If you are somebody who experiences frequent abdominal bloating and discomfort you are not alone! In fact, bloating is the biggest complaint of people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome; which affects up to 15% of the US population. Although there are many diseases that can cause bloating such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Celiac, this article will focus on the most common ones people experience.
Some bloating and gas is normal, in fact, most people produce .52.5 liters of gas per day. It’s when this gas becomes trapped in the intestines that cause all the problems.
What’s Causing My Bloating?
The three most common sources of bloating are swallowed air, carbohydrate intolerance, and small bowel bacterial overgrowth.
Swallowed air is a common cause when we eat too fast, chew gum, or drink through a straw. Fortunately, most of this swallowed air is expelled as belching and usually doesn’t cause significant discomfort.
Another cause of bloating is when bacteria start to live where they shouldn’t; in the small bowel. If you experience stress, get sick or even take antibiotics, bacteria can start to grow in the small intestine and this is called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). In SIBO the small intestine, which is supposed to be a relatively sterile environment, becomes infiltrated by bacteria that feed off the food we eat and produce gas. This gas then gets trapped in the intestines causing severe bloating and pain.
Carbohydrate intolerance or malabsorption is another common cause of bloating that often is missed. The two most common types are lactose intolerance and fructose intolerance. In those people who are deficient in these enzymes, those foods will not be broken down properly and colonic bacteria will ferment them to produce excessive gas. One study found that up to one third of patients with suspected IBS had fructose intolerance.
What Can I Do to Stop the Bloat?
Although the three causes I mentioned are the most common, a thorough workup still needs to be done to make sure nothing more serious is going on. Remember, serious diseases like IBD, Celiac, and even some cancers can present with bloating as the only symptom.
Once this is determined, then thankfully, for most people the bloating can be controlled. The first step is talking with your doctor to figure out which type of bloating you have:
- If You are Swallowing Air THEN try THIS:
a. Eat slower, Don’t drink through a straw, Don’t talk while eating, Don’t chew gum
- If You Have SIBO THEN try THIS:
a. Taking a round of antibiotics like Xifaxan or trying Natural treatments like Atrantil. You can also try eating a different diet low in starches like an SCD and FODMAP.
- If You Have Carbohydrate Intolerance THEN try THIS:
a. Try taking Lactose out of your diet, then Fructose (including high fructose corn syrup) and this still doesn’t help then consider the FODMAP diet.