Stomach bloating usually describes the uncomfortable sensation that follows an overindulgence in certain foods.
Commonly reported symptoms include a stretching sensation in the tummy and painful abdominal cramps.
While bloating is commonly chalked up to eating certain foods, it is not always easy to identify the worst offenders so the problem may persist.
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According to Harvard Health, the key culprits are in a group known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols).
The body has a hard time digesting the sugars in these foods, which can cause a number of digestive problems, such as stomach bloating and cramps.
The worst FODMAP offenders include wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans), honey, pistachios, cashews, asparagus, and artichokes.
Foods or drinks with fructose or artificial sweeteners are also on the FODMAP list.
As Harvard Health explains, milk and dairy foods are also considered FODMAPs: “They contain a type of sugar called lactose, which is hard to digest if you don’t have enough of the enzyme that breaks it down (lactase). The result: gastrointestinal distress that includes bloating.”
Bolstering the claim, numerous studies have shown that FODMAPs can drastically exacerbate symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients.
IBS is a common digestive issue that causes symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.
Furthermore, a low-FODMAP diet has been shown to lead to major reductions in symptoms such as bloating in IBS patients.
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How to follow a low-FODMAP diet
According to the NHS, a low-FODMAP diet involves cutting out foods that can cause bacterial growth and lead to diarrhoea and bloating.
“That means cutting out wheat and other fermentable foods such as onion, apple, pears, mushrooms, honey, cabbage and sometimes milk,” explains the health body.
According to the IBS Network, the diet should be completed with the help of a FODMAP knowledgeable dietitian, to ensure that the nutritional content of the diet is not compromised.
Consulting a dietician will ensure the advice provided is up to date and you are fully informed about the most gut-friendly foods to eat to ease the dietary change.
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How can I determine whether FODMAP’s are to blame?
To establish whether FODMAP foods are the cause of your bloating, you should keep a food diary.
Keep a food diary for a couple of weeks, noting everything that you eat and drink and when bloating troubles you most, can help you to establish the cause, explains the NHS.
When is bloating serious?
According to Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, “sudden bloating” in older age may signify there is a more serious problem at hand.
“Most people who have bloating start experiencing it at a young age. But if someone is suddenly having bloating in older age, that’s sometimes a red flag that tells me something has changed and needs to be investigated,” says Dr Staller.
According to Harvard Health, sudden bloating could be a sign of inflammatory bowel condition, constipation, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, or (in rare cases) cancer.
If sudden bloating lasts more than a few days, report the symptom to your GP, warns the health site.
Lesser-known causes of bloating
Gastroparesis, a long-term (chronic) condition where the stomach cannot empty in the normal way, is a lesser-known cause of tummy swelling.
“It’s thought to be the result of a problem with the nerves and muscles that control how the stomach empties,” says the NHS.
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