Bloating is a feeling of abdominal discomfort often – but not always – accompanied by a distended belly. “Three litres of CO2 is produced in the gut every day, plus one litre of swallowed gas. That’s four litres that goes through the two metres of the small bowel and is absorbed,” says Sydney gastroenterologist Professor Terry Bolin, author of Understanding Gas And Bloating: Why Can’t I Do Up My Jeans At Night? (Dennis Jones & Associates, $24.95). “When the small intestine goes into spasm, that gas gets trapped, causing bloating. Many women have been poorly advised when they’ve complained of discomfort. Their doctors have basically said, ‘It’s all in your head.’” It’s not. Bloating is a “real” condition – and that means there are real solutions.
1. Go off the MAP: Foods that are fermentable or contain lots of gas-making substances are known as FODMAPs (don’t ask what it stands for – it’s long and boring – just learn what they are!). Avoiding them can help you get your flat belly back. “The best treatment for bloating is a low-FODMAP diet,” says accredited practising dietitian Amanda Clark (www.greatideas.net.au). “The culprits include lactose, fructose, sweeteners such as sorbitol, wheat and ‘windy vegetables’ like broccoli, cabbage and onions.”
2. Stress less: Stress makes bloating worse because when we’re wound up our gut doesn’t work properly. “If you think about our design, there was no need for our ancestors to eat or digest food when there was a tiger trying to bite them on the bottom,” says chiropractor Rebecca Harwin. The best stress-busters include meditation, deep breathing, exercise, listening to music and having sex. What’s not to like?
3. Look East: “The Chinese herb shan yao strengthens and augments the spleen and stomach, while chen pi can help with abdominal distension, digestive-system effectiveness and easing fullness,” says Peter Aftanas, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and developer of Little China Teas, which uses organic, medicine-grade Chinese herbs (www.littlechinateas.com.au). Acupuncture is also known to relieve bloating.
4. Conquer the cramps: If your bloating is particularly painful, ask your GP about amitriptyline. Commonly used as an antidepressant, smaller doses are also prescribed for pain relief. Over-the-counter drugs that may help include anti-spasmodic Buscopan; and Iberogast, a herbal remedy that works on the nerves and muscles in the gut.5. Get minty fresh: Studies show that peppermint helps to relieve bloating by relaxing the muscles of the gut, allowing gas to pass. Aloe vera can also help by supporting the digestive enzymes. So why not combine the two into one super bloat-busting pill? Lifestream has done just that with aloeMINT capsules, $21.95 for 30 (www.planethealth.com.au), which provide natural relief from bloating and abdominal pain.