What is bloating and why does my belly look so fat?
Well, generally speaking, bloating is that uncomfortable feeling of overfilling that most of us have experienced at one point or another. Usually after a binge at the dinner table or perhaps after an episode of binge drinking. However, for some people, bloating is something that happens every day and can make mealtime a constant battle.
What Causes Swelling?
There are several factors that contribute to stomach bloating and most of them are related to food or drink. If you suffer from it, you need to find out what your “ swelling trigger ” is to help you deal with the problem and treat it properly. The four most common culprits are:
- Fluid retention / water retention
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Food intolerance
Fluid retention / water retention
For many women, bloating can be related to hormones and the result of a build-up of fluid, especially in the week before menstruation. When an imbalance occurs in the body, excess fluid can accumulate in the spaces between cells. Very often, a swollen abdomen can be accompanied by puffy eyes and swollen ankles.
How to test for water retention
A quick way to check for yourself if you suspect you may be suffering from fluid / water retention is to press your thumb on your lower leg for a couple of seconds. When the pressure is released, feel gently to see if the skin has come back or if there is an indentation. If you notice a dent, this may be a sign of fluid retention.
If you suspect you have fluid retention, you should see your doctor.
Irritable bowel syndrome
This is a common cause of bloating. Treating irritable bowel syndrome and digestive problems can be difficult and treatments should be discussed with your GP. However, there are many home remedies and over-the-counter treatments that are worth trying.
If you have IBS, you will most likely also have additional symptoms such as
- abdominal distension
Some of the more common remedies that may be prescribed include antispasmodic tablets. As the title suggests, these work by acting directly on the smooth muscle of the intestine, causing it to relax. This relieves painful muscle spasms in the intestine, without affecting its normal motility.
Over-the-counter remedies such as peppermint oil capsules and peppermint tea are also helpful in relieving symptoms. The charcoal products that are available in most health food stores are a popular option for bloating and excess wind in the lower abdomen. Other popular products that contain simethicone can be extremely helpful in dispersing excess gas and are available in a variety of forms including strips, soft gels, and chewable tablets.
Probiotic drinks and yogurts can also be helpful in stimulating good bacteria and helping maintain a healthy gut. They are worth incorporating into your daily diet to aid digestion and keep “everything moving.” The recommendation is to consume one or two pots a day for at least fifteen days. After this time, the manufacturers are confident that you will feel better with a noticeable reduction in swelling.
This can also be a factor in abdominal bloating. The link between the digestive system and emotions is well documented. Many people suffer from “nervous tummy” and most of us are familiar with that queasy feeling of a stomach or that urgent need to go to the bathroom when we are anxious or under pressure.
Swallowing food too quickly can also create bloating by allowing too much air to be swallowed. Remember how you have to “burp” a baby when he swallows the contents of his bottle?
Chewing gum and drinking carbonated beverages can cause the same problem. It can be helpful to take the time to eat slowly and chew your food properly. Try to eat smaller portions and put down your fork between bites. You should also avoid drinking through straws.
Relaxation techniques or hypnosis may be the best long-term solutions to help deal with bloating caused by stress. When we are under severe stress, the brain releases hormones that place a huge burden on our digestive system. But different people can react in completely different ways, and while some may not be able to eat a single bite, others will not be able to avoid raiding the refrigerator and gorging themselves on comfort foods. It’s no wonder that stress has been linked to digestive disorders like cramps, diarrhea, heartburn, and bloating.
Probably the most common cause of stomach bloating is food intolerance.
It should not be confused with food allergy, which is a more serious condition in which the immune system responds disproportionately to certain normally harmless foods, causing in some cases a severe and occasionally life-threatening reaction. Food intolerance, on the other hand, is the body’s inability to properly break down and digest certain foods and ingredients.
A common cause of food intolerance is lactose found in cow’s milk. This occurs in some people who lack the enzyme lactase. Lactase is necessary to break down the sugar in milk and allow it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be mild or severe and include nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and bloating. Your doctor has a variety of tests to detect lactose intolerance. Anyone who is lactose intolerant will need to modify their diet and reduce their intake of milk and other dairy products.
Today, most supermarkets sell lactose-reduced milk and other products. For those whose symptoms are more severe, the lactase enzyme can be prescribed in liquid or tablet form to aid digestion.
It is well known that some other types of food cause excess gas, for example: onions; broccoli; cabbage and beans, etc.
There are also a number of “hidden” foods and food additives that can also contribute to bloating and the best way to isolate those responsible is to follow a careful elimination diet for 3 to 7 days. The flat stomach diet is a recommended source of information. This diet plan will help you achieve and maintain a flat abdomen quickly, easily and permanently.