Reasons for a Bloated Stomach

I see so many people come through my doors that complain of a bloated stomach.  With most people’s poor diets, high levels of stress, exposure to pollutants and medications, I”m not surprised so many people suffer from this. Yes, a bloated stomach can be very uncomfortable, and often times embarrassing when it is accompanied by gas or the urgent need to go to the bathroom.  I’m here to say that stomach bloating can sometimes signify some more serious health problems.

What is bloating?  It is the feeling of having built up gas in your digestive system that makes your stomach protrude uncomfortably.  I’ve heard many clients say they feel as though they are pregnant. Often times I can help someone get rid of the bloating by making some simple changes to their diet, but there are also many cases where a longer specific protocol is needed.

So now you’re probably wondering what can cause a bloated stomach?  There are MANY different reasons for it, including: poor digestion, food intolerances, allergies, yeast overgrowth, bacterial overgrowth, hormonal imbalances, thyroid disfunction, poor sleep  and more.  My job is to narrow down the possible causes during a Nutrition Consultation and treat the underlying cause. It’s also important to figure out what triggers the symptoms, so discovering your food sensitivities is imperative.

One thing I can say is that the GUT IS ALWAYS INVOLVED. Yes, poor digestive health plays a big role and most people can use with some help in that area, but the gut is the mecca.  Problem is, many different things can affect gut health, the ability to metabolize food properly and our body’s way of naturally eliminating waste are imperative to be working properly. For many people it’s the excess of gas in the intestines that causes the bloat and this can be due to: the inability to break down sugars, specific carbohydrates, proteins and imbalances in the gut bacteria.  We need specific enzymes to break down specific foods and if we lack them, (for instance lactase to break down lactose found in cows milk) then the food won’t be broken down properly and can impact the balance between the good and bad bacteria.  If the bad bacteria outweigh the good then an imbalance can lead to bloating and gas.

So, here are what I've found to be the main causes of bloating:

  1. Digestive/Gut Disorders – Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Candida, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease all report bloating to be the number one symptom.  Not breaking down your food well, so eating quickly and drinking with and around your meals.
  2. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) –  is caused by high levels of abnormal bacteria living in the digestive tract, that make their way into the upper intestinal tract where they ferment specific foods and cause bloating.
  3. Constipation – a pretty obvious reason may just be one has to go to the bathroom.  I see many who don’t go everyday.  Remember, transit time from mouth to bowel is 12-24 hours, so you should be going daily – get in your fiber!
  4. Dehydration – It’s really very common!  You need to be getting 30 mLs of water per kilo of body weight, so if you weigh 70 kilos you need about 2 liters/daily.  Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances halt digestion and make it difficult to stay regular.
  5. Food Sensitivities – you can be sensitive, intolerant or allergic to absolutely any food out there, so it’s good to get tested.  The most common ones are: dairy, wheat, gluten, sugar, citrus, nuts, eggs and yeast.  There are also entire food groups  that can cause bloating because of the state of the gut, which is why I like to look at and treat the gut first off and then one can go back to enjoying some of the foods they once had to avoid.  Sometimes an elimination diet is necessary  to help pinpoint which foods can be contributing to bloating.
  6. Hormonal changes – our hormones can impact our digestion and therefore contribute to bloating. PMS is a time for water retention and bloating. Also, during the first half of a woman’s cycle, (the follicular phase) estrogen is rising to thicken the uterine lining with the hopes of housing an embryo for pregnancy.  Then ovulation occurs and more fluids and blood build up.  This is when the bloat can really come on. It’s when a woman finally sheds the lining that the bloating goes away.  So, as you can see, there are many reasons for bloating, some natural and nothing to worry about, and others a sign that you should probably get it checked out.  I’m here to help anyone beat the bloat and enjoy life again. Get in touch if that’s you!