You know how you can wake up with flat abs, but by 4pm your belly is sticking out like you’re six months pregnant?? Anyone else? Ladies, I know you can relate! I hear women complaining about abdominal bloating ALL THE TIME… It has to be one of the biggest complaints among women. I know some men are prone too, but I find women in particular suffer from these symptoms – often labeled by the medical community as IBS. Studies suggest that IBS is more common in women than men, at a ratio of approximately 2:1.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Basically that means, we’ve ruled out Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other medical diagnoses with objective findings, and we can’t really pinpoint anything in particular causing your symptoms, so we’ll call it IBS. Now, there is evidence that IBS is due to autonomic nervous system dysfunction (faulty communication, dysmotility and visceral hypersensitivity) but overall I’d say it isn’t all that well understood, and the treatments available are suboptimal to say the least. I’ll be honest, I’m very familiar with all of the above because I grew up not realizing I was lactose intolerant until medical school (yes, it was a sad childhood… lol. I thought severe cramping and gas, aka flatulence, were a normal part of every day life!!). And even after eliminating dairy, I still struggled for many years (and sometimes still do – although much more infrequently). So I thought today I’d share some tips for eliminating abdominal bloating once and for all! Good luck fellow gassy ladies! 😉
1. Stop chewing gum.
Believe it or not, this made the biggest difference for me! I tried everything, I had already cut out dairy and wheat (which both helped A LOT) but still had some symptoms.
2. Try an elimination diet
Cut out the top food intolerances for 2 weeks each and monitor your symptoms. These include:
– WHEAT: Even people without celiac disease can have a degree of gluten sensitivity with varying symptoms. If there is a concern for celiac disease, consult your physician for further testing. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
– DAIRY: Many people lack the lactase enzyme necessary to digest lactose, found in dairy products. This results in hydrogen gas production in the stomach and bowels, which leads to bloating. http://www.ncbi.nlm.
– CARBOHYDRATES: Some people find that a high carbohydrate diet (mainly grains) produces gas/bloating. Try minimizing your grain and simple sugar intake and monitor your symptoms.
– LOW FODMAP DIET: This diet has reasonable evidence for reducing bloating, cramping and all IBS-related symptoms. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20136989. FODMAPS are short-chain carbohydrates that are not well absorbed in the small intestine and therefore get fermented by bacteria in your colon. This fermentation produces the uncomfortable gas that you experience. The diet is a little complicated at first, but here is a guide to bring with you to the grocery store: http://stanfordhealthcare.org/content/dam/SHC/for-patients-component/programs-services/clinical-nutrition-services/docs/pdf-lowfodmapdiet.pdf
3. Try probiotics such as Align.
Probiotics have been shown to reduce IBS symptoms, bloating and flatulence by about 20% in randomized control trials compared to placebo.
4. Try digestive enzymes.
Digestive enzyme capsules contain enzymes like lactase, proteases, carbohydrases to break down complex macromolecules into their smaller components. This is part of your body’s natural digestive process; digestive enzymes simply provide a little boost.
5. Drink water and get your bowels moving.
Poop sitting in your gut from constipation will make you feel bloated and result in more gas. Yep, I said poop. Get it moving 🙂
For some, this may mean increasing fiber intake, recognizing that fiber can also produce more gas in some individuals. If you really suffer from chronic constipation, you may want to try a gentle stool softener (Docusate) or osmotic laxative (polyethylene glycol).
Notice how I use the word “try”. I did this intentionally. No one remedy will work for everyone, and not everyone with IBS has the same symptoms or intolerances. We’re all created differently, what is healthy for one person to eat may induce intolerances in another, so you need to get to know your body and listen to your own symptoms. The strategies above are there to get you started!