Everyone at some point experiences bloating, whether it is from overeating, eating too fast or eating foods that don't really agree with your body.
One in 10 Americans say they suffer from bloating regularly regardless of what they eat, but experts suggest there are many strategies that can help reduce or eliminate bloating altogether. Bloating, often confused with water retention, involves excess amounts of solids, liquids or gases in the digestive system that cause disturbances and discomfort in the abdomen.
Your stomach is only about the size of your fist. It does have the ability to stretch based on how much food you eat, which can make you feel bloated. Smaller portions and avoiding eating to the point of fullness can help eliminate bloating. Eating or drinking fast, drinking from a straw or consuming bubbly drinks like soda and beer forces more air into the stomach, increasing the chances of bloating. The gas from this can fill up the digestive system and won't leave until you pass it.
Sodium and sugar also contribute to bloating. A regular diet of high-sodium foods and/or foods with added sugar, artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols has been shown to increase gas production and bloating. Many processed foods that contain a lot of fat and sugar cause bloating, and even carbohydrates or fats consumed in large quantities at one time can increase fluid retention, causing belly bloat.
There are also certain foods and ingredients that you may be sensitive to that cause bloating: lactose, fructose, eggs, sugar alcohols, galactans, wheat and gluten. These are indigestible carbohydrates or fiber known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) that are the most common causes of bloating and abdominal pain because these carbs are resistant to digestion. Instead of being absorbed into your blood stream, they travel to the intestines, where the gut bacteria feeds off them, producing gas and causing further digestive issues, like diarrhea.
Bloating and gas are usually tied to what you eat and how much. Many individuals have reported that eliminating certain foods provides relief from abdominal discomfort and bloating. Since every individual responds to foods differently, experts recommend keeping a food diary to track how you feel and how your body responds after eating certain foods. Eliminating a group of foods for a few weeks and adding them back in one at a time can often help identify which foods are problematic for you.
Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 773-1404.
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