1 - You’re eating too fast
In modern times, more often than not we’re distracted by something whilst eating. Whether it’s a screen, work or last minute festive shopping, if we’re distracted or on the go we’re more likely to eat quickly and aimlessly!
Eating quickly means we can risk swallowing extra air, a sure way to feel bloated without much effort. Also, guzzling down drinks alongside your latest meal whilst you’re on the go means you’ll risk diluting your all-important digestive juices.
Try and employ some more mindful eating techniques (especially at this time of year when there are so many delicious flavours and textures on offer for you to enjoy) and make your meal times separate from all your other tasks – you might even find that you re-ignite your enjoyment of good foods – who would have thought it!
2 – You’re eating too much
December is a common time for people to over-indulge; it’s party night galore, the shops and everywhere you turn seem to be crammed full of enticing treats and of course, the big day itself is full of temptation. However, over-eating is one of the most common causes of bloating, and if you’ve got in the habit recently, you might start to forget what’s more like a reasonable portion! Fatty foods will also leave you feeling fuller for longer as they take more effort to breakdown and will delay gastric emptying, so you will most likely feel quite full and uncomfortable after eating a particularly fat-heavy meal.
My advice is to make a special effort to slow down and chew properly. This way you’re more likely to feel satisfied sooner before you’ve gone too far and end up feeling sick and sizeable!
3 – You have a bacteria imbalance
If some unexplained bloating has been getting you down recently, it could suggest that the balance of bacteria in your gut is off. We know that poor diet and lifestyle factors (such as indulging in too many artificial sweeteners) can have adverse effects on our balance of bacteria, and we also know that an imbalance in good gut bacteria is likely to be a contributing factor when it comes to bloating and an unhappy tum.
Interestingly flourishing bad bacteria are thought to give rise to more local symptoms such as bloating or the symptoms of IBS, but over time, the problem may become more systemic and can even have effects on other areas such as our mood or weight. Therefore, it’s important to try and sort the problem early, before things risk getting out of hand. Read over my series on good bacteria to find out how to use tactics such as diet, lifestyle, and the combination of prebiotics, together with probiotics, to help tackle these issues head on.
4 – You’re stressed
The connection between stress and digestive upset isn’t always considered, but especially these days, it really should be! Our digestive and nervous systems are very much in sync which means during times of stress your sympathetic nervous system is all fired up and unfortunately, this means that the functions of your digestive system become dampened.
Gastric secretions become depleted in times of stress and this can prove problematic because as we know, sufficient stomach acid is crucial for ensuring your food is broken down properly, before progressing into your intestines. Managing stress more efficiently can seriously make a big difference to the efficacy of your digestive functions and in turn, helping to manage any problem symptoms such as bloating or excess gas, that you’re struggling to shake.
5 – You’re still recovering from an infection
Everyone’s had a stomach bug at some stage, but what we often don’t realise is how they can still affect us for some time after the initial infection seems to have cleared up. Bugs such as H.pylori, for example, are clever little critters and have in-built protective mechanisms which enable them to pitch up within your stomach and then create a cosy environment in which they can survive in for some time. What they do is set up a little protective shield, which works to neutralise the surrounding area, therefore conveniently protecting itself from the harsh acidic environment that your stomach is trying to maintain. Whilst damaging the lining of your stomach which unsurprisingly can prove uncomfortable, they’re also ensuring that food isn’t digested as efficiently as we’d like in this stage, which can create troublesome symptoms further along the digestive process.
To help properly support your recovery from an infection, contrary to popular belief we need good, strong stomach acid to help fend off those bugs once and for all. Click the link to discover some useful home tests to help determine if you may still require some gastric support and please note that this is even more likely if you’ve been on acid reducing medication for some time – another potential stumbling block.
6 – You’re constipated
Constipation and bloating very often go hand in hand which isn’t any great surprise, however, the problem is that many people don’t actually realise that they’re constipated.
If your bowel is moving any less frequently than once a day then it’s really likely that you have a sluggish bowel and come with that comes all the associated problems. You’re more likely to be physically bloated with all that slow moving waste, but unfortunately also gassier too as dysbiosis becomes a more likely occurrence.
Some top tips for keeping your bowel moving include eating lots of fresh foods and supporting the movement of waste through your system by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
7 – You’re being funny about fibre
Now, the topic of fibre’s a bit of tricky one. Although, fibre is still considered to be a healthy addition to any diet, if your digestion is compromised in any way, it could be slightly more problematic.
Fibre is the indigestible components of our diet and this means they ultimately become food for our gut bacteria. This is generally a good thing, but if your gut wall is compromised, for example in the case of leaky gut, or if the balance of bacteria is off, bad bacteria could make things tricky.
So, if you’ve recently upped your fibre intake dramatically, although this is a good thing in the long-term, there is the risk that you could experience some adverse symptoms initially. My advice is to keep a list of what foods you are reacting well (or not) to, then after giving your digestion some extra support with our ‘5 Steps to Better Digestion’ plan, for example, you could start to reintroduce fibre once again, and it will hopefully prove less problematic with some extra care and attention.
8 – There’s a hormonal imbalance at play
If you notice that you’re gassier at certain times of the month, or perhaps all of a sudden as you approach the menopause, then it’s likely that hormones could be having a part to play.
In terms of hormone imbalance that could be contributing, low oestrogen is a common culprit. Although or course, this is a common scenario in the approach to menopause, it’s often a common occurrence in much younger women too, especially for those who have recently come off hormonal contraceptives, as your body can take some time to adjust.
Click the link to learn more about what a hormone imbalance can look like and aim to sort this first, if you suspect it could be at the root of the problem.
10 – You’ve embarked on a new diet
As the start of the New Year approaches, many of us will be starting to make some positive changes to our diet. Now, as much as this is just great, it can be a shock to the system and in some cases your digestive system can take a little while to readjust.
As mentioned above, introducing lots more fibre may contribute to some more bloating initially and interestingly as your good gut bacteria work hard to re-establish themselves, your bad bacteria can kick up a bit of a fuss on the way out! My advice is to start gently in terms of your new diet or supplement regime, work your way up gradually if need be and always drink plenty of water along the way – simple but effective!
Then in terms of fad diets, if you’re going hungry, don’t expect a washboard stomach to emerge in response to those more extreme measures. If you’ve got a grumbling stomach you’re likely to swallow more air and can end up feeling bloated as a result of this, or if you’re dehydrated as a result of cutting meals or doing harsh detoxes, your system will attempt to cling on to any extra liquid it can, and water retention issues may actually be made worse.
Take it easy, make small changes and track your symptoms along the way to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.