Updated: Jan 13
Bloating is one of those digestive issues that people think they just need to live with, that it is a natural, occasional side-effect of digestion. Fortunately, this is untrue.
I have had patients who have suffered through severe and painful bloating almost constantly for years - but because more serious conditions were ruled out early on, they were told there was nothing they could do and it was 'nothing to worry about'.
Severe symptoms are always 'telling you' something. Severe symptoms indicate that systems or processes in the body are impaired to the point that you are not properly digest your foods.
Long term, not fully digesting your food can have a domino effect on the rest of your health.
Frequently, bloating has a few common triggers and can be completely eliminated by some dietary and lifestyle changes.
Even when your bloating problems stem from something more complex - like a bacterial infection or Crohn's disease - after appropriate treatment, reduction and even a full resolution of symptoms are very common.
Here are just a few causes of bloating that I see in my patients all the time with some helpful tips to reduce symptoms.
Top Causes of Bloating
1. High Sugar Diet
High amounts of refined sugar feed unhealthy bacteria in your intestines. This can set you up for bacterial infection in your gut (called 'small intestinal bacterial overgrowth' or SIBO).
If you have stuffy sinuses, or feel sick after eating a high sugar food, that may be a sign that you have a bacterial overgrowth problem.
2. Food Allergy and Sensitivities
The difference between an allergy and a sensitivity is that with an allergy, there is the presence of an antibody, which is detectable on a blood test. Allergies also are usually much more severe than food sensitivities and can be life threatening.
An individual can have multiple allergies and sensitivities.
Food sensitivities, while usually not life threatening, can still cause chronic, and at times, severe symptoms. Migraines, headaches, chronic pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and rapid heart rate after eating are just a few symptoms that can be caused by food sensitivities.
After symptom assessment (and in certain cases, testing), we can find out if you have food allergies and sensitivities.
Functional medicine has a great range of tools to help your body recover from the inflammatory reaction caused by allergies and sensitivities and can (depending on the cause) reduce or eliminate symptoms.
If you do have a sensitivity or allergy there will be a period of time when you will have to cut out those foods from your diet while we treat the cause of the food sensitivity.
3. Underlying Infection
Many factors can lay the foundation for an infection - antibiotic use, poor diet, food poisoning, or low stomach acid can all create an ecosystem that is favorable to opportunistic bacteria.
If, based on your symptoms, I suspect a bacterial infection we can do a confirmatory test which will also indicate what kind of infection it is.
Based on that information we can tailor a diet and supplement plan for you that will remove the infection in the quickest and safest way.
4. Low Stomach Acid
Low stomach acid levels can set off a chain reaction in your digestive system that can trigger all kinds of symptoms - with bloating being the most common.
Low stomach acid results in undigested food left in your stomach or sitting in your small intestine. These undigested food particles produces gas, which then causes bloating.
With a few dietary changes and some supplementation, we can restore normal stomach acid production and bile flow which will help digest your food completely.
This is a potential cause that many people ignore, but it is incredibly common. Our digestive system is hardwired to our nervous system - which is why long, relaxing mealtimes are ideal for digestion.
If you are eating a protein bar in the thirty seconds between parking your car and running to a meeting, your digestive system is hard-pressed to do its best for you.
Lower your stress levels the best you can, try to shut off your phone for at least twenty minutes, and eat a meal derived from whole foods. Another surprisingly helpful tip is to chew your food well before swallowing.
If there turns out to be another biochemical reason for your bloating, reducing your stress levels during meals will still help you in the long run as your digestive system - and the rest of your body - needs a break during your busy day
Natural Ways to Help Bloating
1. Optimize Digestion
First thing when you wake up in the morning drink a glass of water with the juice of 1/4 of a lemon squeezed into it.
Depending on your individual symptoms and conditions we would do additional things to optimize stomach digestion but this is a simple thing that almost everyone has a beneficial response to.
The lemon juice 'primes' your stomach for optimal stomach acid production. You can also do this 15 minutes before every meal.
2. Identify and Remove Offending Foods
Keep track of the foods that cause you to bloat and remove them from your diet. If this includes so many foods that you don't know what to eat, or if those foods keep changing - you'll need an appointment for more targeted treatment.
Keeping a food journal is helpful in bloating cases as food allergens are frequent causes and effects like bloating can happen hours or even days after consuming the food.
See the article below for more help on what to put in your food journal.
3. Activated Charcoal
You can buy activated charcoal capsules from many health food stores. Taking one or two when you are experiencing bloating can help capture and carry out the chemicals causing you to bloat.
The Difference in Functional Medicine Testing
The testing we offer at our clinic is different from the testing you get at your annual exam.
Functional medicine testing has come a long way in the last few years and now has the ability to assess the overall function of many systems and organs in the body and allows us to find the underlying causes of many symptoms.
For digestive problems we often run an organic acids test, a liver enzyme panel, comprehensive stool analysis and a comprehensive metabolic panel.
If underlying infection is suspected, a breath test is used to confirm the presence of infection and a comprehensive stool analysis can check for the type of infection, and gut inflammation.
Our tests are run through your insurance and are generally much cheaper than if you were to get the testing done at your family doctor's office.
We also utilize cost effective and scientifically supported diet and lifestyle changes that can make the difference between just 'getting through' your day and enjoying your life, symptom-free.
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If you would like to speak to me to ask questions about functional medicine, chronic illness or how I can help you, please schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation or call or text my office at 913-728-5291.
If you think that you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Nor should you ever delay seeking medical advice or treatment due to the information contained on this Website.