Yip; gas, burping and bloating are all normal conditions and part of a healthy digestive track. Gas is a result of the body breaking down food and burping is usually caused by swallowing air. Bloating, that uncomfortable feeling of fullness in the abdomen, however, seems to “linger longer” and therefore an unwelcome accompaniment during the day.
Common causes of bloating include:
- Gas-producing foods and drinks, such as beans, broccoli, carbonated drinks and beer.
- A side effect of medications or supplements, such as narcotic pain medications, vitamins and iron supplements, as well as several medications that are used to treat constipation.
- Changing hormone levels - many women feel bloated right before their periods because their bodies retain fluid.
- Weakened abdominal muscles caused by pregnancy or abdominal surgery.
- Occasionally, bloating may be caused by a more serious medical problem, such as a bowel obstruction, gallbladder disease, or Crohn's disease
If you constantly experience abdominal bloating and pain, it is important to see your doctor to make sure there is nothing serious present. However, in most instances bloating is relieved by simple changes in the diet. By keeping a food diary for a couple of days noting the severity and time of bloating, you should be able to spot a pattern and identify the culprit.
Let’s look at the Top 10 usual “perpetrators”.....
- Carbonated drinks
All carbonated drinks, from beer, cool drinks to fizzy bottled water, can cause bloating because the carbon dioxide trapped in the bubbles creates gas in the stomach. Some individuals are also sensitive to beverages such as alcohol, coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks such as hot chocolate. Some fruit juices can irritate the digestive tract resulting in bloating.
High-sodium foods such as crisps may cause the body to retain water that leads to a bloated feeling. And although you might not add a lot of salt to your food during cooking, sodium can show up in less obvious sources, especially in processed foods such as bread, cereals, crackers and cheese; thus read the food labels and give preference to flavour foods with herbs.
- Fatty, fried foods
Fatty fast foods such as burgers, chips, fried chicken and deep-fried treats including doughnuts, samoosas and koeksisters often cause bloating because it takes longer to break down the excess fats and properly digest it. This extra time allows gas to build up, causing bloating.
- Artificial sweeteners
Some artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, mannitol, cyclamates and sucralose can increase bloating. These are a common ingredient in diet drinks, sweets, cookies, energy bars and chewing gums. Just like fiber, these artificial sweeteners are indigestible, therefore lingering in the stomach and after enough build-up it acts as a substrate for the fermentation of bacteria, leading to the production of gas.
- Chewing gum
Chewing gum is more often than not associated with swallowing air, which then is trapped in the stomach, causing bloating and gas. It also often contains artificial sweeteners, which may aggravate the bloating.
- Spicy foods
Spicy foods stimulate the release of stomach acid that can cause irritation in certain individuals increasing the occurrence of bloating. Typically, this is seen with the use of black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, chilli powder, curry, onions, garlic and horseradish.
- Dairy products
If you are lactose-intolerant (in other words do not have the enzyme lactase that is needed to digest milk sugars), the consumption of dairy products will leave you bloated. This condition is relatively common amongst people of Asian and African descent. The lactose that is not completely digested will pass to the colon where gas is produced by the bacteria trying to break it down.
- Fruit Sugars
Just like lactose-intolerance, people that are fructose-intolerant and cannot digest the fruit sugars properly leading to an excess of gas and bloating after eating fruit. Avoid high-fructose fruits like apples, dates, grapes, pears, watermelon and pineapple. Some research suggests it is better to eat fruit separately from a meal - either 30 minutes before or at least two hours after.
- Gas-forming vegetables
Some vegetables produce more gas than others do and people vary in their ability to tolerate them. Be on the lookout for: baked beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, lentils, Lima beans, onions and peppers especially the green variety.
Most starches, including potatoes, maize, pasta and wheat produce gas as they are broken down in the large intestine – that is part of the normal digestive process. Rice in general does not cause bloating. Refined grains like white flour that's often used in white bread, cake and biscuits not only offer little nutrition, but can also cause water retention, with bloating as a result.