If your belly feels stuffed and your jeans need a little extra room, then probably your belly is bloated and it is time to make a change, in diet and exercise, though these alone cannot rid you of a bloated belly.
What is belly bloating?
Bloating is defined as swelling of the abdomen resulting in increased waist diameter due to retained fluids or gas. Bloating is different from being fat, as here the bloated tissues have a normal percentage of fat cells. The belly is swollen due to excess fluids and gas. Most often women seek to reduce belly bloating by reducing calories and increasing exercise. But belly bloating calls for more than these to manage the problem.
Common symptoms of belly bloat
It is observed that those with belly bloat suffer two or more of the symptoms listed below:
- Excessive belching
- Gassy feeling
- Distention of stomach
- Sensation that resembles overeating
- General discomfort
- Tightness of the abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Change in the size of gut
- Sensitivity to food
Clues to detect stomach bloat
One best way is to probably look at the mirror and detect if you are bulging in other places or just on the stomach. Check whether the bulge is localized or widespread in other parts of the body as well. Do you see layers of fat covering your thighs, hips and buttocks and not just the stomach? Are you skinny everywhere except the abdomen which is bloated?
Pressing your stomach can also help tell if it is fat or bloat. Fat is normally spongy when pressure is applied whereas, bloat is generally tight and firm. If you can grab one or more inch of your stomach using your thumb and fingers, then it is fat. If you are bloated, you will not able to do this as the abdomen is stretched out and too tight.
Duration is another clue to source of the belly bulge. Fat cells build up over time and do not go away easily when formed. However, bloating can come and go and sometimes it is just in a matter of hours. If your stomach starts flat and balloons through the day, it is bloating. Bloating is almost always accompanied by pain. The presence of discomfort, belching or gas indicates that your stomach is bloating.
Causes of belly bloat
In the US, almost 80% of the population suffers from a fungal infection called Candida. This is naturally occurring yeast that lives in the human mouth and gastrointestinal tract. While under normal conditions, Candida resides in human bodies without any side effects, it can also over grow the other organisms in our digestive tract and create imbalance, resulting in fungal infection of sorts.
People suffering from Candida complain of heartburn, fatigue, vaginal yeast infections in women, headaches and migraines, sinusitis, brain fog, muscle weakness, joint pain and constant pain under the left rib cage.
Any disease with intestinal inflammation or obstruction such as Crohn's disease or colon cancer can also cause abdominal bloating.
Those who have undergone operations, adhesions, or internal hernias can also experience bloating and pain. Eating a lot of fatty food can delay stomach emptying and cause bloating and discomfort.
Other common causes of belly bloating include:
- Air swallowing out of nervousness
- Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which the stomach contents, food and liquids, leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus. This action can not only irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn but also cause belly bloat.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) refers to a disorder that involves abdominal pain and cramping, as well as changes in bowel movements.
- Lactose intolerance which is inability to digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
- Small bowel bacterial overgrowth is a condition in which abnormally large numbers of bacteria grow in small intestine.
- Weight gain.
Solution to belly bloat
Since just dieting and exercising at random and consuming pills do not work with belly bloat, without knowing the underlying cause, it is best advised to consult the doctor first.
However, belly bloating can be dealt with in some simple ways:
- Stay away from salt. Too much of sodium is as such bad for the heart as it causes the body to retain water and feel bloated.
- Drinking water is a sure way to retain water in the body so drink enough water to keep the body hydrated.
- It is good to limit gassy foods such as lentils, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, peppers and citrus fruits, artichokes, wheat bran, and carbonated drinks, which can create gases in your body more than others.
- It would be good to eat fiber as it helps move through intestines quickly and prevent constipation and bloating.
- Eat more slowly and not swallow too much air when eating. Some get hiccups when eating quickly and it is better to chew food and eat slowly.
Avoid the following belly bloating foods:
- Excess of carbohydrates store glycogen in the muscles. Every gram of glycogen has about 3 grams of water. Decreasing carb intake temporarily can train your body to access the stored fuel and burn it off. This way, excess fluid will also be drained off.
- Bulky raw foods need to be avoided and instead cooked foods can be consumed. Only small portions of unsweetened dried fruit, canned fruits in natural juice can be taken. This can help meet the nutrient needs without expanding GI tract with extra volume.
- High acid drinks like alcohol, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, acidic fruit juices which can irritate the GI tract and cause swelling. These drinks can be taken in moderation.
- Fried foods are digested more slowly and cause you to feel heavy and bloated. Instead, mono saturated fatty foods such as olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, and dark chocolates can be consumed.
- Spicy foods seasoned with black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, chilli powder, hot sauces, onions, garlic, mustard, barbecue sauce, horseradish, catsup, tomato, sauce, vinegar, can all stimulate the release of stomach acid and cause irritation and bloating.
- Chewing gum allows you to swallow air, which gets trapped into the GI tract and causes pressure and belly expansion.
- Sugar alcohol can be found in low calorie or low carb products such as cookies, candy, and energy bars can get into the GI tract which cannot absorb most of them. Sugar alcohol cause gas, abdominal distention and bloating and diarrhea.
Flat belly foods
In contrast, it would be good for you to consume flat belly foods, some of which are listed below:
- Slightly salted potato chips with 40% less fat than regular potato chips.
- Baked chips which are 50% less fried and made from organic corn which is a whole grain, with no hydrogenated oils or preservatives.
- Cheese sticks with just 80 calories.
- Go for organic soya milk and pomegranate juices instead of the regular ice cream.
- Cereal whole grain and oats.
- Pasta made from a blend of organic whole grain durum wheat and amaranth, spelt and quinoa. This helps control blood sugar, regulate energy and stave off hunger.
- Tomatoes or just organic veggies dried bits of carrots, corn, peas, bell peppers with no added ingredients - tasty and a great way to get fit.
- Research suggests that consuming healthy probiotic bacteria leads to boost in immunity as well as better digestive health.
- Non dairy beverages made of real almonds, and fewer calories with soy milk can be used as viable milk alternatives.
- Nonfat yogurt is full of immune boosting probiotic bacteria and this provides whopping 16 to 17 g of protein.
- Iced teas with no artificial sweeteners, chemical preservatives or colors.
- Soups are full of nutrients as well as rich in flavor from onions, garlic and peppers.
- Water with no artificial sweeteners and simply flavored with antioxidant rich spices such as cinnamon orange peel or lemongrass mint vanilla is the best bet.
- Eating a topical fruit like pineapple can ease bloating. This fruit is high in the enzyme bromelain which helps to break down protein and eases digestion and helps to banish the bloat.
Although having gas is common, it can be quite uncomfortable and embarrassing. Gas is primarily odorless vapor - it could be carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen and sometimes methane. The unpleasant odor of gas comes from bacteria in the large intestine that releases small amounts of gases that contain sulfur.
Air swallowing is a common cause of gas. Most allow a small amount of gas to be swallowed while eating and drinking. Burping and belching allows nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide to leave the stomach. The remaining gas which gets into the small intestine is partially absorbed. A small amount travels to the large intestine where it is partially absorbed and partially released through the rectum.
It is commonly believed that too much of gas in the abdomen causes bloating. Doctors believe that bloating is usually the result of intestinal disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome. This disorder gives a sensation of bloating because of increased sensitivity to gas.
Some experience pain when gas is present in the intestine. When the left side of the colon is painful, it can be confused with heart ailment. When the gas is on the right side of the colon, it mimics gallstones and appendicitis.
Doctors advise to consume fewer foods that cause gas. Limiting high fat foods can reduce bloating and discomfort. This helps stomach empty faster, and allows gases to move into the small intestine. However, dietary changes can be learnt only through trial and error and how much of the offending foods one can handle.
Natural and safe tips to beat belly bloating
Digestive bitter herbs are food for the digestive system and they stimulate the flow of saliva and the digestive tract. Carminative herbs are gas reducing like peppermint, ginger, chamomile, fennel and lemon balm.
Avoid eating beans, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli. Dairy products in people with lactose intolerance can cause bloating and gas. Some over-the-counter and prescription drugs like antidepressants, iron pills, antihistamines may cause bloating, especially on initial intake.
Decreasing stress, eating slowly, limiting liquids during mealtime, chewing thoroughly and eating regularly can help proper functioning of the digestive system and lessen bloating.