Every time we feel stuffy after a meal or wake up in the morning thinking our cheeks look puffy, we often associate it with bloating. But is it really the culprit? We spoke with licensed nutritionist-dietician Samantha Morales to learn more about bloating, misconceptions surrounding it, its more accurate causes, ways to prevent it, and more.
What is bloating?
Samantha defined bloating “or abdominal distention” as “having a full, gassy, and physically swollen core area”. This separates it from fullness felt after eating (or overeating) as bloating is related to gas trapped in the gastrointestinal tract. This trapped gas makes the stomach area expand.
“As carbohydrates and fibre break down in the stomach, they produce intestinal gas which temporarily expands the abdomen. When this happens, it’s normal to feel temporarily full or even gassy. This may pass later in the day,” Samantha explained.
She also clarified that while people may associate “being bloated” with the overconsumption of processed or salty foods, weight gain, or even water retention and hormonal changes during menstruation for women, they’re not exactly the same.
What are the common causes of bloating?
Samantha broke it down, saying: “Eating too fast, eating large portions of food, not chewing the food properly (digestion starts in the mouth), too much carbonated beverages (ex. soda or sparkling water), inadequate water intake, inadequate fibre intake, smoking, constipation, excessive stress, imbalance of gut bacteria, and taking certain medications (ex. steroids) are some of the most common causes of bloating.”
However, she also elaborated that certain health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, food sensitivities, hernia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and many more can also cause gas retention that leads to bloating.
Is bloating dangerous? When should one consult a medical professional?
“Bloating after eating or bloating occasionally is part of normal digestion,” said Samantha, giving assurance that it shouldn’t be perceived as out of the ordinary.
Still, she reminded us that just like any other health concern, if bloating starts to “feel painful” to the point that it disturbs daily activities, that’s when it’s time to “seek professional medical help from a dietician or a physician.”
Easy ways to deal with bloating
When it comes to day-to-day eating, Samantha advised to “chew your food well, practice portion control, add more healthy fats to your diet (i.e. virgin coconut oil, sprouted nuts and seeds), and avoid carbonated drinks.”
She also shared that drinking lots of water will also help ease discomfort felt during bloating. Prebiotic-rich foods such as kimchi, kombucha, natto, and other fermented food items can also help improve overall digestive health.
“Soothing spices and herb teas such as ginger, aloe vera, and peppermint can help too,” she added.
Finally, practising a healthier lifestyle that involves mindfulness, de-stressing, meditation, and breathing techniques will also help improve digestion and prevent bloating in the long run.
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