How To Reduce Severe Bloating

Do you experience severe and persistent bloating? In this article, we’ll cover why it happens and what to do about it.
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What is persistent bloating?

Everybody gets a little bloated from time to time (Christmas, anyone?). But when it starts happening almost every day, that’s persistent bloating.

It can be painful, and you might have a big, distended belly that makes you feel self-conscious, or at least seriously uncomfortable. If your bloating has started to affect your life, you’re not alone—and there’s a lot you can do about it.

There are several causes of bloating. It’s rarely a sign of something serious—such as ovarian or bowel cancer—but if you’re severely or persistently bloated, it’s important to get a GP to rule anything like this out first.
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What is persistent bloating?
What causes severe bloating?
How to get rid of severe gas and bloating: short-term fixes
How to address the root cause of bloating

What causes severe bloating?

Let’s take a look at some of the main causes and accompanying symptoms of severe and persistent bloating.

Severe bloating and constipation

Quite simply, if you’re not moving your bowels often enough, there’s not enough room in your abdomen to hold all your stool (poo).

Bacteria make up around a quarter to half of the solid weight of your stool, so the more stool in your belly, the more bacteria. As the bacteria feed on the carbohydrates in your stool, they produce gas.[1]

To make matters worse, when you’re constipated, it’s harder for the gas to pass through. So, you end up with a swollen stomach and probably some trapped wind pain too.

Severe bloating and IBS

A doctor will diagnose you with IBS if you’ve been suffering from bloating, cramping, upper stomach pain, abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation for more than three months. We still don’t know the exact reasons why people get IBS, but there’s strong evidence to suggest that an imbalance of gut bacteria plays a large role [2].

Many people with IBS symptoms have been found to have SIBO: an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine [3]. The bacteria give off gases that build up, and you get a bloated belly and trapped wind pain, along with other IBS symptoms.

Severe bloating and gas

All the gas from that bloat has to go somewhere, and it’s usually down, resulting in an embarrassing problem. Most people pass wind between 14 and 21 times a day [4] but if you’ve got severe bloating, it can be a lot more.

Severe bloating and abdominal pain

When gas is trapped, it puts pressure on the stomach area and causes pain. Trapped wind pain can be so intense that sufferers can mistake it for appendicitis, food poisoning or even childbirth.

Severe bloating and IBD

Not to be mistaken for IBS, IBD stands for inflammatory bowel disease. The term is mainly used to describe two conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Severe bloating and Crohn’s (and severe bloating and ulcerative colitis) are often found together [5]. If you have persistent bloating along with IBD symptoms like bloody stool, fever, dehydration and anaemia, take yourself to your GP right away.
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How to get rid of severe gas and bloating: short-term fixes

To begin with, you can try these easy steps to alleviate bloating:

Release the trapped gas

Yoga positions like ‘child’s pose’ (huddled over on your knees with your arms out in front of you), or lying on your back and pulling your knees to your chest can help.

Have a bowel movement

We realise you might not be able to do this to order, but having a bowel movement usually eases trapped wind pain.

Try ginger, chamomile or peppermint tea

The beneficial compounds in these herbs can ease bloating.
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How to address the root cause of bloating?

Tried the easy steps? Here’s how to dig deeper to eliminate bloating for good:

Eliminate food intolerances

Bacteria produce gases when they feast on what you eat, and certain foods are more likely to give you a bloated stomach. There’s a reason why we have so many jokes and rhymes about eating beans!

Many foods can give you gas (it all depends on the mix of bacteria you have down there) but there’s a lot of evidence that cutting down on FODMAP foods helps bloating and IBS symptoms.[6]

FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols, which are all types of carbohydrates. Foods high in FODMAPs include garlic, onion, legumes, pulses, and some fruits, vegetables and forms of dairy. Wheat is high in FODMAPs too.

However, a low FODMAP diet isn’t a long-term solution, as you need FODMAPS in your diet to keep your gut healthy.

Avoid chewing gum and sugar-free sweets

In some people, the artificial sweeteners in many chewing gums and sugar-free sweets cause bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea [7]. This is because these sweeteners aren’t completely absorbed in your gut, so they ‘hang around’ and ferment, which produces gas.

Use clinical tests to dig deeper

Clinical tests can reveal crucial information. There are many different kinds of infections that can bloat your belly—including H. pylori, parasites, or pathogenic bacteria—that your doctor can test for.

But there may be other reasons for bloating that the NHS doesn’t currently test for, such as dysbiosis (an imbalance in the communities of bacteria and other microbes in your gut) [8]. A SIBO hydrogen breath test or lactose intolerance test could also be useful [9].

Find out what's causing your bloating.

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Bloating is a common affliction but for some people, it can become persistent and very uncomfortable.

There are lots of reasons for bloating, and it often accompanies digestive disorders such as IBS and constipation. Dysbiosis and food intolerances can often be behind bloating too.

In the short term, you can try gentle yoga moves and herbal teas to alleviate bloating. You can also try to pass stools. In the long term, identifying food intolerances and working on your gut health should help to keep bloating at bay.
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Alexandra Falconer BA (Hons) DipCNM mBANT is a Registered Nutritional Therapist specialising in IBS and related conditions. A graduate of Brighton’s College of Naturopathic Medicine, she is committed to fighting the root causes of chronic illness and bringing functional medicine to everyone who needs it.

Before her natural health career, Alex was a journalist and copywriter. She continues to write for magazines and media agencies, and now combines her two great passions – writing and health – by creating content that empowers people to claim their right to a healthy body and mind.
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