If you’re experiencing bloating, stomach pain or wind, precluding any serious form of illness, this is usually a sign that one or several digestive components are out of balance. This may be only temporary and occasional, or it might be a long term discomfort which detracts from your quality of life.
It’s important to determine the causes of bloating – when you know the cause, you can find the best remedy.
For hormonal reasons, bloating in women is very common. When the level of hormonal activity is high at certain times during the menstrual cycle, the intestines can move more slowly than usual. This can lead to fluid retention, constipation and bloating. Menopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also suffer bloating and stomach discomfort.
If you suffer persistent bloating, this could be a signal of a more serious disorder – IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), intestinal blockage, abdominal infection, reaction to certain medications, hernias, etc.
In its most serious form, causes of chronic bloating may include liver or pancreatic disease. In women, persistent bloating could be caused by ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids. Women over the age of 50 should always consult their physician for chronic bloating.
Assuming the causes of your bloating are not serious (and this should be verified by your healthcare practitioner), the reasons for this discomfort could include: insufficient stomach acid, insufficient digestive enzymes, food intolerances, food allergies, stress, poor gut mobility, gut dysbiosis. Or it could be as simple as too high salt intake – this is a common cause of bloating.
So, let’s address some of the main causes of bloating:
1. Low stomach acid
The symptoms of insufficient stomach acid include feeling full after a small intake of food, heartburn and burping. Stomach acid is responsible for stimulating the release of certain digestive enzymes. Without these enzymes, foods such as meat, fish and eggs may be more difficult to digest. Partially digested proteins make their way to the bowel where, because they have not gone through the complete process, they putrefy, causing irritation and inflammation. This in turn causes stomach pain and bloating.
2. Insufficient digestive enzymes
Lower than normal levels of digestive enzymes can be caused by many factors – antibiotics, medications, stress, food intolerances, infections, poor dietary choices,, excessive alcohol consumption. When digestive enzymes are in low levels, undigested fats, carbohydrates and proteins transit to the bowel, where once again they begin to ferment, causing irritation and inflammation – and bloating.
In addition, some foods can be more difficult for the intestinal organs to digest. Particular vegetables, especially when eaten raw, can cause gas and bloating. Cauliflower and broccoli are two examples – however, everyone is unique and you may find there are certain foods which are more likely to cause bloating and stomach pain. Lactose (milk sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) can cause bloating in some individuals. Again, if your body is lacking in digestive enzymes, you may find these particular foods more troublesome – but you may be able to eat them without any problems, once enzyme activity is restored.
Keeping a food diary is one of the best ways to determine if food sensitivities are the cause of bloating – this often provides surprising and unexpected results.
3. Food intolerances
Unlike food allergies, which have an almost immediate effect, food intolerances are slower to appear – usually over a 48 hour period. It is not uncommon to develop a food intolerance to your favorite foods. Food intolerances can be caused by many of the usual suspects – insufficient stomach acid, insufficient digestive enzymes, stress, hormones, medications, etc.
Some of the most common food intolerances include gluten, wheat, yeast, dairy foods, shellfish, eggs, peanuts and other nuts, sesame seeds, soya and chocolate
Bloating is a common symtpom of food intolerances – sometimes it may be the only symptom, or it may be accompanied by diarrhea or loose bowel motions, or the opposite – constipation.
Leaky gut syndrome can sometimes be the result of long term food intolerances. In this condition, small holes appear along the intestinal tract, caused by the constant inflammation of the food intolerance. Toxins and undigested food particles leave the intestines and enter the blood stream, creating a high level of blood toxicity.
This toxicity can lead to immunity problems and fatigue – as well as bloating and stomach pain.
This terms means a lack of digestive harmony. Basically, it’s when your intestinal tract has too much of the bad bacteria, not enough of the good. This can be caused by antibiotics, steroids, oral contraceptives, NSAIDS, a variety of other medications, poor food choices, exposure to chemicals, high levels of stress, etc. These bad bacteria produce toxins, the symptoms of which which can be a primary cause of bloating and stomach pain.
5. Poor gut mobility
Poor intestinal muscle function can be caused by a calcium-magnesium imbalance, insufficient dietary soluble fiber, dehydration. When this happens, good bacteria decline and, as mentioned above, the toxins are produced in vast quantities. Cells of the colon can be damamged, increasing the risk of colon cancer. Symptoms include bloating, pain, constipation, headaches and a coated tongue.