What Causes Abdominal Bloating?

October 22, 2021 5 min read

Have you ever had to unbutton your pants after a large meal? Or felt extremely gassy throughout the day? You may be experiencing a common GI concern called bloating.

Bloating is the most common intestinal issue among adults. It has been described as feeling like too much gas in the abdominal cavity.

It makes your stomach feel heavy, full, and completely uncomfortable. The severity can be anywhere from mild to extreme. Many people experience bloating after a large meal or, for women, it is common during menstruation. 

There are studies as to what causes bloating, but the answer is complicated. It’s all dependent on the individual’s gut microbiome and the hypersensitivity of the individual gut based on everything from diet to genetics.

We will go through what we do know about bloating in relation to your overall gut health and how you can support the related symptoms to get your body back on track. Let’s dive into what we know. 

What is the gut microbiome?  

Bloating has been known as a point of frustration among physicians because the cause and solution are not easily understood. The possible causes of bloating are various and complicated, but we do know that it begins with the gut microbiome. 

The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is made up of complex and dynamic microorganisms. Your GI tract represents the largest interface between the host, environmental factors, and antigens in the human body. In other words, your GI is really, really important to keep healthy. 

Along with food, microorganisms from the environment also pass through the GI tract. The collection of bacteria, archaea, viruses, and eukarya present in the gut is known as the microbiome. It takes a perfect balance between these outside factors to achieve perfect gut health.

These microbes that make up the gut microbiome contribute to metabolic functions, protect against pathogens, inform the immune system, and indirectly or directly affect our bodies’ most important functions. 

 

How to keep a healthy microbiome? 

When people talk about having a healthy gut, they are referring to the balance of microorganisms in the GI tract, which we now know is called the gut microbiome. 

Is achieving a healthy balance possible? Absolutely! If you’re experiencing an ongoing sense of bloating, constipation, or any other gut health-related concerns you may have an imbalance going on within your microbiome. 

Here’s a list of things you can do: 

-take probiotic 

-eat fermented foods

-eat prebiotic fiber

-avoid sugar and sweeteners

-reduce stress

-get enough sleep

-avoid antibiotics

-exercise regularly

-avoid smoking and alcohol 

-eat plenty of vegetables

The more processed, sugary, or hard-to-digest foods you consume, the more likely you are going to experience issues within the gut. But how can we enjoy the foods we love? 

It’s all about balance. If you’re eating fermented, fibrous, and vegetable-based meals the majority of the time, you can enjoy the occasional treat without disrupting your system too much.

 

The microbiome and irritable bowel syndrome

Over 90% of people who have IBS experience bloating. Also, IBS is more common than you’d think. In fact, IBS is the most common stomach condition gastroenterologists encounter. 

Bacteria is crucial for the health and development of your gut. Sounds kind of strange, right? We're used to bacteria being bad and causing sickness, but when it comes to the gut there is actually good bacteria that is essential to staying healthy.

The bacteria in your gut is responsible for delivering essential amino acids, vitamins, and fatty short-chain acids to promote the normal function of the intestinal immune system. However, an imbalance of these bacterial communities in your gut can lead to gas and bloating.

An ongoing imbalance in the gut can lead to what we know as IBS. IBS feels like an upset stomach often times after you eat.

Some of the symptoms of IBS include:

-change in bowel habits

-indigestion

-inability to empty bowels

-constipation

-excessive gas

-urgent need to use the restroom

Studies have found that people with IBS have higher bacterial counts in the small intestine. What researchers are still trying to figure out is if the overgrowth is a direct cause of IBS or just a symptom.

Recent research has shown that diet and lifestyle have a greater impact on the gut microbiome than genetics. So if you experience IBS or frequent bloating, it isn't always as easy as blaming your genes.

Gas and Bloating

Feeling bloated is common because we all swallow air and swallowing air can cause gas. Too much gas in the intestine is one of the most common causes of bloating that we've come to know as true.

Eating too much too fast is another cause of bloating. Your digestive tract can have a hard time catching up with the bulk of food you ingest causing abdominal bloating and possibly an inability to digest the food fully.

Drinking carbonated beverages can also contribute to bloating as they are full of gas. If you drink a lot of carbonated drinks and struggle with constant bloating, consider switching to regular water.

If you tend to feel bloated after a meal, you may want to consider keeping a food diary. Writing out what you eat can help you remember how those foods affected your digestive system, gas, and bowel movement. It's the first step to understanding if you have a food intolerance or allergy.

Another popular way to relieve feelings of bloat is to follow a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols. Ok, so what does that mean? In short, these terms are used to classify groups of carbs that can cause GI troubles.

Some of these foods include rye, wheat, legumes, milk, yogurt, soft cheese, certain fruits and vegetables, and low-calorie sweeteners. Unfortunately, this means ice cream, too.

Some people who deal with IBS or any other GI-related discomfort stick to a low FODMAP diet to help with symptoms. This diet involves restricting certain foods (like the ones we just mentioned) and reintroducing foods to find out what your digestive system can tolerate.

Lifestyle changes are the best way to see a difference in your discomfort when it comes to your health. Changing your diet can cause weight loss or weight gain at first, but if you pay attention, you'll discover what makes you feel good and maintain a healthy weight.

 

Probiotics for bloating

Though there are not a ton of answers as to what exactly causes bloating and exactly how to fix it, probiotics have been known to promote a healthy gut and support stomach discomfort. Let's talk about why.

In short, probiotics can help balance the gut microbiome, which may in turn help reduce a build-up of excess gas in the intestine and therefore may help with bloating. Probiotics help balance the gut microbiome by helping your body produce more of the "good" bacteria we need.

Probiotics are microorganisms that exist within the body and when consumed (either in supplement or fermented food form) may help boost your gut health and immune system.

As we age, our natural microbiome is affected by all of our not-so-healthy habits. So, probiotics allow us to supplement the bacteria and yeast we need in our microbiome to keep our digestion working smoothly and our immune systems strong.

If you have any concerns or questions please feel free to reach out to us in our Facebook Tribe group. And as always, it's best to consult your physician for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Cara Wegener
Written by
Cara Wegener