An introduction to bloating and indigestion
Bloating is a non-specific but common symptom. It usually relates to a feeling of fullness or distension in the abdomen (tummy) and is more commonly reported by women than men.
Medically, the symptom is not well-defined and usually suggests the presence of excessive wind (or gas) but occasionally, fluid. The feeling of bloating can arise as a result of indigestion affecting the first part of the digestive system. It can also be due to constipation, food intolerances or IBS.
Why does indigestion cause bloating?
Indigestion occurs when the upper part of the digestive system does not work well enough after a meal. This leads to the formation of excess gas in the stomach, a feeling of being bloated, the need to burp and at times, other symptoms of indigestion.
Burping, or releasing excess gas through the mouth, can help relieve the discomfort of bloating.
Gas that is not released upwards travels down the rest of the digestive tract, eventually to appear as flatulence. Whilst on this journey, bloating can be experienced in the small and large intestines as excess gas distends these organs.
Diet and lifestyle tips to help bloating
Here are some steps you can take to help yourself if you suffer from excessive wind (gas) and bloating:
- Don’t rush your meals - take time to eat
- Chew your food well – at least 20 times for each mouthful
- Avoid foods that you know will give you indigestion such as fatty or spicy meals
- Avoid fizzy drinks
- Don’t drink too much during a meal as this will dilute your gastric enzymes.
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Are there herbal and natural remedies to help me?
If changes to what you eat and the way you eat do not help, try using herbs known to help improve your digestion.
The group of medicinal plants known as ‘stomach bitters’ can help you digest food better and reduce the likelihood of bloating. These herbs include artichoke, boldo and dandelion.
Ali's TOP TOP: It is best to use bitter herbs in liquid form. Digestisan contains the tinctures of artichoke, dandelion, boldo and peppermint and helps relieve symptoms of bloating, fullness and flatulence. To allow the stomach time to prepare, take 5 to 10 minutes before each meal.
What about medicines from my doctor?
As with herbal remedies, there are no specific medicines from your doctor or pharmacist which can help specifically with bloating.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines for indigestion such as antacids, H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors, but only if you have other more severe symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn or tummy pain.
Seek advice from your doctor if you have unexplained digestion symptoms, if they worsen and become severe or do not improve with treatment. Also, seek help urgently if you notice any blood in your stool or vomit.