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by Joanna Foley, RD, CLT March 22, 2022 4 min read

Bloating is a common yet often misunderstood digestive symptom. If you experience persistent bloating, the cause behind it may not be what you think.

This article will outline what bloating is, what may be causing it and what you can do about it to support your body and your digestive health overall.

What Is Bloating?

Bloating can be much more than just your stomach expanding after you eat a meal, which is a normal process for everyone to a certain degree. With bloating, your stomach becomes filled with air in addition to food which can lead to feelings of fullness or tightness in the stomach, which can be uncomfortable.

Other symptoms, like gas, burping, and abdominal pain, can sometimes accompany bloating.

Why Does Bloating Happen?

Bloating is most often a symptom of poor digestion. While many things can contribute to this, here are three underlying reasons you may experience persistent bloating:

  1. Imbalanced gut bacteria. Bloating is primarily linked to a digestive imbalance within your gut. The bacteria in your gut make up your microbiome, assisting with digestion. When there are more bad bacteria than good, a condition called dysbiosis can occur, which can lead to unpleasant symptoms like bloating.

  1. Food sensitivities and intolerances. These are types of adverse food reactions that can lead to bloating. However, experiencing bloating or gas does not necessarily mean you have a food sensitivity or intolerance, which can be a common misconception. Food sensitivities and intolerances can occur from many foods, even healthy ones. However, gluten and dairy are two of the most common offenders.

  2. Low Stomach Acid.Suppose you experience bloating within 30 minutes of eating. In that case, it is often related to having low stomach acid, which is essential for digestion, especially breaking down harder-to-digest protein and fats and its role in absorbing nutrients. Stomach acid also plays an integral part in destroying the bacteria naturally present in food and other harmful microbes we ingest to maintain a healthy microbiome.

More serious underlying conditions can also contribute to bloating, so it's essential to understand your individual health imbalances and learn more about the four leading causes of digestive and gut health problems.

How To Improve Persistent Bloating

Bloating doesn't have to be something you live with forever. Here are some steps to support your body and find relief from bloating.

Figure Out Its Root Cause

This is the first and most essential step to addressing any health issue. A simple at-home lab test can help identify your underlying digestive imbalance and the appropriate support you need to address this at a deeper level, rather than masking the symptoms that prescribed medication may offer as a short-term solution. Since severe and persistent bloating can signify a bacterial imbalance, using a test is a very effective and easy way to start.

Identifying foods you may be sensitive to that trigger digestive upset is another helpful strategy. Following an appropriate elimination diet after testing and supportive supplementation to restore the gut can help rebalance the digestive system and remove associated unpleasant symptoms.

Support Bloating with Natural Foods and Supplementation

Ginger is a natural digestive enzyme well-known and studied for its beneficial effects on digestion. It can help with things like nausea, gas, and bloating, and it can also support regular stomach emptying, therefore improving the body's ability to digest various foods. Sip on a warm cup of ginger tea before or during a meal using freshly peeled and grated ginger or an organic tea bag, add fresh ginger to your breakfast smoothie, incorporate it in your cooking or take natural ginger supplements.

Digestive enzymes are also found in supplement form and can improve bloating due to their assistance with the proper breakdown and digestion of food after eating. A daily digestive enzyme can be used with whole food meals that are harder to digest or more targeted supportive enzymes for specific trigger foods, like gluten and dairy, two of the most common food sensitivities that can cause digestive discomfort.

If you suspect or identify that you have a bacterial imbalance, following a specifically formulated protocol can help to rebalance the gut by removing harmful microbes, replenishing beneficial bacteria and restoring your gut barrier.

Remove Triggers

Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria, strong digestion and adequate stomach acid are critical factors in minimizing bloating or other symptoms of digestive upset. If you experience persistent bloating, you may want to consider some of these common triggers and decrease digestive discomfort:

  • Limit the amount of fried and processed foods and any foods you may be sensitive to. You may be able to enjoy these foods without discomfort when your gut is rebalanced.
  • Excessive air in the stomach can also contribute to bloating; taking steps to reduce the amount of air swallowed can help decrease bloating, burping and gas. Consider limiting carbonated beverages, chewing gum and not drinking through a straw.
  • Avoid high amounts of caffeine and alcohol that can lower stomach acid levels.
  • Try to practice mindful eating: never stand and eat, and chew your food correctly into a paste before you swallow to allow digestive enzymes to do their job efficiently.
  • Reduce stress as a relaxed state is needed for optimal digestion.

Due to the wide range of possible reasons you may experience persistent bloating, identifying the most effective support for you can be confusing. Working with a certified health coach can help uncover the underlying root cause behind your bloating and guide you in selecting the appropriate at-home lab tests, supplements, and diet and lifestyle changes to alleviate your symptoms and continue bloat-free.

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