Bloating: we’ve all been there. It’s that oh-so-familiar, overly-stuffed feeling we get after one too many Maki rolls at all you can eat sushi. It makes our abdominal area feel puffy, swollen and uncomfortable—and for many of us, it’s something we experience on a fairly consistent basis.
Feeling bloated is something more people are experiencing these days, according to Naturopathic Doctor, Saira Kassam and Registered Dietitian, Trista Chan. As Wellness practitioners at HealthOne, they’ve had their fair share of clients—especially in the millennial age group—who are coming to them asking the same question: “Why am I always bloated?”
Experiencing bloating at the end of the day, or even after every meal, are both signs that your digestive system could need some extra attention and care. While it’s a frustrating problem to deal with, there are simple ways to get relief and decrease how often your stomach feels swollen and uncomfortable. We interviewed Saira and Trista to answer the most common questions they get about bloating!
What is bloating?
Let’s start with the basics by answering what bloating is (and what it isn’t). Bloating can feel different from person to person, but it’s generally characterized by a physical expansion in the stomach area.
“When I describe bloating, I describe abdominal extension,” Saira shares. “For many people it’s visible, and you can actually see your stomach expanding.”
Being full can leave you feeling bloated, but those physical changes often go away once your food digests completely. Bloating based on other underlying issues can last for hours, days, or months depending on the root cause. This is why finding and addressing the reason for your bloating is such a necessary step if it’s something you experience frequently.
Why am I so bloated?
Too many Maki rolls might leave you loosening your waistband after lunch, but if you feel bloated all of the time, there are several things that could be causing it.
- The way you eat.
“For bloating, the most common cause is chewing too quickly and overeating,” Saira says. These days, many people are working from home and rarely take the time to eat mindfully throughout the day.
If you eat while you’re distracted (think: in front of the TV or a computer), there’s a good chance you could be doing both of these things. "Eating quickly can also cause the ingestion of air, and eating in a stressed manner can actually inhibit your enzymes from being released so you’re not optimally digesting your food, which will cause bloating,” Saira adds.
Many of us experience high levels of stress on the regular, so don’t feel bad if distracted eating is something you find yourself doing. We’re all human! Although it can be hard to make mindful eating a priority, doing so can greatly improve how your digestive system functions. We’ll be sharing some useful tips you can start using today later on in this blog post.
- The types of foods you’re eating.
Another reason why you could be experiencing frequent bloating is due to the types of foods that you eat. Trista Chan, our Dietitian, notes that legumes and pulses can be triggers for many people. Common names of these that you’re likely more familiar with include beans, lentils, and peas.
If you’re a big fan of plant-based proteins, you don’t necessarily have to rid them from your diet. Trista notes that not everyone who experiences bloating is sensitive to legumes and pulses, and if you are, the way you react can depend on the portion and cooking method you use.
“In general, lentils bloat the least. You can also try double soaking the legumes for a few hours before cooking to further release the bloat,” she adds.
Other foods that may cause bloating include cruciferous vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, but you can always try cooking them to break down some of the fibres. Finally, onions and garlic are also bloating triggers for a lot of people.“If you find they bloat you, you can try switching to garlic oil instead,” Trista recommends. The best way to know if you have a food trigger? Eliminate it from your diet for 2 weeks, see if your symptoms improve, and re-introduce and monitor symptoms.
- Because of an underlying infection.
Can you guess which part of your body is referred to as the “second brain”? If you guessed the gut, you’re absolutely correct. The gut microbiome is an incredibly complex system composed of different types of microbes. The balance of these microbes (including bacteria, viruses, archaea and eukaryotes) can play a big role when it comes to digestive dysfunction.
An underlying infection in your gut microbiome is another possible cause of bloating. A GI-MAP stool test, like the one available through our Naturopathic Doctor, can identify whether or not any imbalances are present.
“It’s a comprehensive DNA-based test that tells us a lot about what’s happening in the gut,” explains Saira. “It looks into parasites, viral pathogens, tells us about fungi and yeast overgrowth, overgrowth of H pylori, lacking commensal bacteria, and dysbiosis growth.”
In the event that testing identifies an infection in your gut, that’s where health professionals can come into play and help you treat the root cause directly. It’s time to say improve your constant bloating once and for all!
What helps with bloating?
There are lots of ways to reduce your bloating symptoms, but it’s important to have a realistic mindset going into things. “You can definitely target and significantly reduce your bloating, however, it’s important to have realistic expectations,” says Trista.
Bloating can be something that you may deal with on and off throughout life, she adds. As our environments, stress triggers and food supply may change throughout life, so may your digestive symptoms.
With that said, here are some short-term and long-term strategies you can use to find relief!
- Chewing 15-20 times before swallowing.
- Mindful eating. “Focus on the meal instead of working or doing other things,” Saira suggests.
- Taking probiotics and targeted supplements. Both of our Wellness practitioners can guide you in the right direction!
The 4-7-8 breathing technique. This technique can help you get into the parasympathetic mode, aka the rest and digest phase, which can help to alleviate bloating. Try inhaling through your nose for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling through your mouth for 8 seconds. Doing this before eating can help you stay focused and more present. For a more detailed step-by-step explanation of 4-7-8 breathing, click here.
Identifying the root cause by working with a professional.
Both Trista and Saira can improve your bloating by helping to identify what the root cause is. Next, they work to create a unique treatment plan for your needs to address the root cause of your bloating head-on.
As a Registered Dietitian, Trista can help you by first taking a look at your diet and lifestyle. Indicators such as what you eat, when you eat it, your portion sizes and how you feel from your nutrition are all important factors that she takes into consideration. She gets patients to fill out a food symptom journal for 2 weeks and then works to provide personalized tips based on the findings.
Examples of recommendations that Trista could make include finding alternative food options, mindful eating tips, or recommendations of probiotics to further support your gut health.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, Saira can help you by first taking a look at your diet and nutrition. She asks targeted questions about your current behaviours and lifestyle, then gives you recommendations to follow to see if that reduces how often you experience bloating. If the issues still persist, she moves onto deeper testing (like the GI Map stool test) or a food sensitivity test to get a better look at your gut health.
Based on your needs, treatment from our Naturopathic Doctor may include a natural antimicrobial, lifestyle management, or supplements throughout a 6-week period. She might also recommend removing food sensitivities for a 3-month period to see if your symptoms improve.
When should I be worried about bloating?
Both of our Wellness practitioners can help you reduce your symptoms of bloating and start feeling better in your day-to-day experience. But when do you know if it’s time to visit a professional? Is frequent bloating something that you should really be worried about?
Like Trista mentioned, it’s unrealistic to think you’ll go your entire life without experiencing bloating here and there. After a large Thanksgiving feast or during a week you’re particularly stressed, you shouldn’t be alarmed to feel the “abdominal expansion” that many of us know all too well.
But if you feel bloating that’s worse at the end of the day, or find yourself bloated after every meal, it’s a sign you should definitely come in, according to Saira. You should also keep an eye out for pain in the abdominal region as well as gas after eating to the point that it makes you uncomfortable to eat around people or be around people. These are typically all a prelude to something happening in the gut.
Still not sure if your bloating is bad enough to visit a professional? HealthOne has you covered. Both Trista and Saira offer complimentary Meet & Greet appointments where you can discuss your concerns and possible treatment options before booking an initial appointment.
We would love the opportunity to discuss how we can get you on the path to better gut health so you can live a more inspired life!
One Life. Life Inspired.