What is Bloating?
Bloating (abdominal distension) is part of the normal digestion process, not something that needs to be fixed. But of course there are different types of bloating, there is the painful, really uncomfortable bloating, and there is the normal bloat; the physical swell we witness after a meal. Anyway, let’s break down what bloating is and why it occurs.
Each one of us is different; bloating will most likely look or feel different for each person. But generally bloating can feel like your stomach is full, tight, gassy, distended or what we casually call “food baby”, and just general discomfort around the core area.
Many clients (especially females) constantly complain about being “bloated” when in fact it is just a change in their belly size or shape after a meal. There are also other reasons; It could be water retention during that time of the month with menstruation, some weight gain following a messy weekend, or eating too much sodium rich foods.
What Causes Bloating?
Bloating is often a temporary feeling of fullness, usually due to intestinal gas. After you eat, your stomach will naturally start to break down the food until it becomes small tiny digestible pieces to be able to go through the small intestine. Carbohydrates break down and fiber ferments which produce gas. So basically whatever distension in your core area just means your stomach physically expanded temporarily due to the digestion process.
There are many reasons why we may feel bloated; drinking carbonated beverages, not chewing our food well enough and eating too fast, low fiber and water intake, constipation, stress, smoking, certain medications etc.
Bloating can also be caused by health conditions such as IBS, food intolerances or sensitivities, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, acid reflux, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), certain types of cancer, hernia, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), h pylori, intestinal inflammation and much more.
It is important to note that if the type of bloating you suffer from comes and goes, it can be relieved by changing some of the habits that cause it such as eating smaller meals, chewing your food thoroughly, staying away from carbonated drinks, adding more fiber and drinking more water, this is because you’re most likely experiencing a normal process to digestion. A lot of clients; myself included, always wondered why do I get bloated after eating healthy foods? Well, turns out that it’s very normal! As a matter of fact, many healthy whole food choices do cause gas and bloating due to their high fiber, natural sugar and starch. Examples are legumes, cruciferous vegetables, seeds and nuts, fiber-rich foods in general (insoluble fiber) may contribute to bloating due to Inulin (a type of soluble fiber present in lots plants)
If you need a little temporary relief to ease bloating, here are some ideas: have a cup of hot peppermint tea, ginger tea, or some cumin. Kombucha helps me a lot, stay away from sparkling water and artificial sweeteners, and don’t eat large meals, small meals promote gentle digestion is better for the body.
Remember that while our bodies are amazing, adaptive, and can work like clockwork, it’s still not a machine that operates with nothing weird happening. Bloating after eating or bloating occasionally is part of normal digestion. Most of the time when I’m working with clients and educate them about normal bloating which can be a cause for odd numbers on the scale, they have an “ah-ha” moment where somewhere along the way, a story was told in their minds that bloating is a sign of being fat and feeling light constantly is the norm; a flat stomach, and no water retention. Our bodies will change from day to day and sometimes they do they’re own thing, bloating included, and that’s okay!
Above all, you can experiment with your personal digestion and the activities or foods that you suspect are giving you that uncomfortable feeling. For an example; when I took it easy on the fruits and nuts, cut out dairy, and had smaller portions of vegetables and salads, that really helped with my bloating, I still do bloat sometimes but not as much as before. So maybe you should investigate yourself and see, afterall you are your best doctor.
As I mentioned before; bloating is a normal sequel of eating food. We need to accept that daily shifts in the appearance of our bodies is absolutely natural. We must remind each other that our bodies are our own and support each other to take care of them without comparing ourselves to a generic and irrelevant body standard. We should speak out against weight bias and fat stigma. And we should stop perpetuating the myth that not having a flat stomach -whether from bloating, body composition, or anything else- is something that needs to be fixed.
Zein Nimri is an AFPA certified sports nutritionist, NESTA kids nutritionist, long distance runner, cyclist and traveller with big dreams. Follow her on Instagram @Zeinutritionist she is currently an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach.