For some people, the problem underlying bloating becomes immediately obvious. Visit an Italian restaurant (like Brenda did on her date), devour fettuccine Alfredo with garlic bread and then tiramisu washed down with a glass of white wine, and you’re almost guaranteed bloating will be among that meal’s consequences.
As a medical doctor who specializes in gut health (you can check out my three-day gut reboot here). I take symptoms like bloating very seriously. That’s because while they can sometimes be innocuous (if embarrassing), bloating can also be a sign of underlying gut disorders.
I define bloating as a feeling of expansion in your abdomen, often accompanied by gas. You feel "stuffed," you suddenly wish you were wearing elastic-waist pants, you might burp or pass gas, and uncomfortable abdominal pain may follow suit. Overall, bloating is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints and easily becomes a miserable experience.
Studies show 15 to 30 percent of Americans experience bloating. With gut disorders, that number turns out to be higher. Researchers find nearly everyone with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experiences bloating. In my practice, I find most patients with gut problems encounter some degree of bloating at some point in time.
Studies show bloating’s culprits include dysbiosis (gut imbalances), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and food sensitivities and intolerances, like lactose intolerance. Patients who experience regular bloating can also have psychological distress as well as increased anxiety and depression, especially when bloating becomes severe. Once the bloating cycle kicks in, it may be hard to tell which comes first for you—the bloating or the mental anguish built up over the anticipation on how a meal may sit in your belly.
For the absolute worst-case bloating scenarios, I determine and treat underlying causes through testing. However, even without testing, the following strategies have helped many of my patients lose the bloated feeling. And as an added "bonus," many of them lose weight, too, without counting calories.