Do you wake up with a fairly flat stomach most mornings, but find your clothes gradually getting tighter and tighter as the day progresses? You are not alone! Studies have shown that around 30% of the general population report bloating or constipation.
If your bloating or constipation is impacting on your day to day activities, then it's time to address this.
More women than men suffer from a repeatedly ballooning belly, so for those of you who have said “I look six months’ pregnant” at the end of the day, this post is for you!
What causes bloating? And how can I reduce it?
Constipation is a common cause of bloating, but this isn't always accompanied by bloating and discomfort. The definition of this varies depending on what your "normal" bowel motion frequency is, but passing fewer than 3 stools/ week, hard dry motions, or feeling like you haven't quite finished at the end of a bowel motion- might mean that you need to get things moving.
Normal bowel function ranges from one or two stools a day to one stool every three to four days, but if your stools are hard or lumpy, and you have to strain to go, you’re constipated.
How to treat it
The first step is to ensure you’re getting enough fibre and fluids. Alot of the time fluid is missed and fibre is increased- but this doesn't do us any good unless we increase both! Most adults should aim to consume at least 30g of fibre per day, along with 2+ L water/day. Your fibre intake can easily be increased by eating more veggies, fruit, legumes, and wholegrain carbs.
Some people find that eating extra fibre worsens gas and bloating. If this is the case, you may have ‘slow-transit constipation’, a condition in which your bowel is a bit sluggish in moving things along. Exercise is a great treatment for this type of constipation, and should always be trialed before considering the use of laxatives.
IBS is probably the most common cause of bloating — with around 90% of IBS sufferers describing bloating symptoms. IBS is a functional bowel disorder, meaning that no structural problems are visible in the bowel, but patients experience abdominal pain and discomfort, along with changes in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea, or both), and they can often suffer from excessive gas, and bloating.
How to treat it
There is no cure for IBS- instead the goal is to manage symptoms to promote better quality of life. If at the moment you have to run to the toilet without much warning or know exactly where every toilet is when leaving the house- then this isn't a great quality of life. The treatment in this situation is to reduce your symptoms to a more manageable level. Some people reach a stage where no symptoms remain- while others always have some kind of niggles like gas or bloating.
Treatment for IBS varies, but the best thing to start with is baseline measures..
Resistant starch intake
Spicy/ fatty foods
Too much/ not enough fibre?
Alcohol and caffeine
Clothing too tight?
Once you have explored these things- then you can start looking at specific foods. Always avoid unnecessary elimination especially of important foods like wheat and dairy- until you know that everything else hasn't helped. The low fodmap diet is not the first thing to start with!
There is some evidence to support probiotics- but trial this one to assess if it helps or hinders your gut. Supermarket products like peppermint teas can be incredibly soothing, but if trying laxatives- use with caution as they can make things worse for you!
When it comes to the gut- there are many factors to be explored! If you are struggling with your gut health then I encourage you to get in touch to work with a registered dietitian. Gut health is also explored in depth in week 5 of my women's wellness and weight loss program. This program is available only for a limited time so make sure to join the waitlist so that you don't miss out!