Beat the Bloat

Is your tummy bloated? Do you buy skirts and pants according to waistband elasticity rather than style? It’s probably due to your digestion.

Abdominal bloating is a common but generally harmless symptom, which doesn’t stop it from a pestilence.

If your tummy bloats no matter how much you exercise or diet, it is probably due to your digestion. Thin people bloat too.

Finding out why your tummy bloats is a process of elimination. The following are some causes of this annoying condition.

Reason No. 1 – Wrong Bugs, wrong place, wrong time

The healthy human digestive tract contains 2kg of bugs (bacteria, fungi etc). Before you drink Dettol, know that these bugs are important for health. Don’t kill a friend, you may already be on first name basis with a few of them, including acidophilus and bifidus. Some of these little fellows produce vitamins such as Vitamins K, B6, B3, biotin and folic acid. Other bacteria produce enzymes such as lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugar. So what’s the problem? Well, sometimes the ‘good’ bugs are overwhelmed by ‘bad’ bugs. An extreme case of this can be food poisoning. However, there can be more subtle symptoms from less fierce bugs, symptoms such as bloating. In this case, taking antibiotics to kill the bad bugs will only cause more problems, as the good bugs will also be killed.

Reason No. 2 – wrong food

Two foods that may cause the bloat are milk and wheat. Milk sugar, lactose, requires the enzyme lactase (produced by bowel bacteria) to be digested. A lack of lactase means the milk sugar will ferment and causes gas, bloating and diarrhoea. Solving problem number one can help here. The second food, wheat, is more tricky. Wheat contains gluten. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with gluten (I kinda like the guy), except some people can be sensitive to it. Ultra sensitive people have what is known as ‘coeliac’ disease, a serious condition where you cannot touch any gluten. However, you can be sensitive to gluten and have more subtle symptoms… .including tummy bloating and constipation.

Reason No. 3 – poor digestion

If you don’t digest your food well this often causes bloating. It may be due to your eating habits, or it can be inherited. Blame your parents.

Anti-bloat remedies

What to do: To make your digestive tract a place good bugs like to call home, you must avoid sugar, and eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Also, send in the troops. Yoghurt and miso are foods containing beneficial bugs. Take supplements of good bacteria including acidophilus and bifidus as well as products like Yakult.

If you eat heaps of bread, pasta and biscuits maybe gluten sensitivity is a problem for you. The best way to test this is to avoid all gluten for at least 10 days. This is tough going because it means avoiding all wheat products. (rye, oats and barley also contain gluten and should be avoided) Stick to anything ‘gluten free’ (and boring). Eat rice and plenty of vegetables. If your tummy is flat at the end of 10 days, in future reduce gluten foods to one serving per day.

Good digestion rules include chewing each mouthful of food really well before swallowing. Slow down — don’t rush. Avoid drinking more than one glass of fluid with your meal. Herbal bitters help poor digestion, take one teaspoon in water before your main meal each day.

The bloat can be cured, it just needs a little patience to figure out the cause.