Whether you ate a little too much, your stomach didn’t quite agree with your last meal, or that bloat just came out of nowhere again, there’s no denying the fact that bloating is downright uncomfortable. It can make us want to unbutton our jeans and just call it a day. That tight and puffy feeling dampens energy levels quickly and before you know it you’ve achieved nothing the entire day.
Although there are many dietary and biological factors that can play a role in how much bloating you experience, there are many lifestyle factors that can also affect how well (or not well) your body eliminates gas.
What Causes Bloating?
So, what’s really at the root of this awful bloating feeling that seems to pop up at the most inconvenient times? Here are some of the most common culprits.
Eating Too Much
When you eat a lot of food in one sitting, it can cause a lot of strain on your digestive tract. There’s more volume, but nowhere else for it to go - this can cause swelling simply from the food itself protruding outward, creating abdominal bloat. Secondly, with all the food entering your body at once, this can create excess gas, which also contributes to bloating and redirects all your energy to your digestive system, entering that lethargic food coma stage.
If you are consuming certain foods that don’t agree with you (dairy and gluten being the main culprits for most people), then you may experience an upset stomach, and yes, this includes bloating as the bodies inflammatory responses are activated.
While you might be personally sensitive to specific foods, there are a number of common offenders that generally cause bloating; dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, chemicals in preservatives, colours, pesticides and food additives. Some people may even experience being sensitive to certain sugars and carbohydrates (called FODMAPS).
If you’re experiencing bloating and gas on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to get in contact with your doctor and naturopath to see what is causing your symptoms, because harnessing the knowledge from Eastern and Western medicine will arm you with the power of choosing what is right for your body.
Drinking Carbonated Drinks
Big fan of coke? Consider kombucha for your hit of fizz because you may find yourself more bloated as carbonated beverages can leave you feeling puffy and uncomfortable.
Because these drinks are loaded with the exact thing that’s causing your issues - gas - this bloats the digestive system which will potentially cause a swollen stomach and discomfort on your end, and remember, bloat = fatigue.
As if our periods didn’t come with enough discomfort, add in PMS hormones and bloating and you’ve got yourself a great time (not!). Our estrogen and progesterone levels directly affect gastrointestinal discomfort and distress, affecting your body from brain to belly, which is why during this time we can feel like the Hyde to our Jekyll. Oh and if you’re going through menopause, bloating is another lovely side effect... so how can we beat the bloat?
Exercises for Bloat Relief
Studies have found that regular exercise, including strengthening your abdominal muscles through yoga, pilates or any aerobic activity, can aid in digestion and ease both gas and bloating. Stomach muscles help move gas around the intestines, whilst also speeding up your metabolism to process food more efficiently.
Gas and bloating can also be related to your level of activity and the strength of your abdominal wall, Palmer says. "Weakness in the stomach muscles is a factor for bloating."
People who have a separation in their abdominal muscles, known as diastasis recti, common during and after pregnancy, or those who are recovering from abdominal surgery may have a harder time moving gas through their digestive system, which is also how we can end up constipated. Palmer says. "Stomach muscles help move gas through the intestines," she adds. "Exercise to strengthen the stomach muscles or walking to help move gas through could help." At the very least, go for a 30 minute walk daily, and watch the positive impact it has on your bloating.
In addition to strengthening your abdominal wall, research shows that general exercise can help provide relief from gas and bloating. A 2006 study on bloating published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that physical activity helped participants move gas and ease their symptoms. The researchers noted that anyone trying to ease gas and bloating should learn about the benefits of regular exercise. They also found that for gas relief, people should limit the amount of time they spend lying back in a recumbent or horizontal position.
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