Today I’m going to talk about bloating. Why? Because I think this is an important issue that affects so many people. And I’ve seen with my own eyes, the impact it can have on someone – not just physically (where you can actually see their tummy is swollen; making their clothes tight), but also mentally. It can have a dramatic, negative impact on your quality of life. Can you can relate to all this?
So today I’m going to cover…
- What is bloating
- What you can do to reduce bloating
- How to check your progress
This way you can learn what habits and foods may increase your symptoms, and what to do instead.
Let’s get into this…
What is Bloating?
Maybe seems like a silly question, but what we actually mean when we say we feel bloated, can mean different things to different people. It might be that, when we say we feel bloated, we really feel like we need to have a good fart, or we feel stuffed after eating a big meal.
Your tummy can feel swollen and uncomfortable. It can feel like you’re full, and it may or may not be painful too. It may also cause your tummy to actually get bigger (- you may have heard your doctor or other healthcare professional say “distended”). All this can impact on your self-confidence, what you wear, if you go out or not, and for some, it can affect their relationships. Is this you?
We can all feel bloated at times, regardless of if we suffer with IBS. But when you have IBS, your body can be more sensitive to the sensation of being bloated; making you more aware of this. And just because you have IBS doesn’t mean to say you get bloated.
Bloating may be associated with factors such as overeating and then feeling stuffed, constipation, excessive wind, your period (menstrual cycle), side effects of some medications, or a condition such as coeliac disease. Getting to the bottom of this can be helpful in working out the best way to manage it.
What Can I Do To Try To Reduce My Bloating
Firstly, you need to understand why you’re getting bloated. You could speak to your doctor about this. Or you could try to work this out for yourself or speak with a Dietitian for help.
Here’s a few things you could try (in no particular order of importance):
- Take your time to eat and chew your food well
- This can help reduce gulping in air when you eat
- And help you avoid overeating and then feeling stuffed
- Take up relaxation practices, such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga
- Symptoms can seem worse if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or worried about something (or it may be the impact of the symptoms stressing you out, so it’s like a “catch 22”), so taking steps to reduce these stresses and unhelpful feelings may help relieve your symptoms as well as benefit general wellbeing – check out this post on stress
- Make sure you don’t eat large meals or overeat
- Check out how much fibre is in your diet
- If you’re eating loads of fibre, then this may be causing your symptoms
- Or maybe you’ve recently increased the amount of fibre you eat? Because maybe you’ve seen in the media about the all health benefits of fibre, so decided to increase your intake. But if you didn’t do this gradually, then this may be behind your symptoms
- The type of fibre you’re eating may also be an issue for you – like if you’re eating loads of wholegrain products
- Check out my post on fibre here
- If you normally eat loads of beans and pulses, try avoiding these to see if you get any improvement
- Do you normally eat for example, sprouts and cauliflower – maybe try avoiding these
- Try avoiding fizzy drinks if you normally have these
- If you regularly eat sugar free chewing gum or mints and/or frequently use artificial sweeteners, then try avoiding these
- Try having porridge oats and linseeds – more info on linseeds here
- Speak with your doctor about ways to help manage your symptoms, such as medications or referral for psychological support
- Is it related to your period – try recording a “bloating diary” and see if this falls around the same time
- You could also try the low FODMAP diet, but don’t try this without the support of a Dietitian
How To Check Your Progress
It’s important to check your progress to know if you’ve improved or not. To do this, you need to know your starting point, so you can compare how things are going – otherwise you won’t really know if your changes have worked…unless the results are dramatically different that it’s so obvious!
- Starting point or “baseline assessment”
- Time to get out a note pad and pen. And keep it with you, so you can log things as you go! – it’s much easier (and more accurate!) than trying to remember everything from earlier that day or even from the day before!
- You need to record what your symptoms are like
- And it’s also handy to record what you’ve to had to eat and drink
- You may also want to record when you’re having your period to see if there’s any patterns
- After making changes
- After you’ve made a change, whether it be dietary, relaxation, exercise, medications, or whatever, you need to monitor your symptoms again
- Then compare your before and after symptoms – did you see any improvement? You’ll also need to give yourself enough time for signs of any improvement, as results may not be immediate and try not to get disheartened
I don’t want you to have an unnecessarily restricted diet, because 1), this could lead to inadequate nutrient intake and 2), it’ll be pretty boring for you!
For example, you think you eat a lot of fibre, so you cut out eating breads, cereal, potatoes, rice, pasta, nuts, vegetables and fruits. You find your symptoms have improved. Yippeee! Great stuff. But this doesn’t leave you much to eat! And. Do you continue with this because your symptoms are better, and you’re scared of getting them back. Or, do you try to work out exactly which food(s) are triggers for you? So, you need to try a food at a time – as otherwise how will you know which one helped! But also, you need to reintroduce foods back into your diet.
What Life Could Look Like Without Feeling Bloated
Imagine what your life could be like if you tried these tips and you realised your symptoms had improved!
Why not try making changes to your diet and lifestyle to see if it helps. Why not take action today, because you’ll be a step closer to getting your symptoms under control. If these don’t work or if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all and want support, then don’t struggle alone and get in touch.
Imagine knowing what your symptom triggers are and then feeling in control. Not your symptoms controlling you for once.
For argument sake, imagine that you love beans on toast on a Saturday morning. No work today. No rushing about to get the kids to school. Just nice and relaxed. Sitting at the table with a nice brew, eating the soggy toast that’s soaked up the bean juice, then mopping it all up with the last piece of toast. Yum. This is one of the foods you miss the most. But now you know beans are an issue for you, and today you have no intentions of going out – you’re just going to chill out and binge watch a few episodes on Netflix, so you’re happy to take the consequences this time, and actually, you’ve found your symptoms to beans aren’t so bad when you eat less than half a tin, like on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being horrendous, they’re only a 5, so you feel you can handle this. And you know you need to wear your “comfies” today.
- Bloating can be with or without visible swelling of your tummy, and it may also be very painful
- It can be associated with several factors, such as constipation, or your period
- Take time to understand your symptoms and what can bring them on, i.e. what are your triggers
- Record a food and symptom diary to track your progress
- Lifestyle, diet and medications can be helpful in managing bloating
- Speak with your doctor if you’re concerned about your symptoms, need help managing your IBS or haven’t yet been diagnosed
I hope you found this useful and will try these suggestions to see if your bloating improves. And why not share this post with your friends, family or colleagues who may also benefit.
Please be aware this is for general information only and isn’t a substitute for professional advice from a doctor or Dietitian.
There’s lots of information out there, some of which will be incorrect. For tailored dietary advice, I would always go to a Registered Dietitian, and not the likes of a Nutritional Therapist, “diet expert” or naturopath, who aren’t qualified to assess, diagnose and treat nutrition-related issues.
If you haven’t had a diagnosis of IBS or any other bowel condition, and maybe you’re suffering in silence, then please pluck up the courage to speak to your doctor.It’s wise not to self-diagnose. And definitely don’t go “Googling” your symptoms, as it might come back with loads of scary stuff, which could set you off on a worrying-spiral, and make you feel even worse.
This is another reason why you need to make sure you have a diagnosis of IBS, so they can rule out other conditions. Several conditions can have similar signs or symptoms but require different management or treatment.
Good luck and I truly hope things improve for you.