What Causes Bloating?
Bloating, gas, and cramping are common digestive issues that many people experience. Some studies show that chronic bloating affects up to 96% of patients with gastrointestinal disorders—and that’s not even including the general population. In fact, 15-30% of the general American population suffers from regular bloating.
Bloating happens to the best of us, but that definitely doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.
It’s important for people to understand the reasons why bloating occurs, in order to make lifestyle choices and diminish the effects of this pesky condition. If you’re curious about the reasons for this digestive discomfort, read on to learn what causes bloating.
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What is Bloating?
Before we can jump into the causes of bloating, let’s start with a crash course in digestion 101.
What is bloating? Well, it’s essentially a broad term that covers a number of different bodily processes. Bloating refers to the issue of a full, tight-feeling stomach. Oftentimes this problem occurs shortly after meals, although that isn’t always the case. When the body is bloated, this is typically a sign that something is wrong. More specifically, bloating means that something is trapped inside the digestive system—most oftentime gas.
The symptoms of bloating are fairly easy to spot, particularly:
- “Belly bloat” or Bloated gut, abdominal swelling or having an enlarged, round abdomen that appears much more full than usual
- Abdominal pain, Intestinal gas, excessive or painful gas that doesn’t relieve the bloating
- Pain or cramping in the stomach or intestines
- Digestive issues like lack of bowel movement / constipation, or hard/small bowel movements
Bloating can be easy to spot, but difficult to fix if you don’t know why it’s happening.
Since bloating has a wide variety of causes, we’ll need to break down each one individually. So, without further ado, let’s move on to the main reasons as to what causes bloating in the stomach.
Inflammation in the GI Tract
As is the case with many bodily ailments, inflammation can also be the culprit of painful bloating and gas. Here’s why:
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to intruders. While inflammation can be helpful in healing a wound or fighting off an illness, those with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts may experience unnecessary inflammation following a meal. Gastritis is a term that refers to a variety of conditions that cause inflammation of the stomach lining, some of which may be the cause of bloating.
Whether you’re experiencing a food sensitivity or food intolerance (such as lactose intolerance, celiac disease, or IBS), a reaction to a medication, or stress, gastritis can lead to inflammation in the stomach and ultimately appear in the form of bloating and cramping.
There are a number of ways to treat inflammation in the stomach, particularly increasing your intake of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods. This can help ease the body’s inflammatory response and allow for healthy digestion and reduce bloating.
Lack of Good Bacteria
Another reason you may be experiencing bloating is due to an imbalance of helpful gut bacteria.
Bacteria often get a bad rap, due to the fact that many strains—like E. coli and salmonella—can cause severe food poisoning and lead to vomiting and diarrhea. It’s important to understand, however, that the biggest enemy of bad bacteria is ample amounts of good bacteria.
That’s right, the GI tract needs certain strains of bacteria in order to break down food, fight off illness, and absorb nutrients. Specifically, strains in the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are going to provide the most benefits in terms of reducing bloating and aiding digestion. Certain types of yeast, like Saccharomyces boulardii can also contribute to healthy microbiota in the gut. Read our page about ‘what are probiotics’ to learn more.
Probiotics can be added to your diet in a number of ways. Foods that contain active cultures—like greek yogurt, kombucha, and kefir—are helpful in balancing the gastrointestinal bacteria. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to eat enough of these ingredients to achieve results on a daily basis. This is why many people opt for probiotic supplements, which contain billions of active cultures, in order to fulfill their daily value of good bacteria and keep the digestive system running smoothly.
Certain foods can also contribute to bloating, even if you don’t suffer from a sensitivity or intolerance to them.
What foods cause bloating, commonly?
- Beans and lentils – Beans and lentils are healthy sources of fiber and protein, but it’s important to eat these ingredients in moderate amounts. These foods contain sugars known as galactosides, a specific type of carbohydrate that have a prebiotic effect and can be fermented by bifidobacteria in the colon. Soaking and cooking pulses can significantly reduce their galactosides concentrations and increase digestibility. There is also evidence that an increased tolerability to pulses can be developed with time. Considering the beneficial effects of pulses on the gut microbiota and on the overall digestion, gradually increasing their consumption could be a good alternative to reduce bloating.
- Cruciferous vegetables – Another essential part of a balanced diet, cruciferous vegetables—like cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage—contain ample amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as folate. These veggies can also provide anti-inflammatory properties which may actually aid in reducing bloating. With this in mind, it’s also important to note that an excessive amount of cruciferous vegetables can cause bloating and gas. This is because of the high sulfur and fiber content they contain. Of course, some gas is a perfectly normal part of the digestive process—it means your body is breaking down the food properly. To prevent bloating, you may want to start with smaller portions and increase gradually to prevent any unwanted symptoms.
- Carbonated beverages – Carbonation is another common culprit of gas and bloating, particularly for beverages with high amounts of sugar. The gas trapped inside the bubbles of carbonated beverages can expand in the guut, and lead to the visible side effects of bloating—this may feel more like upper abdominal bloating.
Consuming some processed foods or even chewing gum can cause stomach bloating. Be sure to avoid some of these foods if you are experiencing persistent bloating.
The final item on our list is much less common, but may be a serious concern for those with chronic bloating. Gastroparesis is a condition that affects about one in every 100,000 people—with a four times higher prevalence in women than men.
This condition is marked by its unique effect on the involuntary muscles of the stomach. When you have gastroparesis, the muscles in your stomach that break down food are slowed down or paralyzed altogether. Lack of muscular movement in the stomach can prevent proper digestion and bowel movements, which means food can easily become trapped inside and lead to bloating, nausea, and cramping.
Certain risk factors for gastroparesis include:
- Nervous system conditions, like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.
- Chronic use of pain medications
- Surgery of the stomach or intestines
Since this cause of bloating is particularly rare, those who suffer from it should seek medical advice from their doctor in order to find a treatment plan that will work best.
Beat the Bloat with Bio-K+®
Nobody likes feeling bloated, but having a proper balance of probiotics can help keep this discomfort at bay.
Here at Bio-K+®, it’s our mission to bring you the highest quality probiotic supplements. Our drinkables and capsules contain billions of active cultures to help balance the gut’s microbiota, aid digestion, and prevent painful bloating in the GI tract.
In addition to a good diet and proper hydration, Bio-K+® products can also be used in your healthy lifestyle by helping support your gut. Our probiotic bacteria, Lacticaseibacillus casei LBC80R, Lacticaseibacillys rhamnosus CLR2 and Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285 work together to keep you feeling balanced, comfortable, and bloat-free.
Ditch the discomfort, and add Bio-K+® to your daily routine.
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