Stomach bloating is an unpleasant sensation that can leave you feeling very uncomfortable and often unattractive. It has many potential causes but fortunately these are normally fairly easy to identify and combat. In most cases the bloating will subside nevertheless and it is possible to just 'ride it out' until it leaves you.
If you are experiencing regular and unpleasant bloating then you should nevertheless attempt to get to the bottom of the problem. Here we will look at a few potential causes.
PMT: Post menstrual tensions can cause a variety of problems of varying severity. These include both abdominal pain and abdominal bloating, and the problem should be alleviated once the bleeding itself begins. A contraceptive pill or hormone replacement may help if you have particularly uncomfortable periods.
Contraceptive pill: Conversely however bloating can also be caused by the pill, so if you are experiencing bloating try to leave it out for a month and see if this helps at all.
Wind: Wind when very severe can feel like bloating and be highly uncomfortable. There are many causes for wind, including swallowing too much air while you eat which can be helped by chewing for longer and not talking with your mouth full; the breakdown of vegetables into methane gas which can be avoided by eating fewer vegetables or breaking them up with protein; or from particular foods such as beans. Carbonated drinks such as soda can also cause gas and this includes most alcohol.
Salt: Salt AKA sodium is one of the largest causes of bloating and can be found in a range of foods but is most prominent in fast foods and ready meals. Avoid these then to see if it positively affects your bloating.
Dehydration: Water may make you feel bloated in the short term, but not drinking enough is the real problem here and if you do not get a certain amount of water you will find that your stomach bloats.
Eating disorders: Bloating is a common response to starvation which is why many pictures of staving children in third world countries show them with distended stomachs. In the western world this could be caused by the inability to hold down food, or by bulimia or anorexia.
Too much fibre: A sudden increase in fibre can shock the body and cause bloating. Fibre is very beneficial for the body in a lot of ways, but should be introduced gently.
Too little protein: Too little protein in the diet leaves you with just fibre and fruits and vegetables – both of which can cause bloating.
Protein shakes: Protein shakes often cause the feeling of being bloated and gassy and this puts many people off using them. Try different products though as different people have more success with different shakes.
Fat: The reason that we crave fatty foods when we are hungry and that they are so filling is that they take the longest to digest. This is great if you need to quickly fill yourself up, but not so great for abdominal bloating. This combined with the high sodium in fast food makes for a lethal combination.
IBS: IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is an intestinal order and results in bloating as well as contractions and movements of the bowls and increased sensitivity to gas. The causes of IBS are not fully understood, but it is thought to be either a dormant infection (like a cold sore) or psychosomatic meaning that it is caused by our psychology. Either could explain its strong link with stress. Interestingly it is also linked with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Allergies: Many allergies can cause bloating and abdominal pain as the stomach is a highly sensitive area. In particular lactose intolerance is known for this so if you experience bloating you should make a note of what you have been eating at the time.
Intestinal inflammation: This can be caused by a range of problems such as Chrohn's disease or colon cancer. Chances are that your bloating is nothing serious, but it is still important to get to the bottom of it in case it is an indicator of something more serious.