From stress to eating too fast – the reasons you're bloating and how to soothe it

AT LEAST one in five people in the UK suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and many with the condition just learn to live with the symptoms.

Whilst it's normal to have a little bit of bloating after a meal – experts have now claimed that if you have persistent symptoms then you should dig a little deeper to get to the root.

IBS can be an umbrella term for a whole host of symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, wind, cramps, heartburn, diarrhoea and constipation.

Speaking to The Sun, nutritionist and consultant to Enzymedica UK, May Simpkin said there’s a difference between an occasional bloat and bloating that is accompanied by pain and discomfort.

She said: "Symptoms of bloating are essentially a build-up of gases in the stomach or a stool that is lodged in the large intestine, and this build-up of gases can further exacerbate the lack of stool movement, making the bloating even worse.

"Getting to the root cause of this build up is key to tackling bloating, and there are several triggers that could be the culprit."

Here May revealed the top five reasons why you might be bloating and what to do to fix it.

1. You've switched to plant-based

Many of us are encouraged to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, and it does have many health benefits, but for some people it can cause bloating.

May said: "Whilst the benefits of eating less meat and more vegetables are well documented, switching to a mainly plant based way of eating too quickly will significantly increase the amount of fibre you are eating.

"As a result, your digestive system may struggle if it’s not used to a high intake of fibre, in turn causing bloating as the food remains undigested for too long."

In order to curb the bloating, May said that you should increase your fibre intake gradually over a few weeks.

She said you should "slowly add more vegetables to each meal alongside soluble fibre foods such as beans, lentils and chickpeas."

2. Not enough water

We all know that staying hydrated is important for our diet – and too much water can sometimes be associated with bloating.

May said that if you are not drinking enough fluids, it’s more difficult for food to pass through your digestive system, leaving you constipated and consequently bloated.

She said: "Staying hydrated is key, but avoid fizzy carbonated drinks, as many contain sugars or artificial sweeteners (as well as bubbles and fizz) that will result in bloating."

To help banish the bloat May said you should try and drink more water and herbal teas.

She added: "The good news is that coffee and tea do count!

"Remember, vegetables contain good amounts of water and including more soups and smoothies will also help to contribute."

3. Stressful lifestyle

A stressful lifestyle can have us reaching for the biscuit tin or for that extra glass of wine and May said it can also cause us to bloat.

Both your gut and brain are connected, and May says that when you're stressed your digestion naturally slows down.

She said: "It is part of the fight or flight response where digestion is not a priority.

"As the digestive process becomes more sluggish, your food does not pass through the gut as quickly and efficiently as it should and will ‘sit’ and ferment, giving off gases and harmful bacteria that cause bloating."

May said that eating mindfully will help, but that it's important to manage your stress levels.

She added: "Factor in time away from your desk or house-hold chores to exercise, take a walk in nature, read a book or enjoy a hot bath, as practicing self-care will help to ensure a good night’s sleep so you wake up feeling more bolstered for the day ahead.

"Exercise is really important as it helps with stool elimination, aiding the body to move your stools and excess gases through the digestive tract."

4. Eating too fast

If you've had a hard day at work with back to back meetings, it's easy to wolf down a packet or crisps without thinking twice about speed.

May said that the digestion process starts before food even reaches the stomach, as this process starts in the mouth.

"Chewing not only breaks down the food into smaller, more manageable pieces, but the saliva the food mixes with contains the first enzyme to ‘attack’ that mouthful.

"Salivary Amylase; an enzyme that specifically targets the carbohydrate in your meal, gets to work immediately along with the chewing action, which means that food arrives in your stomach broken down and with the carbohydrates partially digested."

May said you should try and chew each mouthful of food 10-20 times before swallowing.

She said: "Rather than bolting down mouthful after mouthful, take the time to enjoy your meal more mindfully.

"For example, if you’re hunched up over a desk, sit up straight to allow the food to move through more easily without being restricted, rest your cutlery in between mouthfuls and savour the textures and flavours as you chew."

5. Food allergies

If your enzyme activity is compromised, you may experience a physical reaction when you eat a certain food or food group.

May said food allergies can be established through medical tests – but added that it's more likely that you have an intolerance.

She said that intolerance responses (such as wind, bloating and indigestion) occur if the food is not properly digested, allowing large, unprocessed food particles to pass through the digestive tract.

May added: "This can often be due to an absence of a specific enzyme needed to break down that food, or the gut pH not being effective in the first place to activate that enzyme.

"For example, an intolerance to milk and dairy foods could be due to a lack of the enzyme Lactase needed to break down and digest the milk sugar, Lactose."

To combat this – May said a supplement that offers enzymes could help.

She said: "It is important to choose a digestive enzyme supplement that includes a wide variety of different enzyme strains that work in different pH conditions, as different food groups are digested in different parts of the gut."

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