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Digestive Health Special Report

7 Tips to Help You Reduce Bloating

No one cause is responsible for all cases of bloating. Often, the cause is something benign. Perhaps you overate or are constipated. Maybe you ate more fiber than your body is accustomed to or are taking a medication that causes bloating as a side effect. What to do? In this Special Report Johns Hopkins specialists provide no-nonsense advice to relieve this uncomfortable condition.

For some people bloating can be the result of an intolerance or sensitivity to a particular food component, such as lactose (a milk sugar), gluten (a wheat protein), fructose (a fruit sugar), or a sugar alcohol (such as sorbitol). Normally, these food components are digested and absorbed in the small intestine. However, when this process is not complete, the unabsorbed components travel to the large intestine, where bacteria break them down, releasing gas that causes bloating.

Unfortunately, in some people, bloating is a sign of a digestive disorder. For example, nearly everyone with irritable bowel syndrome complains of bloating -- not because of excess gas production but probably because of an oversensitivity to normal amounts of gas.

In most cases, bloating is a harmless problem and thus nothing to worry about. But if it becomes an ongoing problem or is accompanied by certain symptoms, see your doctor promptly. The symptoms to look out for include the following:

  • abdominal pain
  • blood in the stool
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • heartburn
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • weakness or fatigue
  • weight loss

Here are some self-care measures that may help relieve the frequency and severity of your bloating:

Bloating Tip 1 -- Swallow less air. Each time you take a breath, oxygen in the air enters your digestive tract. Normally, this oxygen gas is absorbed by your digestive tract, but when you take in too much air, some of the gas remains in the digestive tract, which can lead to bloating. To prevent this, eat and drink slowly, chew your food well, and try not to talk too much while eating. Avoid chewing gum and sucking on hard candies. Do not smoke, and if you wear dentures, check with your dentist to make sure they fit properly.

Bloating Tip 2 -- Limit gassy foods. Certain foods are notorious for producing gas and bloating. The worst offenders are beans, Brussels sprouts, onions, celery, carrots, raisins, bananas, prune juice, apricots, wheat germ, and bagels. You will probably not need to avoid these gassy foods altogether, just reduce the amounts you currently eat. So experiment to find out how much of these foods your body can tolerate.

Bloating Tip 3 --Try an over-the-counter digestive aid. If you experience gas after eating dairy products, your body probably doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase to break down the lactose in these products. The solution? Try taking a lactase supplement (Lactaid, Lactrase) before you eat. Similarly, the digestive aid Beano can help digest the sugars in beans and vegetables that make you feel gassy.

Bloating Tip 4 -- Avoid large meals and high-fat foods. Eating a large meal increases feelings of fullness. So instead of eating three large meals a day, try four to six smaller meals spread out throughout the day. A high-fat meal also increases feelings of fullness -- in this case, because fat slows the movement of food through the digestive tract.

Bloating Tip 5 -- Add fiber to your diet -- but do it slowly. Eating more fiber can help keep you regular and thus prevent bloating due to constipation. But upping your fiber intake too quickly can worsen bloating, because many high-fiber foods are also gassy foods. Good food sources of fiber include vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, and whole-grain products.

Bloating Tip 6 -- Exercise regularly. Getting 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week not only reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, but may also help your body rid itself of excess gas.

Bloating Tip 7 -- Reach a healthy weight. Here’s another reason to get your weight under control. One study found that overweight adults were nearly twice as likely (and obese adults nearly four times as likely) to experience bloating as normal-weight adults.

Posted in Digestive Health on August 24, 2009

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