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What Causes Bloating?

Most people experience abdominal bloating at some time during their lives. This may be during a bout of food poisoning, following antibiotic treatment, or after a heavy meal. For some, however, bloating can be more than an isolated event and becomes an uncomfortable daily battle of a swollen, tight abdomen, which is often painful and sore.

1. Food choices can be a common cause of bloating. Consuming a food that your body is not well-equipped to break down may result in gas production, fluid retention, and abdominal bloating. Digestive enzymes may help improve the breakdown of macronutrients. For others, you may benefit from identifying foods that your immune system is reacting to via an IgG Food Sensitivity Test and modify the diet accordingly. Common food sensitivities or intolerances are dairy, eggs, gluten, and soy.

2. Altered Gut Microflora. The digestive tract ( gut ) contains a delicate balance microorganisms that are important for the breakdown of food and the maintenance of a healthy digestive system, amongst other things. Changes in the balance of microorganisms in the gut can cause fermentation and gas production (such as methane), leading to abdominal bloating and pain. In some cases, a patient may benefit from a course of antimicrobial herbs such as Allium sativum or Hydrastis canadensis to eradicate unhealthy gut microflora, as well as an appropriate probiotic or prebiotic to help restore the delicate balance.

3. IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is often characterized by abdominal bloating (along with constipation and/or diarrhea). Altered gut motility can impair the transit and evacuation of intestinal gas, thereby contributing to gas build-up and abdominal bloating. IBS patients may also experience greater sensitivity to gut tissue being stretched, thereby increasing the perception of pain. In supporting patients with IBS, a Naturopath will consider food sensitivities, including FODMAPS, as well as the relationship between the nervous system and the gut. This may involve herbal medicines such as Matricaria recutita or Melissa officinalis, or nutritional medicine such as magnesium and B vitamins, to support the nervous system and improve gut motility.

4. Pre Menstrual Syndrome (PMS). Many women experience some form of PMS, including bloating and fluid retention, before and during menstruation. This is due to changes in hormone levels such as estrogen – and especially progesterone – which can relax smooth muscle tissue and slow digestion.

5. Swallowing air (via talking or gulping while eating) and the consumption of carbonated drinks can both contribute to the build-up of carbon dioxide in the upper gut and increase the sense of fullness and bloating.

In part two of our blog series, we’ll talk more about how our skilled Naturopath, Kathleen McFarlane can help patients affected by bloating with the use of natural remedies. For more information, please contact us.