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10 causes of bloating or abdominal gas you didn't know about

Did you know a high fibre diet, sugary foods and constipation are common causes of bloating? Here's how you can fight against these causes of bloating and abdominal gas.

Everyone has experienced abdominal bloating and gas at some point or the other, especially after a heavy meal. However, dealing with bloating and gas almost every single day is not only embarrassing, but it can also severely affect the quality of your life. While you might attribute it to the amount of food you have been eating off late, in reality it could be due to the kind of food you consumed, certain diseases and even smoking. Here are the 10 most common causes of bloating along with tips to manage this symptom.

1. High-fibre diets

Oatmeal, breads, bran flakes, cooked barley, spaghetti (even whole wheat), lentils (dal), beans, peas, apples and pears with skin, bananas, and other foods are essential for good health and to avoid many gastrointestinal problems, but too much of these can make your stomach bloat. Also read about other foods could be the cause of bloating or feeling gassy.

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Reason: Fibre cannot be digested in the human intestine. Bloating from fibre rich foods occurs because the bacteria inside the colon digest the fibre to a certain extent. Gas is produced as a by-product of this digestion.

Solution: Fibre is important, so you shouldn t avoid eating it. Just take note if your stomach bloats after you ve had too much of fibre for your breakfast or other meals. Consciously reduce your fibre intake, especially if you've started adding a lot of raw salads to your diet. Start from a very low fibre intake for some time and gradually increase the intake to a level where it just starts to bloat. Now you know the trigger level for bloating. Problem solved!

2. Sugary foods

Sugary foods such as pastry, cookies, fruit juices, sweetened soda, sugary desserts, too, can cause bloating. Avoiding sugary foods is also very important if you want to keep your skin looking supple and healthy.

Reason: The reason for bloating is the same as in cases of high-fibre diets but this time the bacteria in the intestines (and not colon) digest the sugar and produces gas.

Solution: Try the same experiment as in high-fibre diet if you feel the bloating after consuming sugary foods. If you have a sweet tooth, try these 7 low-sugar foods.

3. Constipation

If you have constipation, you might have noticed that your stomach bloats and as the day progresses you get a tight belly with abdominal pain.

Reason: The gas formed as a by-product of digestion gets trapped behind slow moving stool and keeps building up depending on the severity of the constipation, and you feel the bloating.

Solution: Change your eating habits and diet, but not drastically. Gradually include more of insoluble fibres such as fruits and vegetables and nuts in your diet. Drink lots of water. You can also try these home remedies for constipation.

4. Smoking

Bloating is a common side-effect of smoking. This is because smokers tend to inhale a lot more air than non-smokers which can lead to the build-up of gas either in the oesophagus, the stomach or the colon.

Solution: Control the addiction or just kick the butt; bloating won t trouble you as much then. You could try these 4 natural remedies that might help you in kicking the butt.

5. Acid reflux

If you feel bloated in the upper belly especially after meals, feel nauseous after a meal, or burp excessively within an hour of the meal, you may be having a condition called dyspepsia or acid reflux or simply, indigestion.

Reason: When the food, stomach acid, and other digestive juices backflow into the oesophagus, it is called acid reflux. The back flow occurs when the valve between the stomach and the lower end of the oesophagus does not close tightly enough or relaxes at the wrong times. Over eating may also cause acid reflux. Other reasons for reflux are smoking, drinking, and obesity, being over 35 years of age and being pregnant. Here are 8 common causes of indigestion you didn't know.

Solution: Solution for mild dyspepsia can be in taking carbonated drinks in this case since fizzy drinks can relieve the pressure in your belly by inducing belching. Or better still, take some antacids. Severe dyspepsia, however, will require you to consult your doctor.

6. Splenic-flexure syndrome

When the air (gas) gets trapped inside the bends in the colon situated next to the spleen, it is called the splenic-flexure syndrome. It is a painful condition and the pain occurs in the upper left side of the abdomen and can sometimes be misconstrued as a heart attack. Abdominal bloating is the most common symptom of this disorder.

Solution: The best way to deal with this disorder is to avoid foods that cause gas. It is important to be aware of the fact that eating beans is not the only cause of bloating. Broccoli, cabbage, processed foods, prunes, peas and apples are some other examples of foods that cause bloating. These are the food do's and don't's for acidity.

7. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is when you have bloating accompanied by abdominal pain and cramping and change in bowel movement but with normal bowel structure. Here are 6 effective ways to manage IBS.

Probable cause: Infection in the intestine or even stress can be a trigger for IBS.

Solution: Avoiding large meals and avoiding foods that contain caffeine or colas that stimulate the intestines can improve the condition. Although it is a common intestinal problem, it is best to consult a gastroenterologist (bowel specialist) if the change in your bowel habits persist. The specialist may ask you to get some tests done to rule out Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and colon cancer.

8. Celiac disease

Celiac disease, commonly prevalent in western countries and Africa, is generally considered to be caused by allergy to gluten present in wheat and related grains.

Probable cause: Medical fraternity now believes that it is actually a multi-system disorder which is highly variable in its clinical expression, may occur at any age, and may present with a variety of manifestations and is common in India as well.

For example, in an article published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, B S Ramakrishna suggests that the disorder can have gastrointestinal manifestations that include diarrhoea, weight loss, stunting, abdominal pain, bloating and distension, anorexia, vomiting and constipation; or it may not be gastrointestinal related at all. It could be iron deficiency anaemia, osteoporosis, vitamin deficiencies, or fatigue. Celiac disease can also be associated with infertility in women, type 1 diabetes, mouth ulcers, thyroiditis, depression, and even epilepsy.

Solution: Given these facts, Indian researchers recommend changing back to growing/consuming older diploid varieties of wheat and other cereals that are considered to be safe.

9. Crohn s disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can occur throughout the gastrointestinal tract but more commonly affects the intestines. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and weight loss, but patients with Crohn's disease also can develop symptoms such as worsening of diarrhoea, bloating, fatigue, fever, nausea and vomiting, and anaemia.

Probable complications: A number of complications can develop from Crohn's disease narrowing of colon causing obstruction, perforation or abscesses in the colon, colon cancer, sepsis (infection of the blood), osteoporosis, gallstones, liver damage, and blood clots, to name a few.

Solution: Do not ignore the symptoms and get proper medical treatment for the condition.

10. Diverticulosis

Diverticulosis is the formation of abnormal pouches in the bowel wall. These pouches can occur throughout the gut, but they most commonly occur in the colon. Although they don t cause symptoms, they co-exist with IBS and the symptoms you get are those of IBS. Diverticulosis, as such is not a serious disorder but if they start to bleed or perforate, they become a serious illness.

Unexplained bloating

Sometimes the cause of bloating may not have a simple explanation. One such disorder is a psychosomatic illness called Alvarez s syndrome in which there s abdominal bloating without any excess gas in the digestive tract.

If bloating persists, even though you have tried elimination diets and other methods of dealing with bloating, talk to your doctor. Bloating may be a symptom of a more serious disorder which may not.

Watch Dr Ramen Goel tell you all that you need to know about gastric bypass:

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References:

  1. Ramakrishna, B. S. (2011). Celiac disease: can we avert the impending epidemic in India? The Indian Journal of Medical Research, 133(1), 5 8.
  2. Geerling BJ, Badart-Smook A, Stockbr gger RW, Brummer R-JM. Comprehensive nutritional status in recently diagnosed patients with inflammatory bowel disease compared with population controls. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000;54:514-521.
  3. Sullivan, S. N. (2012). Functional Abdominal Bloating with Distention. ISRN Gastroenterology, 2012, 721820. doi:10.5402/2012/721820

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