can react differently to the same amount of alcohol based on their body type, and the same goes for fat storage; some people’s bodies deposit their fat in the hips, others the belly. It’s just how your individual body chooses to react to the stimulus.
Does your belly get really rock-solid and uncomfortable, or do you experience abdominal pain, only for it to all go away the moment you have a bowel movement? If so, then constipation may very well be the cause of your bloat.
Constipation happens when gas in the intestinal tract (normal, not excessive) gets trapped behind slower-moving feces. Then, that whole conglomerate moves through your intestines at a much slower rate, so you can probably better understand a) why you’re in pain and b) why that pain courses through your entire body – slowly – before you can finally feel any relief.
Poor carbs, always getting a bad rap. But here, carbohydrates can actually be a legitimate cause for your chronic belly bloat.
You’ll know you have bloat related to carbohydrates if you feel perfectly fine after eating breakfast, but then you end up feeling worse as the day goes on. Like, you’ll need to undo the top button of your pants by lunchtime, and you only feel better after a full night’s sleep – only to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
You may have heard of celiac disease, but you may not be able to recognize its symptoms. A clear sign that you may be suffered from an undiagnosed case is when you look seven to nine months pregnant after eating a particular food. You may either be suffering from celiac disease, or you may be wheat or gluten intolerant.
If you have bloating caused by celiac disease, then this too can cause constipation. It can also be accompanied by terrible-smelling flatulence and/or diarrhea, so if these symptoms sound familiar, then it is quite possible that this is the culprit of your bloat.
If you have bloat related to either acid reflux or dyspepsia, then you are probably experiencing more discomfort in your upper belly, rather than in your lower half.
You may feel overly full and/or nauseated after eating a typical meal. You may also burp excessively within an hour or so of eating. These are all signs that you may be suffering from acid reflux or dyspepsia, which is just a fancier way of saying “indigestion.”
Now that you have some idea of what may be causing your bloat, here are some suggestions as to how you can go about treating it.
Obviously, the best way to treat excess belly fat is to lose the weight, but one thing you should definitely steer clear of is diets that claim to specifically burn belly fat. You can’t just burn belly fat alone, and any diet that claims to help you do that is misleading at best, and flat-out lying at worst.
Your best bet is to cut out the junk food, start eating right, and exercise – it’s a classic plan, but it works. Eventually, you will begin to shed the fat and build muscle, and your body will take a little bit from everywhere in order to do it – including your belly.
It may seem like you aren’t losing any belly fat at all at first, but be patient. Some folks can lose (and gain) fat easier in some places than in others. It might also help you to keep a food journal so you can keep track of what you eat and what you need to change.
The best way to deal with constipation is, of course, adding more fiber to your diet. The trick, though, is to add it gradually – too much fiber too quickly can actually make your condition worse.
You also want to stick to food options that will give you an uptick in fiber while reducing the amount of gas it could cause. So you’ll want to stick to the kind of fiber you get from fruits and vegetables, as well as bran and seeds, rather than inulin, which is the type of fiber you get from fiber-enriched, processed cereals and snacks.
You may think that the best way to reduce your carbs is to go on one of those fancy, low-carb diets that you’ve heard so much about. In actuality, your best shot at reducing your bloat from carbs is to see which carb, in particular, might be causing your bloat.
Do you eat a lot of sugar, like sugar-coated cereals or donuts, for breakfast? Do you opt for sugar alcohols, like the kind you find in either lower or no sugar added foods? You could also be experiencing discomfort from dietary fiber.
If you figure out the one food that’s causing your problem, then you don’t have to sacrifice everything you love – just that one particular food, and maybe only in larger quantities. Smaller quantities of that food may be a-okay by your digestive system.
Certainly, you should see a doctor if you think you may be suffering from celiac disease in order to receive a proper diagnosis. Normally, it takes about a day or two for your belly to go back down to normal size after eating what is referred to as the “trigger” food. Then, you just need to figure out what that “trigger” food is.
Luckily, finding out if you have celiac disease is as easy as getting a simple blood test done. From there, you can work with your doctor and/or dietician to decide on a diet that works best for you.
Rather than popping a Tums every time you want to enjoy a hearty meal, there are other ways to mitigate acid reflux and indigestion. Whether or not acid is present will determine how to change your eating habits.
If you do experience acid after eating, you can try to limit your consumption of carbonated drinks, like sodas and seltzer waters, as these can actually make your stomach more acidic. You also want to be sure not to overeat, since the more you eat, the more acids you need to break down the food in your stomach.
If acid is not a problem for you and it’s just an overall feeling of discomfort, then you can try drinking seltzer water with your meal, as the carbonation will encourage burping, which relieves pressure in the stomach. Just don’t rely on it too much, or you’ll encourage your stomach to produce more acid, and then the acid will become an additional problem.
Of course, you can also opt for smaller portions since that is a lot less work for your stomach to have to do in the end, and it will thank you for it by doing its job without making you sick.
Do you regularly experience bloating? Have you figured out what has been causing it? What have you changed about your regular diet and habits to counteract its symptoms? Let us know in the comments.