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What Causes Uncomfortable Bloating and Gas?
Most people can say they have experienced being bloated and gassy. Whether it’s due to an unhealthy meal, eating too much of a gas-inducing food, or for another reason, there’s no denying it is uncomfortable and embarrassing.
So why does gas and bloating occur? And, more importantly, how do we put an end to the unpleasant sensation of our stomachs becoming heavy and painful?
Healthy Foods Cause Bloating and Gassiness
Bloating and gassiness of the digestive system are most often caused by the foods we eat. Contrary to popular belief, many healthy foods cause gassiness — not just unhealthy ones.
Foods that may cause gas and bloating include:
- The onion family, including onions, shallots, garlic and chives.
- The cabbage family, including many types of cabbages, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower.
- Dried and fresh beans, and peas, and lentils.
- Whole grains, such as wheat, bulger, barley, and farro may cause gas and bloating.
- Many people experience burping and gas when they eat peppers or cucumbers.
- Carbonated and alcoholic beverages may cause gassiness.
Unhealthy Foods, Gassiness and Health ProblemsJust because healthy foods may cause bloating and gas, it does not mean you should choose other less nutritious options to avoid becoming bloated or gassy. For example, while refined grains may not cause you to bloat, they are lower in nutrients, less satisfying, and highly processed.
Often, we become gassy and bloated after eating unhealthy foods due to the high fat content.
If you get bloated and experience digestive discomfort — such as pain, vomiting or diarrhea —after eating fatty foods, you may have a problem with your digestive or hepatic systems. These symptoms may indicate gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), stomach or intestinal ulcers, gall bladder or liver disease. Bloating and gas are common in the presence of many digestive disorders.
Gassiness and Bloating May be the Sign of a Food Sensitivity
Common food sensitivities may cause bloating and gassiness. If you lack the enzymes needed to digest a particular type of food, you may experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and gassiness.
For example, if you do not have sufficient lactase, the enzyme needed to break down the protein in milk and dairy products, you may suffer from digestive woes. Fresh, unfermented dairy products are more likely than fermented foods, such as yogurt, to cause gastrointestinal issues. To avoid digestive issues, you can take an over-the-counter lactase enzyme before consuming dairy products.
If you have a true food allergy, you might experience severe vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, gassiness and abdominal pain if you eat an offending food.
For example, if you are allergic to shellfish, you may experience gastrointestinal issues in conjunction with the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, including rash, anxiety, itchiness, hives or trouble breathing. You may develop swelling of your mouth and throat, or go into anaphylactic shock, which requires immediate medical attention.
Call an ambulance if anaphylaxis, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the mouth or throat occurs.
Generalized Bloating From Many Causes
Generalized bloating may arise for a variety of reasons.
Many women experience bloating when they are menstruating due to hormonal changes. In addition, bloating of the feet and legs during pregnancy is common, especially during the third trimester. However, excessive bloating may be indicative of preeclampsia or other complications of pregnancy, so pregnant women should consult with their health care provider if bloating occurs.
Bloating of the abdomen may occur if fluid retention is severe. This condition is known as anasarca or generalized edema. The entire body may swell, and it can indicate serious illness such as cancer, lung, heart and kidney disease.
A qualified medical practitioner should be notified. If shortness of breath or chest pain is present with the bloating, get to an emergency room as soon as possible or call an ambulance.
Most Cases of Bloating and Gassiness Are Simply Unpleasant or Embarrassing
While bloating and gassiness may be signs of illness, the vast majority if the time they are harmless. Here are some tips for preventing and relieving gassiness and bloating:
- Chew your food thoroughly so digestive juices will flow and mix with your food completely.
- Note what foods make you gassy, and limit or avoid them.
- Try taking digestive enzymes.
- Take probiotics.
- Limit your intake of fluids during meals so your digestive fluids will not be diluted.
- Be sure to drink adequate amounts of fluids the rest of the day.
- If you experience bloating, limit your intake of salt and foods high in sodium.
- Eat in a calm relaxing environment, as stress may impair the function of your digestive system.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any medications you take cause gassiness or bloating as side effects.
- Get regular exercise.
- Limit your intake of heavy, greasy foods.
- Do not overeat.
- If gassiness occurs, use over-the-counter, prescription or herbal remedies, including dill, fennel, mint and ginger.
- Regular massages may diminish bloating.
- Acupuncture can help to balance energy pathways of the body and optimize digestive and circulatory well-being.
While gassiness and bloating are usually harmless, consult with your health care provider if you have concerns, or if gassiness or bloating is accompanied by other symptoms, or arises during childhood or pregnancy.