Updated: May 26
We all know that feeling when we've eaten a large meal (perhaps a bit more than our stomach can manage) and we end up feeling bloated and uncomfortable, and we understand the reason why!
Occasional bloating is experienced by many, but I all too often I hear people saying that they are experiencing uncomfortable bloating regularly, and for no apparent or identified reason - sometimes even waking up feeling bloated before eating the first meal of the day, or during or before their menstrual cycle.
Suddenly experiencing bloating after eating something is not only extremely uncomfortable - it can be embarrassing if we are out and about, especially if it's accompanied by an urgent need to visit the bathroom.
It is common that after eating meals and throughout the day, our stomach expands due to what we are consuming; however severe bloating or discomfort is not something we should put up with! Every person is different and if you are experiencing regular bloating or digestive discomfort, it's always important to visit your GP for advice and possible investigation as a starting point.
If bloating and digestive discomfort is something you regularly struggle with, you might have been told that by your GP that you have IBS, which is known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is a collection of symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, and stomach cramps. There may be many different things causing these symptoms, and sometimes it is triggered by something you eat or drink, or perhaps even by stress.
After you've visited your GP, working with a nutritional therapist could be an effective way for you to try and identify possible triggers for your bloating and digestive discomfort, so that you can work improving your gut health and ease your symptoms.
Possible bloating triggers include:
Caffeinated drinks, as well as alcohol and fizzy drinks
Dairy products, particularly cheese
Not chewing food sufficiently
Eating when stressed, or doing another activity, such as watching TV
Identifying your personal triggers can be key in experiencing an improvement in your symptoms - therefore, taking note of the food you eat in relation to your symptoms or recording your emotions could help you to identify a pattern.
Here are some general tips and tricks to help support your digestive system:
1) Chew your food well!
Our digestion starts in our mouth - chemically via enzymes, and mechanically with our teeth.
Quite often we are not taking long-enough to chew our food, or we eat in front of screens or while we're on the go. Not chewing our food properly can result in bloating, so although it sounds obvious, taking time to sit down and chew your food thoroughly before swallowing could hold the key to reducing bloating!
Our digestive system is highly sensitive to stress and emotions (we've all experienced our stomach feeling off if we're nervous or even excited about something!).
Take a couple of deep breaths before a meal, because it can aid in our relaxation and might encourage us to take our time to eat, as well as remain in a calm state to support our digestive system.
3) Make sure you're getting enough fibre!
Although you might think fibre will only make matters worse in terms of bloating and digestion, in fact, getting enough fibre can ensure that our digestive systems are working optimally.
Of course, if you go from eating a low fibre diet to a high fibre one, it might cause some discomfort, so the key is building up your fibre intake gradually. If you also experience bloating after eating legumes, such as beans or chickpeas, make sure you rinse them before eating, which can really help to reduce digestive discomfort after eating, as you are washing away some of the prebiotic content (prebiotics provide the food to the bacteria that reside in our gut and can result in gas and bloating when we eat them).
4) Give your gut a break!
Our digestive system appreciates a little break now and then, therefore leaving time between meals might actually help support our digestion. When we aren't eating, something happens called the "migrating motor complex", which helps to move undigested food through our small intestines and is super important for the effective functioning of our digestive system. There is of course nothing wrong with a snack here and there if you're hungry, but leaving time between meals is worth testing out to see if it helps with your symptoms.
5) Incorporate Probiotic foods into your diet!
It's possible that bloating and digestive discomfort is linked to the health of your gut microbiome (which is essentially the place where microorganisms reside in your gut). There are many different types of microorganisms co-existing - often referred to as a "symbiotic" environment, which essentially means that there should be a balance in the microorganisms that reside in your gut.
Sometimes this balance can be upset, for example when we have had a course of antibiotics, or if we don't have enough beneficial bacteria in our gut due to excess consumption of sugar and processed foods. Ensuring that we support our little microorganisms in our gut is key not only to digestive health, but our health in general, since 70% of the immune system is found in our gut! Gut health has also been linked to our mental well-being too.
Some people might find introducing probiotic (e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, pickles ) and prebiotic foods (e.g. oats, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, honey, artichokes), or probiotic supplements can actually make matters worse in terms of bloating and digestive discomfort; therefore it's important to try adding these foods gradually, and review how you react to them. Some probiotic supplements might help to reduce bloating and improve digestion, but it's worth talking to a practitioner so that they can help you to select the correct one.
As a starting point, always talk to your GP if you're regularly experiencing bloating or any digestive discomfort to see if you need any investigations.
Try and identify possible personal triggers by using a food or emotion log for a few weeks to see if you can spot any patterns
Try reducing intake of caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks and processed, refined foods and see if you not any improvements.
Think not only about what you're eating, but also how. Are you rushing your meals, are you chewing your food? Are you stressed? Take a step back and see if other factors could be contributing to your gut problems.
Nutritional Nugget: Sometimes we experience digestive problems because we have low stomach acid (something needed to efficiently digest our food). Apple Cider Vinegar might help to increase our stomach acid, and mixing 1 tablespoon with a small amount of water and consuming 30-minutes before meals might help with your digestion. Always look for Apple Cider Vinegar "with mother", which contains probiotics, and it's what gives the apple cider vinegar a cloudy appearance.
If you have been told you have IBS, or you experience regular bloating and digestive discomfort and feel unsure of a way forward, and want to enjoy food again without worrying about possible bloating or discomfort, please reach out to me and book your 20-minute complimentary call, and we can review your individual case and see how I can support you on your journey!
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Please note that Amy Cottrell Nutrition does not claim to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional conditions. These blog articles are written for educational & informational purposes only and are not a substitute for medical advice.
Do not stop or start taking medication or supplements without first talking to your primary health care provider.