Gas and bloating are extremely unpleasant, yet common symptoms that happen to everyone at some point in their lives. There are a number of different lifestyle factors that can cause gas and bloating, including your diet. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of these uncomfortable symptoms.
1. Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by ingesting foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat. Eating gluten-containing foods can cause abdominal boating and pain, constipation, and other digestive and non-digestive symptoms. The best way to know if you have celiac disease is with a blood test or biopsy, speak to your doctor if you believe this is the case.
Celiac disease isn’t nearly as a common as gluten sensitivity. Being sensitive to gluten can cause a lot of similar digestive symptoms, like gas and bloating, without a positive test for celiac disease. Regardless if you have celiac
disease or just a sensitivity to gluten the best thing you can do to reduce symptoms is to avoid foods that contain gluten, or all foods made from wheat.
2. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is caused by an inability to breakdown sugar from dairy products in the small intestine. The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance include stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, nausea, and vomiting.
If you notice any of these symptoms after eating dairy products, you can use a hydrogen breath test to determine if you are intolerant or you can simply follow an elimination diet to see if symptoms improve.
Avoidance of lactose is the best way to reduce symptoms, but taking lactase pills before meals can help as well.
Constipation is a common culprit of bloating and gas. If you’re not sure if you have constipation, look out for these signs: straining during bowel movements, stools that look like hard, small pebbles, or not feeling empty after a bowel movement.
There are many reasons that can cause constipation, however, to start try slowly adding fiber to your diet and increasing the amount of water you drink daily. In severe cases, medications like stool softeners or laxatives
may be necessary.
4. Carbonated Beverages
Carbonated beverages like sodas or sparkling water can add to gas production. Drinking carbonated beverages increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the intestines, causing small pockets of air to form. These air pockets are harmless, but can lead to increased gas later. To reduce gas, try sticking to “flat” beverages like water, coffee, tea, or juice.
5. Eating Too Quickly
There are many reasons why you may eat in a hurry. Perhaps you have only a few minutes to grab a bite to eat before rushing off to a task. Or you are extremely hungry and cannot help but get food into your system as quickly as possible. Either way, you may be getting extra air into your system as you’re “inhaling” your food and ending up with extra gas. To cut down on speeding through your food, put your fork down between each bite and chew thoroughly. Also try to avoid extreme hunger, plan snacks in-between your meals or schedule dedicated breaks to eat during busy times.
6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that causes a group of symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation without any visible disease or damage within the intestinal tract. The symptoms of IBS are not caused by an intestinal disease, IBS is caused by changes in gut-brain interactions that lead to gut sensitivity.
Individuals who experience stressful or difficult life events, certain mental disorders, bacterial infections, changes in the bacteria within the small intestine, or food intolerances are more likely to have IBS. Certain diet changes,
medications, probiotic therapy, or mental health therapies may be effective in treating symptoms of IBS.
7. FODMAP Foods
Recent research suggests that certain sugars may be difficult for adults to digest, especially for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. These sugars are collectively known as FODMAPs, are found many healthy foods including legumes, onions, garlic, dairy products, fruit, sweeteners, and wheat.
Individuals who remove high FODMAP foods tend to feel improvement in symptoms, especially if they are struggling with IBS. Before cutting all of these foods out of your diet, since many are highly nutritious, consult with a Registered Dietitian who is trained in the FODMAP diet to ensure that you don’t miss out on important nutrients in your diet.
8. High Salt Diets
Eating foods that are high in salt can cause quick bloating. When your body receives an influx of sodium, your cells retain water to balance out all the salt. This can lead to bloating, not just in the stomach, but throughout the body. Heart and kidney conditions reduce how efficiently the body can move fluid around, and high salt foods can exacerbate fluid retention. To reduce bloating, choose low sodium options and increase intake of fruits and vegetables.
9. Your Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle is marked by significant shifts in estrogen and progesterone between phases of ovulation and menstruation. During the premenstrual stage of the menstrual cycle, emotional and physical symptoms collectively known as Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can occur. Physical symptoms like weight gain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea are common. Over 90% of women experience at least one symptom of premenstrual syndrome, and
women who have IBS tend to experience more PMS symptoms. To help reduce symptoms, avoiding salt, alcohol or caffeine can help, as well as exercise and getting enough sleep at night.
Poorly managed stress can contribute to your bloated stomach. During a stressful situation, the “fight or flight” response is activated and the hormone cortisol is released throughout the body. Cortisol promotes fluid and salt retention, which can make you feel heavier and bloated. In addition to this, stress slows down how quickly your stomach empties food, speeds up how quickly food goes through the colon, and increases the sensitivity of gut to uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. Try doing things that calm you down like mediation, journaling, exercise, or music.
These are just a few of the common causes of bloating and gas. But, individual food sensitivities may also be a cause. If you are struggling with gas and bloating and would like more guidance I’d be happy to guide you in the right direction for understanding what foods might be impacting your digestive health.
Is gas and bloating a recurring issue for you?
I had no idea that stress can increase your gut’s sensitivity and can lead to gastrointestinal problems that may cause discomfort. Ever since my wife started her new job, she has been noticing that she tends to spend a lot of time in the bathroom whenever she finishes her lunch at work. Maybe we should seek professional help in order to better understand what her body is experiencing.