Beating That Bloated Feeling
Everyone gets bloated from time to time. These tips can help you beat the discomfort of gas.
You may be surprised to find out that our bodies do not produce gas on their own. There are two basic sources of gas:
- Swallowed air. This includes air from carbonated beverages, and usually leads to belching.
- Bacteria. The gas that creates flatulence is made by bacteria; these live normally and healthfully in our colons and convert undigested sugars into gas.
Cutting Down on BloatingNot to blame the victim, but your bloated belly is largely, yes, your own fault. What you eat or drink, and how you eat or drink it, causes the gas and discomfort you want to avoid.
Here are the essential steps to avoiding bloating:
- Look out for raffinose. This is a sugar found in broccoli and beans. We can’t absorb or digest it, but our healthy bacteria love to turn it into gas. “There is an enzyme that can break down this sugar, but it’s not highly effective,” notes Stephen Hanauer, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the section of gastroenterology and nutrition at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
- Respect lactose intolerance. “Women or men who are sensitive to lactose, the sugar in milk, will also notice more bloating,” says Dr. Hanauer. You may want to find alternatives to the dairy products that are causing you discomfort. However, yogurt is usually well tolerated.
- Avoid simple carbohydrates and sugars. This includes sweets such as candy and cookies.
- Eat slowly. Eating quickly can lead to swallowing air, which causes bloating and gas.
- Don’t use a straw. Each sip draws air (from the upper part of the straw) into your mouth which is swallowed. This creates the same problem as eating quickly.
- Avoid carbonated beverages. The bubbles in these drinks are gasses.
- Cut back on artificial sweeteners. For some people, these may contribute to gas and bloating. Check labels of foods labeled sugar-free — ingredients called "sugar alcohols" can be a particular problem.
- Go low- or no-fructose. Fructose is a natural sugar that is found in fruits, honey, and some vegetables. Foods with higher levels of fructose may create more bloating for some people. High-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient found in many processed foods and sweetened beverages, is also a likely contributor to discomfort for some.
- Take notes. Bloating is a highly individual response. While there are some likely suspects, you should take careful note of the foods, drinks, and situations that seem to give rise to your discomfort.
If bloating is particularly frustrating, you may be tempted to avoid otherwise healthy fiber entirely. This is not a good idea for your overall health, says Hanauer. “If you avoid fiber, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to get more constipated,” he says.
Instead, if you have tried all these suggestions and you still can’t identify the cause of bloating in your life, you may need to talk to an expert. “It’s helpful to meet with a dietitian to identify the simple carbs that patients are not recognizing,” he explains.
Bloating or Sensitivity?For a small number of people, the problem may not be actual gas but their perception of gas. “When we measure the actual amount of gas in the intestine of people who complain of bloating, it’s no different [than] other people,” says Hanauer. “What’s happening is they feel it more.”
If you suspect that sensitivity to gas is your problem, you may want to meet with a gastroenterologist to find out how you can manage this heightened sense of discomfort.
Beating the bloat is within your reach, as long as you understand what is probably causing your bloating and discomfort.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Digestive Health Center.