We’ve blogged a fair bit about gut health recently – it’s the topic on everyone’s lips in the health community – but one persistent problem we continue to hear much about is bloating. Whether caused by a large, stodgy meal, a hastily-gulped drink or a heightened sensitivity to certain foods, abdominal distention is a horrible and sometimes agonisingly painful occurrence. Only one question springs to mind: what’s the best way to deal with it?

What Causes Bloating?

OK, so perhaps two questions spring to mind: in order to posit a solution, it’s necessary to know what causes bloating in the first place. Unfortunately, bloating is not always easy to pinpoint. Indeed, the list of triggers is virtually endless, with stress, IBS, food allergies (egg, fructose, lactose, wheat/gluten), poor digestion and hormonal imbalance just a few of the usual suspects.

Other factors which can lead to a bloated belly include:

  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating large, rather than small, meals
  • Guzzling gaseous/fizzy drinks
  • Chewing gum
  • Consuming high-fibre foods (which produce gas)
  • Constipation
  • Sugar alcohols (typically found in sugar-free foods)
  • Dehydration

With so many possible factors, it can be difficult getting to the root of the problem. Cutting out gum, properly masticating food and giving up Coca-Cola might be easy enough, but if symptoms persist you may have to systematically purge other foods from your diet to locate the problem. Keeping a food diary is a good way to go about this, as you’ll gain a greater understanding about which foods or drinks give rise to that full-to-bursting/gassy feeling. Alternatively, you can work with a clinical nutritionist to formulate a diet designed to minimise your discomfort. If problems persist, you should naturally see a doctor to rule out a chronic medical condition.

Remedies and Rituals to Cure Bloating

Given that everyone is different, there is no panacea when it comes to bloating (or much else, truth be told); it simply does not follow that what works for one will work for all. Nonetheless, there are steps you can take which could potentially eliminate or lessen the symptoms of bloating.

One is to use a digestive enzyme supplement to ensure your body is able to efficiently break down nutrients from food. Ginzyme is a doctor-formulated digestive support supplement containing enzymes responsible for breaking down protein, carbohydrates and fat. A number of natural ingredients are included in the formulation, including fresh ginger – historically used as a carminative to relieve digestive discomfort and eliminate excess gas – and hawthorn fruit. In many cases, an enzyme supplement can provide almost instant relief.

Speaking of ginger, drinking ginger tea is also touted as a natural remedy for bloating and stomach pain more generally. It not only helps stimulate saliva and gastric juice to aid in the digestive process, but it helps reduce the likelihood of intestinal gas and flatulence resulting from an inadequately digested meal. What's more, ginger tea is famed for relieving muscle constrictions and releasing blocked digestive gases in the gastrointestinal tract.

Peppermint oil works in much the same way, with several studies showing it to be capable of assuaging the symptoms of IBS – including bloating. Using spices that stimulate digestion is another good tip – cumin and black pepper should be your go-to condiments.

Can Probiotics Help with Bloating?

If bloating is caused by imbalanced gut flora, a good-quality multi-strain probiotic could also be of massive benefit. Ensuring your microflora is well-balanced between good and bacteria is vitally important not just for avoiding bloating but for reducing symptoms of allergies, improving sleep, elevating mood (via the brain-gut axis) and lessening abdominal pain associated with IBS. Go for a probiotic containing well-researched strains and tailored for the human stomach’s complex environment – Progurt is a good choice. You can choose to mix the sachets with water and drink or whip up your own high-strength probiotic yogurt. A probiotic is especially advisable if you recently underwent a course of antibiotics.

As with the other remedies outlined, the effectiveness of probiotics in tackling bloating will largely depend on the individual. Getting your gut in good working order, however, is never a bad thing – even if it means seeking out another solution for your abdominal distention. Although in most cases you have to take probiotics for some time to notice a difference, Progurt  should make an impact within a few days given the strength: a single sachet contains one trillion bacteria capability, 30 to 40 times that of most probiotics.

If bloating has become a regular feature of your life, try to work your way through this list and, as ever, listen to your body: it will give you all the instruction you need.