How to reduce bloating

How to reduce bloating

How to reduce bloating

We are going to discuss how to reduce bloating and how you can reduce this common complaint. Bloating not only causes discomfort due to griping pains but can be exacerbated by clothes becoming too tight when bloating occurs. 


Frequent bloating is a sign that the digestive system is not functioning optimally. From the moment we eat food, digestion begins. 


In the mouth salivary amylase begins carbohydrate digestion and the mechanical breakdown of food from chewing. Once the food passes to the stomach, protein digestion begins. 


The digestive process is actually instigated before we even put food into our mouths. The cephalic stage of digestion begins when we see, smell or even think about food. 


Digestive juice secretion begins in both the mouth and stomach in preparation for the arrival of food. I am sure we have all experienced the mouth-watering sensation when saliva is increased in the mouth as a response to seeing, smelling or thinking about the food we find delicious! 


Signals sent from the brain to the stomach via the vagus nerve during the cephalic stage of digestion result in the release of some 20% of gastric secretions. This is a large percentage of digestive juices to miss out on! 


Therefore one of the first things to remember is that not thinking about your meal, taking time to chew and eating mindlessly will negatively impact digestion. 


But how does this help us reduce bloating?


Partially digested protein reaching the large intestine will undergo putrification. Bacteria will ferment the proteins producing foul-smelling gasses. Not only do these gases cause embarrassment but result in discomfort as they become trapped. 


Eating bitter foods before or at the beginning of the meal can aid in the stimulation of gastric secretions. Try including foods like radish, watercress, rocket, ginger, chicory or artichoke. There is also some evidence that a small amount of apple cider vinegar, say 1 teaspoon, in water at the beginning of a meal can be helpful.   


A suboptimal production of stomach acid to digest the proteins is impacted not only by a reduced cephalic phase of digestion but the sufficient supply of nutrients to produce the stomach acid. 


One of the most important nutrients to consider is zinc. Not only is zinc reduced in times of stress but is involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body and is therefore in high demand.


With modern-day farming methods, the density of mineral content of the soil is also reduced, impacting the amount of zinc available from food. 


In addition, plant sources of zinc such as nuts and seeds contain phytic acid that binds to zinc before its absorption can take place. This becomes a problem when the gut microbiota is imbalanced, in other words, there is dysbiosis. A balanced microbiota is able to ferment the phytic acid leaving the zinc available for absorption. 


Good food sources of zinc to include in the diet include oysters, salmon and other oily fish, beef, egg, chickpeas, avocado, pumpkin seeds, lentils, quinoa and buckwheat. 


Stomach acid is as the name suggests acidic and the acidity of the bolus of partially digested food leaving the stomach to enter the small intestine triggers the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder. These enzymes and bile are required to properly digest fats and continue carbohydrate and protein digestion. 


Hence sub-optimal stomach acid levels do not only impact protein digestion but carbohydrate and fats as well. 


We have talked about the gut microbiota, that is the bacteria in the gut, fermenting undigested foods causing gas and bloating but does the composition of the gut microbiota have an influence as well? The answer is yes! Dysbiosis and opportunistic bacteria will cause fermentation and bloating. 


So not only do we need to ensure we are fully digesting our food but we should ensure we have a balanced microbiota to avoid fermentation by opportunistic bacteria leading to gas and bloating. 


Raffinose is a carbohydrate, an oligosaccharide, found in beans, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli and asparagus and whole grains. Many people find that eating these foods results in gas and bloating.


Humans do not have the enzymes to digest raffinose and therefore In the large intestine, they are fermented by beneficial bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that have multiple health benefits including maintaining the integrity of the gut wall and improving what is referred to as leaky gut. 


Therefore ensure a balanced microbiota with the colonisation of beneficial bacteria to aid in the digestion of raffinose, protect the gut wall and avoid gas and bloating. 


Learn more about how to eat mindfully.

Read about the role of the gut microbiome in health.