If you’ve ever experienced the discomfort of an overly indulgent meal or consuming something that disagrees with you, resulting in your belly feeling distended, stretched beyond capacity, tight, or irritable, then you’re familiar with what’s commonly known as bloating.
While this sensation is transient for many, for some, bloating can persist and be debilitating when the trigger or underlying cause is unidentified.
Currently, it is estimated that 1 in 6 people without a health problem and 3 in 4 people with IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) suffer from bloating. Given that it can cause significant discomfort and interfere with everyday life, addressing the underlying causes of this issue is highly important.
Understanding the Causes of Bloating:
- Intestinal Gas Buildup: One of the primary culprits behind bloating is the accumulation of intestinal gas. This can occur when the digestive system produces excess gas during the breakdown of food. Certain foods, particularly those high in fibre and certain carbohydrates, can ferment in the gut, producing gas and contributing to bloating.
- Digestive Disorders: Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and celiac disease can lead to chronic bloating. In these cases, the digestive system may struggle to process certain foods, causing discomfort and bloating.
- Food Sensitivities and Allergies: Individuals with food sensitivities or allergies, such as lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity, may experience bloating as a reaction to consuming problematic foods.
- Constipation: When the bowel movements are infrequent or difficult, constipation can occur, leading to bloating. Stool buildup in the intestines can cause distension and discomfort.
- Swallowing Air: Ingesting air, whether through eating too quickly, drinking carbonated beverages, or chewing gum, can introduce excess air into the digestive tract, contributing to bloating.
Effective Strategies to Alleviate Bloating: The crucial question then becomes how to eliminate bloating, reduce its painful effects, and find lasting relief. The good news is that several proven methods can help address bloating; it’s a matter of closely monitoring your diet, identifying and avoiding triggers, and consistently managing it.
- Identify Trigger Foods: Begin by assessing your current diet to identify any foods to which you might be allergic, intolerant, or irritated. Common trigger foods include gluten, FODMAP-containing foods, beans, lentils, cruciferous vegetables, dairy products, and certain artificial sweeteners. Once identified, consider reducing or eliminating these foods from your diet.
- Gradual Increase in Fiber: While fibre is essential for digestive health, a sudden increase in fibre intake can lead to bloating. Gradually introduce fibre-rich foods and stay hydrated to promote regular bowel movements.
- Stay Hydrated and Avoid Constipation: Adequate hydration is crucial for maintaining healthy digestion. Ensure you drink enough water throughout the day and incorporate fibre-rich foods to prevent constipation.
- Mindful Eating: Avoid rushing through meals and practice mindful eating. Chew your food thoroughly, and avoid talking while eating to minimize the ingestion of air. Additionally, refrain from drinking large amounts of liquids during meals.
- Consider Probiotics: Probiotics, found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, can promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. These beneficial bacteria may help in reducing bloating and improving overall digestive function.
- Seek Professional Guidance: If bloating persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. They can help identify any underlying digestive disorders, food intolerances, or allergies and provide tailored advice.
- Digestive Aids: Consider taking digestive herbs, bitters and tonic herbs that have the ability to soothe the liver and promote the smooth flow of Qi.
In Eastern medicine, the Organs are categorized based on yin-yang pairs and Elements. Yin organs are solid and involved in producing, transforming, and storing vital substances, while yang hollow structures are responsible for transporting, transmitting, and digesting these transformed substances. The Spleen and Stomach, associated with the Earth element, play a crucial role in digestion, transforming food into nutrients that form the basis of Qi and Blood.
The ideal conditions for Spleen and Stomach function are said to be a slight moistness for the Stomach and near dryness for the Spleen. Balancing these opposing tendencies is essential; otherwise, issues like stagnant water accumulation or symptoms of Stomach heat may arise.
The Spleen is pivotal in producing Qi from ingested food and fluids, refining it into Defensive and Nutritive Qi. This process involves the separation of impure and pure aspects, with the Small Intestine and Large Intestine eliminating turbid aspects. This Qi (Gu Qi) is produced by the Spleen and forms the foundation of Blood. The Spleen and Stomach also influence sensory information and emotions.
While the Chinese medical Spleen differs from its biomedical counterpart, the body’s resilience is affected by factors like environmental toxins, stress, inadequate sleep, and food-related issues. Addressing digestive troubles, such as bloating and irregular stools, involves understanding underlying issues impacting digestive Organs. Nutritional counselling, herbs, acupuncture, and moxa can effectively boost Spleen and digestive health.
There are many patterns that can impact the Spleen, the most common clinical one being Spleen Qi deficiency, compromising the Spleen’s ability to transform and transport fluids and nutrients. This can lead to the accumulation of excess moisture or dampness, manifested as symptoms like sluggishness and fatigue. Dampness, often stemming from dietary choices, weakens the digestive system over time. Recognising the impact of food on the body is crucial for maintaining balance, as certain foods and overeating rich, greasy food and from a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to dampness. This discussion emphasizes achieving a personalized balance that suits individual body needs rather than categorising dampness as inherently “bad” or dryness as “good.”
Selection of Poria, White Peony, White Atractylodes, Rheummania, Astragalus and Luo Han Guo makes this an ideal blend for the digestive system. This blend of herbs will help nourish your chi/prana and spleen and help balance damp and dryness.
Gently cleanses and detoxifies the body without irritating the colon. It also strengthens and nourishes the bones, nervous system and reproductive organs.
Aids in digestion: ACV contains enzymes that can help improve digestion by breaking down food more efficiently. It may also help reduce bloating and other digestive discomforts.