An introduction to IBS and bloating
The feeling of being bloated is another nasty symptom commonly associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This most normally occurs in the lower, large intestine. Bloating is a result of trapped gas (usually because excess has been produced) distending the wall of the intestine which triggers pain receptors. This results in an expanding waist line and unfortunately, often, flatulence to go with it.
Why does IBS cause bloating?
The exact cause for bloating in IBS is not always clear. However there are some possible explanations.
If food arrives in the large intestine having been poorly digested, for example because of a food intolerance, naturally occurring bacteria in the large intestine begins a process called fermentation, which produces gas. Fermentation naturally occurs in the bowels as our diet contains certain indigestible elements known as dietary fibre. However, if food appears at the large intestine that should have been digested beforehand (suggesting some dysfunction higher up in the digestive tract) excess gas may be produced as a result. The bowel is likely to become irritated with the presence of excessive undigested food and populations of bacteria feasting on it.
Leading on from this, research has suggested that people suffering from IBS may actually have different populations of bacteria residing in their gut. The intestines, in particular the large intestine, contain thousands of different strains of bacteria which vary from person to person. It is possible that ‘bad’ strains give rise to undesirable symptoms, a lot of which are associated with IBS, such as bloating and flatulence.
For severe or recurrent bloating please refer to your doctor as there may be a more serious reason for distension of the abdomen.
Kassinen, A. et al (2007) The fecal microbiota of irritable bowel syndrome patients differs significantly from that of healthy subjects. Gastroenterology 133(1):24-33
What can I try at home for bloating?
There are a few easy things you can try at home to keep the bloating in check:
- Chew your food: If your body is struggling to digest certain foods then help it out by consciously breaking down the food as much as possible. The larger the surface area of food fragments, the more likely it is to be effectively attacked by digestive enzymes. In your mouth there is an enzyme called salivary amylase which begins the breakdown of carbohydrates very early in the digestion process. Read our blog on the importance of chewing produced by our expert in digestion
- Keep a food diary: If you feel that eating certain food groups (for example, gluten and dairy are common culprits) leads to digestive issues, write these down. You can slowly start cutting out and reintroducing foods groups one at a time to try and determine where the problem lies. In addition to this, try to cut out any obvious foods or drink that add gas directly, such as fizzy drinks
- Exercise: Exercising gets your blood and muscles pumping and with any luck, allowing any trapped gas to become dislodged. It also encourages more rhythmic contractions of the intestines allowing for some regularity to return.
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How can natural remedies help me?
There are some herbal remedies can which can help keep bloating under control.
- Digestisan: Digestisan supports the earlier stages of digestion, allowing food to travel into the large intestine in a more appropriate state.
- Silicol gel: Silicol, containing Silicic acid, a substance produced from silicon and oxygen, may help with bloating in IBS. Silicic acid is able to bind toxic or harmful substances in the gut and excrete them.
How can my doctor help?
If home and herbal remedies fail a trip to your doctor or pharmacist for your bloating may be required; they may be able to eliminate other causes of the symptom and advise you on other ways of obtaining relief.