Do you find yourself feeling heavy, full, and bloated despite how healthy and clean you eat? Unfortunately, regardless of how clean you eat, if you're not addressing the root cause it may continue to worsen.
Whilst abdominal bloating can be caused by more acute reasons such as over-eating, eating on the run, improper digestion, or eating too quickly, there are more deep rooted causes that exist which can contribute to persistent bloating. These include low hydrochloric acid, chronic stress, food sensitivities/intolerances, dysbiosis (imbalanced gut microbiota), candida, microbial fermentation, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Food sensitivities and intolerances are becoming more and more prevalent in our modern-day world due to current food manufacturing/processing systems, the overconsumption of foods designed to be eaten in smaller quantities (e.g. dairy and wheat), a higher intake of processed/sugary foods, and the overuse of antibiotics. Food sensitivities/intolerances cause digestive symptoms when components within a food group are poorly absorbed or not digested efficiently.
When you’re in a state of stress, this stimulates the sympathetic nervous system response, activating the ‘fight or flight’ response. Excess cortisol (i.e. stress hormone) is released from your adrenal glands and shunts blood flow away from the digestive system in order to prepare your body to respond to the stressor. Unfortunately, this down-regulates the activity of the digestive system which interferes with the production of hydrochloric acid/digestive enzyme secretions, alters the pH of the stomach and ultimately leads to abdominal bloating.
SIBO is characterised by an alteration/imbalance of gut bacteria in the small intestine. In a healthy digestive system, the majority of the gut bacteria exists in the large intestine. However, in patients with SIBO, the excess bacteria feeds off undigested food causing food to ferment higher up in the digestive tract, leading to bloating, flatulence (gas) and loose stools.
If these are an issue for you, I recommend working with a qualified naturopath or nutritionist to help identify the underlying cause, however the foundations I always recommend beginning with include:
- Maintaining adequate hydration by consuming at least 2 to 3L of filtered water daily
- Consuming warm lemon water upon waking or foods such as papaya, pineapple, pawpaw and/or kiwifruit as they’re rich in digestive enzymes which help stimulate your digestive system and encourage better absorption
- Organic apple cider vinegar (1 tbsp) with a cup of water 20 minutes before meals
- Consume food mindfully and chew each mouthful 15 to 20 times to support optimal digestion
- Manage stress/emotional wellbeing through practices that bring you joy. This can include meditation, drawing, deep belly breathing, elevating legs up the wall, nature walks, and movement.
- Exercise regularly to encourage lymphatic drainage. Aim for 20-30 minutes of movement per day, and include a variety of exercises throughout the week.
- Sit down to eat meals, and be mindful (eliminate distractions such as TV, laptop, phone, etc.) to allow your digestive system to focus on digesting your meal.
- Enjoy carminative herbs and spices such as chamomile, ginger and cinnamon in your meals, or as a herbal tea
- High quality, specific probiotics under the guidance of a qualified practitioner
Get in touch with Tayla
Tayla is an accredited clinical Naturopath based in Northern NSW, Australia, and is the face behind Cura Wellness. Tayla's approach to health is holistic by uniting traditional naturopathic principles & practices with modern evidence-based research to restore balance/health. She has a special interest in gut/digestive health, mental/emotional wellbeing, skin health, women's health/hormones and general wellness optimization.
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Sarris, J., & Wardle, J. (2019). Clinical naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice, 3rd edn.
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