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Why do I always have a bloated belly?

Causes and remedies of a condition that afflicts so many people. Yes, you too, don't deny it

Why do I always have a bloated belly? Causes and remedies of a condition that afflicts so many people. Yes, you too, don't deny it

Have you ever felt uncomfortable because you have cramps and your stomach is sticking out of your clothes, swollen and sore? It happens to everyone. There's no point in denying it. Whether it's an episodic or a recurring condition, more and more people are naturally talking about their bowel problems and especially how complicated it can sometimes be to live with abdominal bloating on social sites like TikTok, where hashtags like #bloatok, #bloating, #hotgirlswithIBS or #guthealth are all the rage, helping to destigmatise the problem. But there are so many theories, improvised remedies and possibly. That's why it's best to get some clarity. And remember: abdominal bloating is normal. Most people start the day with a flat stomach and have some bloating during the day.

Abdominal bloating is normal

Abdominal bloating is not just a purely cosmetic problem that makes you feel uncomfortable, but a disorder that affects many people. They can simply cause an uncomfortable feeling of fullness or pressure in the abdomen, or they can be visible, i.e. associated with an increase in the waistline. It should be emphasised that the production of gas in the gastrointestinal tract is the normal result of the digestive process. Under normal conditions, this gas is absorbed by the intestinal walls, which convert it into small molecules that enter the bloodstream and are then excreted through respiration. Bloating occurs when the air that has entered the gastrointestinal tract cannot escape from above or below. This causes the intestines to expand like a balloon and makes the abdomen appear bloated. The abdominal tension caused by intestinal gas can affect the upper or lower abdomen. It is often accompanied by a rising abdomen, abdominal pain, a feeling of tightness in the abdomen, cramps, meteorism, bloating and changes in stool consistency or frequency of emptying.

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Why does abdominal bloating occur?

The feeling of bloating rarely comes out of the blue and can have very different causes. The list is long and includes poor diet, poor lifestyle, hormonal imbalances, food intolerances (e.g. lactose and gluten), allergies, medication use, infections, emotional shocks, stress and environmental factors. If they're not just episodic, they can also be a symptom of a more serious condition, so it's best to consult a doctor.

Beware of FODMAPs

One of the causes of tummy tensions can be poor eating habits. An unbalanced diet or a diet that includes certain foods can lead to digestive problems. Therefore, according to some experts, it is best to avoid anything that causes gas to build up in the gut and cause bloating in the stomach and abdomen, such as FODMAPs. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that are difficult for the intestines to digest and contain some types of fermentable fibres or sugars and are more likely to move into the large intestine. There, in contact with the bacteria that make up the gut microbiota, they are fermented and often broken down into gaseous by-products. Some examples of FODMAPs? Beans and other legumes, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, artichokes, wheat, milk, cherries, apples, peaches or pears.

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Link between flatulence and stress

There is ample evidence of a close connection between the brain and the gut - so much so that the gut has been called the "second brain" One influences the other. It's no coincidence that just like the brain, the gut nervous system uses more than 30 neurotransmitters and that 95 per cent of the body's serotonin is found in the gut. So even though we try to eat healthy and even though we eat the same foods, in times of heightened stress our gut can feel more tense and bloated than when we are in a calm mood. The vagus nerve, which is responsible for monitoring and integrating gut function and cognitive function, plays a crucial role in this. This is why psychological stress causes physical symptoms in the stomach and intestines such as abdominal cramps, changes in bowel movements, nausea or the feeling of having butterflies in the stomach. When you feel stressed or anxious, the area of the brain responsible for memory and emotional responses is activated, sending signals to the adrenal glands and causing the release of cortisol. This so-called "stress hormone" causes the breakdown of glycogen and fat stores to give the body more energy. It is an evolutionary mechanism that enables us to fight or flee when we are in danger. When we are chronically stressed, our body thinks we are in constant danger and drains the blood from the gut, reducing gut motility and leading to bloating. What to do if our bloating is a result of stress and emotional factors? We can consider three potentially helpful treatments: Practising diaphragmatic breathing, starting cognitive behavioural therapy with a psychologist or trying acupuncture.

Connection between bloating and menstrual cycle

Bloating in women often occurs during the menstrual cycle, especially during the luteal phase, when the body begins to prepare the uterus for a possible pregnancy immediately after ovulation. During this phase, hormone levels rise, which is responsible for the swelling. In particular, oestrogen can increase water retention and progesterone can slow down the gastrointestinal tract, leading to constipation in the long term. The result? The water retention due to the hormonal fluctuations and the thickened uterine lining cause you to feel a fuller belly in the days leading up to menstruation, which sometimes even lasts for a few days after it starts.

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How to reduce bloating

The right treatment plan depends on the specifics of a person's swelling. And if the problem is chronic, it is always best to consult a doctor. Nevertheless, there are small steps that those who sporadically suffer from abdominal bloating can take:

- Avoid eating foods that cause inflammation, such as gluten, dairy, corn, peanuts, nightshade vegetables and shellfish. It may also help to cut out caffeine and alcohol from your diet.

- Try probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms designed to improve health by enriching the microbiome (the millions of organisms that live in our gut and support everything from food digestion to immune regulation) with more "good" bacteria or yeast. Although there is no clear evidence of clinical effectiveness, some people have reported positive effects and better digestion. You could take a probiotic supplement or include more probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi or kombucha in your meals.

- Eat prebiotics, which are plant-based foods that are high in fibre, such as vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains.

- Drink plenty of fluids. Constipation and constipation are often associated with bloating. Although it may seem trivial, we need to drink plenty of fluids to soften our stools and make them easier to empty. But don't overdo it, or you'll have the opposite effect and get even more bloating. The 2 litres of water per day recommended by experts is sufficient.

- Take your time and eat wisely. If you snack every 5 minutes and eat too quickly, it can lead to bloating.

- Try natural remedies. There are a number of herbs and foods that have natural bloating-reducing properties that you can incorporate into your daily routine. Some examples? Fennel, ginger and charcoal, which help remove fermentation gases from the intestines.

- Do light physical activities. You don't have to train for a marathon, but physical activities such as yoga or even walking for a few minutes after meals can aid digestion and have a positive effect on abdominal bloating.