Stomach bloating is synonymous with overindulgence. People describe the feeling as if the belly has been stretched or puffed out which is usually accompanied with gas and pain. Typically, bloating subsides overtime, however, during the experience it can be extremely uncomfortable. Nutritional therapist for Bio-Kult, Hannah Bray spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk about why we bloat and what actions we can do to prevent it.
Mrs Bray said: “There are a number of possible causes of bloating and numerous ways to reduce the symptoms.
“Ultimately, bloating can be viewed as a sign that the digestive system is not working optimally.
“The first and potentially most important advice for anyone suffering with bloating is to ensure they are prepared for eating.
“This means relaxing, turning off all distractions, sitting in a comfortable position and ideally gazing out through a window.
“Prepare your food from scratch, the smells kick-start your digestive enzymes.
“Choose foods that are easy to digest such as soups, stews, salads and smoothies.”
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When asked whether food intolerances cause bloating, Mrs Bray answered: “Sensitivities to certain foods can be a big driver for digestive symptoms such as bloating.
“Play detective and keep a food diary of what you eat and any symptoms you experience to see if you notice any patterns.
“Alternatively, consider an elimination diet, where commonly aggravating foods, such as gluten and dairy are removed for two to three weeks, before being re-introduced one at a time and monitor reactions.”
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“Whilst dairy and gluten are the most common food intolerances which may lead to bloating, another food group to be aware of is fermentable fibres, said Mrs Bray.
“These foods are sometimes referred to by the acronym FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols).
“Fruits, vegetables, legumes and pulses are sources of FODMAPs with certain ones being higher than others.
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“These fermentable fibres are not absorbed by the body and stay intact through the small intestines to then act as a food source for the bacteria in the gut.
“Many people see immediate improvements by avoiding processed foods and instead focusing on foods prepared and cooked from scratch.
“Choose good quality proteins (oily fish, grass-fed meats and lentils), healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocadoes and olive oil) and low FODMAP vegetables such as carrots, kale and courgettes until the gut flora is rebalanced.
“Add in spices and warmth to your food and drinks, such as ginger, turmeric and chilli, which help to aid digestion.
“Natural digestive enzymes taken before food can help to improve the breakdown of food, increase stomach acidity and improve absorption of nutrients.
“Consuming a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (with the mother – containing the original bacterial cultures) in a small glass of water in the mornings and bitter greens, such as rocket, as a starter or with the meal can both help to improve absorption.”
With so many supplements on the market promising to be the holy grail of helping reduce bloating, its easy to get confused.
“Taking live bacteria supplements could help to re-address the balance of the gut flora by increasing the number and diversity of beneficial bacteria,” said Mrs Bray.
“Whilst these beneficial bacteria could be increased through eating fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir, some individuals suffering with bloating find these foods worsen their symptoms in the short-term.
“A study in 2014 using a multi-strain live bacteria supplement, observed a superior reduction in abdominal bloating.
“I would recommend a multi-strain live bacteria supplement such as Bio-Kult Advanced which contains 14 strains of bacteria.
“It doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge, so it’s really convenient to use every day to encourage gut flora balance and support a reduction in bloating.”
“Unfortunately, if we have an imbalance of our gut bacteria, the potentially more harmful bacteria will ferment these fibres and produce more gases and toxins as by-products, therefore increasing bloating.
“In fact, it is reported that 50-82 percent of individuals suffering with bloating experience a decrease in their symptoms when restricting FODMAPs from their diet.”