Many go through life thinking that feeling bloated, uncomfortable or gassy is just a normal experience. Dealing with the often painful experience of bloat is sadly something that, according to a recent survey, over 83 per cent of us suffer with silently.
The causes of bloating can be anything from an unhealthy gut and indigestion to overindulgence or food intolerance.
Bloating and abdominal discomfort can also be a more sinister symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and can cause a plethora of issues when left untreated.
IBS is a common disorder of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), presenting with symptoms in both the upper and lower regions of the tract. These symptoms commonly include discomfort, excessive wind and bloating alongside changeable bowel habits.
Of course, as with all changes to your diet due to illness or other issues, it is always advised to seek the advice of a qualified nutritionist before commencing.
The good news is that abdominal discomfort, bloating and symptoms of IBS can all be controlled or at least alleviated by avoiding certain foods.
FODMAPs are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in both natural foods and additives.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:
Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel
Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain
Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule.
Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single-sugar molecule.
Polyols – these are sugar alcohols
Foods that contain FODMAPs are poorly absorbed by the small bowel and attract water into the large bowel causing a process that can lead to abdominal bloating, pain, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea.
The following table shows what foods to avoid if you suffer from bloating or abdominal pain.
So what can you eat to assist digestion and quell stubborn bloating?
You may recognise the cooling cucumbers as a well known remedy to puffy eyes or swollen skin, the same can be said for its benefit to your swollen stomach. The vegetable contains a flavonoid antioxidant called quercetin, which can help reduce swelling.
Papain, the enzyme present in papaya, can assist digestion by helping to break down proteins in your GI system. The tropical fruit also contains anti-inflammatory properties and supports the digestive tract.
Fennel does amazing things for the digestive tract. Not only is it useful in quelling nausea but the seeds contain a compound that relaxes GI spasms – which allows gas to pass and relieves bloating.
Whether added to juices, smoothies, stir-fries or just chewed raw, ginger soothes the digestive system and contains an enzyme that can absorb proteins – reducing protein-induced puffiness or gas.