News ID: 190399
Published: 1242 GMT April 07, 2017

What causes bloating?

What causes bloating?

For most people, bloating is a sensation of pressure and discomfort in either the upper or lower abdomen.

It can be associated with visible distension of the abdomen and which generally worsens as the day progresses.

The symptoms can be directly associated with eating or can occur hours after a meal.

Dr. Anthony Hobson, clinical director of The Functional Gut Clinic, the UK’s first independent accredited gastro-intestinal physiology service, explained what causes bloating, how the condition is linked to IBS and how people can get rid of bloating, according to

What causes bloating?

There are several causes of bloating.

Hobson explained: “If the sensation is in the upper abdomen and occurs quickly after eating then this can be due to the way the stomach empties the meal.

“Slow gastric emptying — gastroparesis — can be more common in diabetics but can occur in other patient groups.

“If the bloating is predominantly in the lower abdomen this can be due to several factors such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) which means that bacteria begin to ferment food in the small bowel instead of the colon before you have had chance to digest in properly."

“If you are not digesting carbohydrates such as lactose or fructose properly then they reach the colon where bacteria break them down producing lots of gas as a by-product of fermentation, causing bloating.

“Many people believe it is the lactose in dairy causing their digestive issues, but it could be the milk protein instead.

“There are two main types in milk — A1 and A2 beta casein — and A2 has been proven to be more easily digested.”

Hobson said another cause is that the bacteria in the colon break down and ferment undigested foods to ‘efficiently’ cause excess gas — a process called colonic dysbiosis.

He added: “Finally, some people have hypersensitive gut nerves and they become sensitive to normal levels of gut distension and this needs treating differently to help reduce gut sensitivity.”


How is bloating linked to IBS?

Bloating is the number one symptom described by IBS patients, despite the fact that this symptom is not used by doctors to officially identify irritable bowel syndrome.

Hobson said: “IBS has been shown to be related to all types of bloating described above and by using a combination of diagnostic breath testing, antibiotics and dietary interventions, we can identify and treat the causes of bloating in IBS.”


Could it be a symptom of another condition?

“Gut symptoms are vague and can be due to many factors it is always important to consider ‘red flag’ symptoms such as sudden weight loss, rectal bleeding, change in menstruation etc when presenting to your GP so that more serious underlying causes are considered when identifying the reason for your bloating symptoms,” explained Hobson.

“In young people these more serious conditions are quite rare but it is always better to ere on the side of caution so make sure your GP answers all of your questions adequately before coming to a diagnosis of IBS or another condition.”


What can you eat to reduce bloating?

Some people need more fiber in their diet to keep their bowel movements regular.

However, Hobson said: “For most people the equivalent of just two slices of brown bread should suffice, so eating excessive fiber when you have a normal bowel habit can cause bloating.

“In addition, beans, pulse and high fructose fruits such as mango can be difficult to digest and cause bloating.”

“The low FODMAP diet is based on the principle of reducing hard to digest and highly fermentable foods in your diet so for example, switching from cauliflower to Asian vegetables such as pak choi, having good quality white basmati rice instead of brown rice and switching from regular cows’ milk to A2 milk (which is clinically proven to be easier to digest as it contains only the A2 protein, rather than A1 which is in most regular milk — can help reduce bloating.

“If bloating persists it is likely you may have SIBO so you should arrange to have a hydrogen and methane breath test to obtain a positive diagnosis as dietary changes seldom work in the presence of this condition.”

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