This may seem like quite an odd topic to write about initially, however I think there are some misconceptions about “bloating” which need to be cleared up. “Bloating” is quite frequently seen as a negative thing, or an insensitivity to food, however I want to take a look at this and hopefully help to de-bunk these thoughts so you can feel more comfortable eating certain foods.
What exactly is Bloating?
First of all, the true definition of bloating: it is any abnormal gas swelling, or increase in diameter of the abdominal area. As a symptom, the patient feels a full and tight abdomen, which can cause abdominal pain.
This is not to be confused with general or normal digestive processes. After eating you can generally experience sensations of fullness, which could be confused with bloating. If you have consumed a meal which is high in fats or fibre, the meal will occupy a larger space in your stomach and digest much more slowly – making you feel full for a longer period of time. This isn’t a sensitivity to an individual nutrient or food group, it’s simply a slower digestion, occupying space in the gut giving you that sensation.
Effects of Fibre
Another thing to note are that foods typically high in fibre (e.g. beans, pulses, grains) will increase gases in the stomach as a by-product of digestion. High fibre foods are fed on by friendly bacteria to create a healthy gut environment. This process can cause the build-up of gas which is completely natural, however it may be confused with bloating. This is due to the feelings of expansion in the lower abdomen. This isn’t something to be concerned about, so if you do consume a high fibre meal, or a meal rich in vegetables/roughage, don’t be surprised to feel gassy.
Effects of Sugar
Foods high in sugar can also cause issues with “bloating” sensations, which again could be easily confused with an intolerance to food. Some foods which are high in sugar, when over-consumed can cause pressure to build up in the gut due to concentration differences in water/sugar between the gut wall and blood stream. This can lead to stomach cramps which are certainly not enjoyable. Consuming high sugar foods, in high volumes (perhaps as a cheat meal) can often cause this cramping sensation. Think back to your last cheat meal – a lot of you may have reached for a tub of ice cream… I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you experienced stomach cramping and thought of it as “Bloating”. Some of you may also think this is an intolerance to lactose. However it may actually be the sheer volume of sugar entering your stomach at once, causing that pressure build up in the gut.
Food allergies and Intolerances
Now, for some people – bloating is entirely possible as a result of food allergies/intolerances and this can be dangerous. Intolerances to certain foods such as dairy and gluten can be very tough to deal with on a day to day basis as these food groups are very common in the western diet. Consuming foods with even traces of these nutrients can be very problematic and can cause the gut itself to inflame and cause pain to the lower abdomen. If you do experience inflammation and pain, you could have an intolerance or allergy to a certain food group. In these circumstances it is always best to get food intolerances tested by your local GP. Even if you aren’t sure, exercising caution for peace of mind can be a great way to ensure you stay safe or can continue to enjoy certain foods.
Take Home Message
To summarise, when you are concerned over the bloating or stomach sensations as a result of eating foods, consider what is in the food other than the specific allergen or food group before deciding to eliminate them from the diet – the fullness or gas build up can be completely explainable. Additionally, if you are concerned over your reaction to the certain food groups, get your allergies/intolerances tested for. You may also find it helpful to supplement with Probiotic products such as Complete Probiotic™ or LactoSpore®.