What Causes Bloating

Question: Why do some foods cause bloating? If I eat fish and vegetables I’m not bloated. If I eat Indian food, I’m always bloated. Is it simply overeating? Is it food-combining? I would like to never be bloated again.

An Answer:

Feeling bloated means feeling gross. There are several things which could cause bloating and you guessed at two of them – overeating and food combining.

Basically, when you’re bloated it means that something has interfered with your digestion and isn’t allowing it to proceed as it normally would. Anything that interferes with the proficiency of digestive juices is going to make it seem like you’re too full. When food sits in the stomach for longer-than-normal, not digesting as it should, it can begin to ferment causing excessive gas which may increase the bloated feeling. Food that has passed from the abdomen to the intestine without being properly digested can lead to lower digestive bloating and gas.

Over-stuffing yourself is one example, where the acids in your stomach are overwhelmed by the shear amount of food that is there. Improper food combining is another possibility. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates all require different amounts of time to digest in your stomach before moving to the lower digestion. While carbs go through rather quickly, proteins undergo their main digestion in the stomach, taking longer. Fats take longest of all and can cause delays in stomach emptying which may increase the feeling of fullness. People who are frequently bothered by bloating may wish to try a food combining diet to see if the situation improves.

Dumping a sweet dessert on a fatty meal is a food combining no-no and is one of the worst culprits for post meal bloat. Mixing fats, which take a long time to digest, with simple carbohydrates which move quickly out of the abdomen means the sugars (carbs) will be in there too long. Food moves out of the stomach together so the sugars need to wait for the fats and proteins to digest fully before the stomach will be emptied and all the food moves to the small intestine together. Sugary foods held in your abdomen will lead to fermentation, increasing gas, belching and bloating. This can also result in heartburn, where the stomach acids, struggling to digest the food that is there, splash up into the esophagus causing a burning sensation. If foods ferment in the intestines it may result in lower digestive gas and bloating.

Sometimes people don’t create enough hydrochloric acid in their stomachs for food to digest properly in the first place. This could be due to low zinc levels, bacterial overgrowth in the stomach or simply as a natural part of aging. Some nutritionists recommend hydrochloric acid supplements to help increase stomach acids; a more holistic methodology than shutting down digestion with antacids.

Eating too quickly or when in an anxious state can also lead to swallowing too much air in the process. This can lead to bloating and excessive belching. Some people are more inclined toward gassiness and bloating from certain foods. Fatty foods, chocolate and peppermint are all foods which can relax the sphincter at the end of the esophagus leading to excessive belching. Carbonated beverages, smoking and chewing gum can also increase the amount of air getting into the stomach.

Incomplete digestion will often lead to bacterial fermentation in the intestines. Undigested food getting to the intestines means bacteria get a feast, producing gas as a bi-product. Sugar alcohols like sorbitol and mannitol which are found in sugarless gums and candies are not broken down by digestion and can lead to fermentation in the intestines. Some people have a tough time with certain raw foods and may need to take a digestive enzyme when eating them. Some bloating and gas may also be caused by food intolerances. Lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance can both lead to a feeling of bloating after these foods have been consumed.

The best way to avoid bloating is to figure out what is causing it in the first place. Keep a food journal and take note of what was eaten before the bloating happened. You may begin to see a pattern emerge. See if it is perhaps the combinations of foods that are causing problems and try a food combining regime if this is the case. You may also wish to try a digestive enzyme from a health food store to see if it helps with the problem.