Bloating is a common type of discomfort experienced at the abdominal area. The direct cause of bloated stomach symptoms is the accumulation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. While gas is produced normally during the digestive process, it can build up and cause bloating when other conditions (such as constipation) block the gas from being released easily.
The feeling of being bloated is often uncomfortable, and can cause the belly to swell. This is a temporary and common symptom that most people experience every once in a while. However, some medical conditions can also lead to frequent, chronic bloating.
If you have been experiencing bloating with or without constipation symptoms, here are some suggestions of things you can do to find relief:
- Get moving
It might sound deceptively simple, but sometimes all you need to do is get some exercise. Physical activity helps the bowels move, which can promote the release of gas and stool. It doesn’t need to be rigorous exercise, either. Taking a walk in your neighbourhood often works wonders. You can also try low-impact exercises like yoga.
- Relax in a warm bath
As with most tummy woes, a warm bath is always a comforting remedy. The relief is not just skin deep, either. The heat is effective in relaxing the abdominal muscles as well as reducing stress, which contributes to more ease in passing gas, relieving bloating, and relieving abdominal pain.
- Take some gas relief pills
If you need quick relief and other home remedies do not work, popping a dose of gas relief pills works as well. There are plenty of over-the-counter capsules for gas relief, and some are combination drugs that also relieve other symptoms like diarrhoea or constipation. As always, make sure to follow the dosage instructions.
- Increase fibre intake gradually
Bloating due to constipation can be relieved by increasing fibre intake. Dietary fibre promotes healthy bowel movements. However, fibre must be introduced gradually, as consuming too much fibre at once can aggravate gas and bloating symptoms.
- Identify the underlying cause
For frequent bloating episodes, the best course of action is to identify the underlying cause and address it. Most cases of bloating can be attributed to diet, so keeping a food journal can help to pinpoint potential triggers. Foods that cause bloating mostly fall under what is called the FODMAP category: foods that contain fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and/or polyols. Examples of FODMAP foods are:
- Oligosaccharides: Wheat, rye, garlic, onions, beans
- Disaccharides: Dairy products like milk, cheese, yoghurt
- Monosaccharides: Some fruits such as apples, peaches, mangoes; sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar
- Polyols: Some fruits such as cherry and lychee; sweeteners like those in sugar-free mints and gum.
Apart from diet, hormonal changes such as during menstruation or pregnancy can also cause the gastrointestinal system to be more prone to bloat. Medical conditions that cause bloating include irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, and acid reflux, amongst others. If your bloating occurs frequently and causes significant discomfort, you are advised to consult a doctor to rule out any of these underlying conditions.