Updated: Jan 13, 2020
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.