Bloating – Why is This Happening to Me?!?!

Ah, bloating. One of the most common digestive symptoms that can negatively impact our lives. Waking up feeling like a beach ball is inside your abdomen is no way to start the day!

So how does this happen? Why you?

There are many different causes for bloating. Each person will have a unique combination of drivers contributing to their own bloating, but what we do know is that the common denominator is always inflammation.

Inflammation is created when something has caused a disruption to the balance of the body and can result in pain, loss of function, heat/burning. Other digestive symptoms can arise as well; such as diarrhoea, constipation and reflux. Inflammation is a response from our immune system that means something isn’t right.

There are many causes of disruption to the balance of the body that can result in bloating as a symptom:

  • Dysbiosis (imbalance of our healthy microbiota or “good bacteria”)
  • Misalignment of the spine
  • Problems balancing
  • Liver dysfunction or disease
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Food Intolerances
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Other environmental toxins
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Stress
  • Inflammatory diet
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • High-stress levels
  • History of past infection (bacterial, viral, fungal)
  • Presence of another chronic condition (including mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety)
  • Structural dysfunction in the digestive tract such as ileocaecal reflux or surgical bowel resection

Take your pick from the above; there are plenty of possible explanations for why you feel the way you do and it’s highly likely that more than one thing on the list applies!

For this post, I am going to focus on the hottest topic right now when it comes to gut health as it relates to bloating: Dysbiosis.

What is Dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the microbiome; the incredible network of good bacteria in our digestive system (and on our skin, and in our noses – you get the idea!). This good bacteria is crucial to the healthy function of our immune system and is integral to our ability to digest food.

When our microbiome is in balance, we eat our food and it is broken down by the acid in our stomach. After this, it passes through the intestinal tract, where the good bacteria do their thing and break down our food even further so we can absorb the nutrients (the good bacteria also feed on our food as part of this process, but don’t worry, they only eat the parts of the food we don’t absorb anyway!). The final part is the formation of the stool, which we pass every day.

When our microbiome is not in balance, we eat our food and it is broken down by the acid in our stomach. After this, it passes into the intestinal tract, and this is where the problems start. If we don’t have the correct bacteria present to break down our food, our food can’t pass through to the next part of the intestinal tract, or the next – our food stagnates.

This starts a new process:

Stagnant food —-> gut bacteria unable to break down food —-> food ferments, which produces gas —-> gas gets trapped inside the intestinal tract —-> BLOATING!

This is why maintaining a healthy microbiome is so important in the prevention of bloating – healthy, balanced bacteria naturally reduces the inflammation present in our digestive system, which, in turn, means that our guts can get on with the job of digesting without swelling you up like a balloon!

What can you do? 

There are many things that you can do to address dysbiosis, inflammation and bloating:

  • Eating a diet with anti-inflammatory foods (choosing anti-inflammatory foods makes our gut bugs happy)
  • Eating a diet without inflammatory foods such as refined sugar and trans fatty acids (deep-fried food, I’m looking at you!)
  • Consuming fermented foods and drinks (a source of good bacteria)
  • Avoiding the use of antibiotics unless strictly necessary (ask your doctor if it’s possible to watch and wait, or if they can recommend something else before resorting to this)

There are some amazing herbal and nutritional medicines that help address the underlying cause of dysbiosis. There are also tests that can be done to find out what foods you might be reacting to that may need to come out of the diet for a short period of resetting the microbiome. Naturopathic protocols really are the way to go when it comes to addressing dysbiosis! 😀

Lauren Booth

Naturopath