Bloating seriously throws off my entire mood - it can even ruin my week if I don't get it under control. Not only do my clothes not fit when I'm bloated, but I can hardly eat, I feel more tired and simply uncomfortable in my own body. For a long time, I just lived with the discomfort for a few days when I got bloated until one of my roommates in college recommended peppermint tea to help me out. And it worked! This herbal miracle had me curious as to what other natural remedies were available just in my own kitchen to relieve my pesky bloating. Here's what I found.
A Bit About the Digestive System and Why We Bloat
So, why do we bloat, to begin with? It all starts in the digestive system, more specifically, the gastrointestinal tract (GI). The gastrointestinal tract is made up of a series of " hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus," and is a part of the digestive system along with the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. When there's a buildup of gas stuck in the GI, bloating occurs. Air can become trapped in the gastrointestinal tract in two ways - we can swallow air with eating and drinking, or it is created by the bacteria or microflora in our gut. Symptoms of bloating include the stomach feeling full and tight, abdominal pain and tenderness, as well as increased flatulence in addition to general discomfort.
Why does bloating occur? It all depends on YOU. People bloat for different reasons. It can be caused by the foods we eat, food sensitivities, stress, etc. The first step in helping to relieve bloating is by finding out what's triggering it in the first place! That being said, there are a couple of common reasons you might be feeling more bloated than usual:
Diet - Sometimes the foods we eat can cause us to feel bloated, even if we don't necessarily have an allergy or sensitivity to them. Drinking too many carbonated drinks, eating junk foods full of salt and sugar, and not getting enough fiber in your diet can lead to bloating.
Digestive Issues - Those with digestive health concerns such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic constipation, or acid reflux (GERD) may experience bloating more often than others. Bloating in these instances may be caused by a backup of stool in the large bowel, causing air to become trapped behind it and causing discomfort.
Food Intolerances - Certain food intolerances or allergies such as lactose intolerance (sensitivity to dairy) or celiac disease (sensitivity to gluten) may cause bloating. Those with lactose intolerance cannot break down the lactose in dairy products, so it is left in the colon to be fermented and broken down by the naturally occurring microflora, which causes the release of short-chain fatty acids, as well as the gases hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide - AKA, gas. A similar process occurs in those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
Medical Conditions - Some medical conditions may lead to excess gas or bloating. These include:
Inflammation (such as a condition called diverticulitis)
Irritable bowel syndrome
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Liver disease (abnormal buildup of fluid in your stomach or pelvis)
Blockage in your bowel or bladder
Cancer (ovarian, uterine, colon, pancreatic, or stomach)
Mental health factors, such as anxiety or depression
Other Causes - Sometimes, the most mundane tasks and habits are the cause of our discomfort. If you commonly experience bloating, keep an eye out for these triggers and try to cut back on them:
Swallowing too much air (this can be caused by chewing gum, smoking, eating too fast, or even talking while eating)
Eating fatty foods (fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and proteins)
It's also important to mention that individuals can feel bloated from water retention, which occurs when hydration levels in the body are thrown out of balance. Our bodies can retain water due to hormonal changes, dehydration, certain medications, consuming too much sodium, and airplane travel. Retaining water leads to puffiness and swelling in addition to bloating.
Talk with your doctor if you're experiencing chronic or especially painful bloating to ensure there are no underlying health concerns causing the discomfort.
The Best Natural Remedies & Ingredients to Relieve Bloating
Everyone experiences bloating from time to time, but we certainly don't have to suffer through the discomfort of it! These natural ingredients and home remedies may help relieve a bloated stomach:
Peppermint Oil - Peppermint is great for relieving indigestion, bloating, and other stomach issues! It works by "relaxing the intestinal muscles, which allows gas and stool to move along more effectively."
Herbal Teas - Speaking of peppermint, herbal teas such as peppermint tea, chamomile tea, and ginger tea are a delicious and simple ways to help reduce abdominal bloating. These herbs have been used in traditional medicine for centuries to help relieve a variety of stomach issues including indigestion, gas, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and ulcers. Other beneficial herbs to look for include fennel, wormwood, and turmeric.
Potassium - Potassium-rich foods such as bananas or avocados work to relieve bloating by flushing out excess sodium and helping to reduce inflammation in the digestive system.
Probiotics - As mentioned before, one of the ways in which gas enters our GI is through the bacteria that reside in our gut. The amount of gas seems to be connected to the amount of "good bacteria'' and "bad bacteria" found in the gut. A probiotic like 1 Body's Probiotic formula can help to support a healthy bacterial balance in your digestive tract.
Apple Cider Vinegar - Apple cider vinegar may help with digestion, which can help reduce bloating as it helps to empty stool faster and reduces the amount of gas buildup in the digestive tract. ACV also has microbial properties, so it may help to reduce the amount of gas-causing bacteria in the gut, among its many other health benefits. You can even find easy-to-swallow pill forms of ACV, which may be especially beneficial to those with heartburn or acid reflux.
Other Tips to Beat the Bloat
Beyond the natural remedies that can be found in the grocery store, in your kitchen, or online, there are lifestyle changes you can make and other tips that may help to relieve bloating.
Try a low-FODMAP diet - FODMAPs are indigestible carbohydrates that can cause bloating, especially in those with IBS. Several studies have found that reducing the number of high-FODMAP foods in those with IBS showed a reduced number of symptoms, including bloating.
Even if you haven't been diagnosed with IBS, if you find yourself feeling constantly bloated, try cutting out these high-FODMAP foods to see if you can find relief:
Get Your Exercise - Exercise helps the body naturally move, digest, and pass bowel movements and gas more regularly. Plus, it helps to naturally flush out excess sodium through sweat, which may contribute to bloating through water retention.
Take a Warm Bath - A warm bath can help to relieve the tight and sore abdominal muscles that suffer from bloating. A bath can also help to reduce stress levels, which may help the GI tract work more effectively.
Try an Abdominal Massage - You can help to relieve bloating through an abdominal massage that helps pass bowel movements. Medical News Today explains the steps:
Place the hands just above the right hip bone.
Rub in a circular motion with light pressure up toward the right side of the ribcage.
Rub straight across the upper belly area toward the left rib cage.
Move slowly down toward the left hip bone.
Repeating as necessary.
Strike a (Yoga) Pose - Certain yoga poses can help relieve gas, including Child’s Pose, Happy Baby Pose, and squats. Give a couple a try the next time you feel bloated!
If changing your diet and switching up lifestyle habits doesn't seem to be providing any relief, contact your doctor or healthcare provider to ensure a deeper medical issue is not the cause of your bloating. If you're thinking about adding a supplement or probiotic to your routine, talk to your doctor first to make sure it's safe for you and your health history.
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