No, I am not pregnant, I just had lunch.
It doesn’t seem to make any sense. You eat something the size of a tennis ball, but your stomach increases by the size of a football.
While it’s annoying having to explain to people you’re not pregnant all the time, a bloated stomach becomes a real nuisance when it causes pain and discomfort, and just makes you feel like shit.
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a common cause of stomach distention and affects around 15 per cent of the population worldwide, though it seems almost every woman has dealt with embarrassing-level bloating at some point.
According to gastroenterologist Professor Terry Bolin “two-thirds of women will experience bloating periodically, but one in five will experience bloating so severely that it impacts on their work and their lives.”
The most obvious reason you feel bloated after eating is your choice of food. In a nutshell, any food containing ‘FODMAP’ foods (which stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols; a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed) is likely to cause bloating, as these types of foods are fermented by gut bacteria, thereby producing gas.
Some common foods high in FODMAP carbs include onions, garlic, apples, bread, pasta, and yoghurt (yep, pizza really isn’t your friend). So if you notice your stomach is more bloated than usual after eating any of these foods, you should try limiting or av oiding them entirely.
Whole grains and foods high in fiber are also problematic if you’re prone to a bloated stomach, as fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate which produces gas in the digestive system. Of course, fiber is also important in a healthy diet, so to avoid bloating, drinking lots of water after consuming high-fiber foods like nuts and raw veggies is crucial to help the fiber move through the digestive system.
Another common cause of bloating is swallowing too much air. This can happen when you eat too fast, chew gum, or consume carbonated drinks as they contain the gas carbon dioxide. Eliminating soft drinks and eating slowly will not only reduce the amount of air you ingest, but it will also keep you from overeating, which is yet another possible cause of bloating.
When it’s serious
Regular bloating, especially when combined with cramps or diarrhoea, could be a sign of an undiagnosed food intolerance, such as coeliac disease, also known as gluten intolerance. Coeliac disease is essentially an allergy to foods containing gluten, such as bread, pasta, and most processed foods. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for coeliac disease, so the only safe, recommended treatment is a gluten-free diet (thankfully there’s a ton of tasty gluten-free foods available in most supermarkets nowadays). The best way to work out if you have a gluten allergy or food intolerance is to keep a food diary, chronicalling what you eat and when your symtoms occur. You can also request a special coeliac test from your doctor if you’re concerned.
Another common cause of bloating is lactose-intolerance, which causes stomach distention and sometimes diarrhea, after eating dairy products such as yoghurt, milk chocolate, or cheese.
Finally, one of the most commonly overlooked causes of chronic bloating is an imbalance of your gut bacteria. Our good gut bacteria helps break down food and is absolutely vital to our health and immunity, so if it’s out of whack, it can wreak havoc on both our digestive system, and our body. Thankfully, there’s a very easy way to ensure your gut bacteria is balanced, simply take regular probiotic tablets or up your intake of probiotic rich yoghurt.
It’s important to see a doctor if your bloating persists even after trying the above lifestyle adjustments.
Feeling swollen and bloated during your period is hard enough, but according to gastroenterologist Dr Robynne Chutkan, women feel bloated more often than men – even when we’re not on our periods – because we have longer intestines than guys do, making digestion more difficult for us. On top of that, fluctuating levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone also affect the digestive system, and we additionally have weaker abdominal walls compared to men, which again causes swelling and bloating. Thanks nature.
While there’s not much we can do about our hormones and longer intestines, chances are changing your eating habits and eliminating soft drinks will keep the dreaded post-meal pregnancy stomach at bay. If all else fails, a trip to the doctor is essential.
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Comment: Do you suffer from chronic bloating? Have you found a fix that works for you?