Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bloating - Why Is It So Rampant?

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

The rate of bloating is on the rise.  When I was first in practice over 15 years ago, very few people complained about bloating, and those that did were often in their late forties or fifties. Nowadays it is one of the most common symptoms and what is even more concerning, is that it is common even in people in their 20's and 30's.

Bloating is a buildup of gas, fluids or food in the digestive system. In order to end up with bloating you need to have two things, a susceptibility to bloating and exposure to something that triggers it.

What Makes You Susceptible?

Some people seem to be a lot more susceptible to bloating than others. The following factors have contributed to the rise in the frequency of bloating:
  • EMF Radiation:  One ubiquitous factor that is often overlooked is the impact of EMF Radiation on health. The concern is that the onslaught of EMF radiation - wireless networks and cell towers - is disrupting health in a number of ways, including weakening the integrity of the mucous membranes and tight junctions in the digestive tract thus contributing to the significant increase in bloating. 
    • Your naturopathic doctor can give you advice on how to mitigate the impact of EMF radiation on your body, including the use of tissue salts and mineral supplementation.
  • Environmental Factors: There are a number of environmental factors that can contribute to bloating including digestive pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites, mold), heavy metals and environmental chemicals.
  • Food additives: There are over 14,000 different food additives.  Some that are known to contribute to bloating in some people include: aspartame, MSG, sulfites and starches such as potato starch and tapico starch.
  • Overuse of Antibiotics: The overuse of antibiotics is a global problem that is recognized by most medical practitioners and by the World Health Organization (WHO). One of the side-effects of antibiotics is that they destroy the good bacteria in the digestive system. The use, and especially the overuse or constant use, of antibiotics can - in and of itself - cause chronic or persistent bloating.  If you have a history of frequent antibiotic use, it is generally advisable to stay on an antibiotic and to work with your naturopathic doctor to determine what other steps are required to strengthen your digestive and immune systems.
  • Chronic Stress: Yes, once again, your symptoms can be contributed to stress. Chronic or intense stress disturbs digestion, increases the release of cortisol and weakens the immune system.  The result is an increase frequency of bloating.

Foods That Trigger Bloating

Food can be a common factor that triggers bloating.  If you suffer from bloating, following the FODMAP diet can often help. I recommend the following:
  • Identify your food intolerances and avoid any foods that are moderate to extreme.
  • Dairy and yeast-based foods often make bloating worse, even if you are not intolerant to those foods. Foods high in yeast include wine, beer, bread and baked goods.
  • Foods high in fructose, such as apples, pears and watermelon, and artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol.
  • Legumes or beans such as baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils and soy beans.
  • Vegetables high in fructans, such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, garlic and onions.
  • Fast foods and processed foods often aggravate bloating.
  • Sodas and bubbly water are best avoided whenever you are bloated. The swallowing of gas makes bloating worse.

Conditions Associated with Bloating

There are a number of digestive conditions and hormonal conditions associated with bloating. If you have chronic bloating, it is important to talk to your naturopathic doctor to determine what the best treatment strategy is for you.

Digestive Conditions:
Hormonal Conditions:
If you have any of the above digestive or hormonal conditions, it is advisable to stay on a good probiotic and follow the recommendation of your Naturopathic Doctor for your specific condition.

When Is Bloating a Concern?

If your bloating symptoms are accompanied by the following symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical care:
  • Significant abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Change in bowel movements not associated with a change in diet
  • Blood in the stool

Next Steps

Like all annoying symptoms, the key to proper treatment is determining the causal factors and your specific susceptibilities. The reason why many deal with bloating for a long-time is that there are a number of causal factors and once your digestive system becomes susceptible, it can take awhile for it to settle down. If you struggle with bloating, I recommend that you see your naturopathic doctor. Below are some general recommendations:

  • Even if food was not your original trigger for the bloating, it is often necessary to change your diet and to avoid any foods that trigger the bloating.
  • Eat more slowly as swallowing air will increase bloating.
  • A good probiotic is often helpful.
  • Your naturopathic doctor will recommend herbs or supplements that will help to strengthen your digestive tract and decrease your susceptibility to bloating.
  • Taking the appropriate steps to reduce stress is always helpful.
Bottom line, if you have chronic bloating that doesn't respond well to diet modification, talk to you naturopathic doctor for advice that is specific to you.