Bloating, edema, distended tummy, puffy, water retention, food baby… whatever you call it, it’s an uncomfortable nuisance. Around 70% of people have digestive complaints, and bloating is at the top of this list for many people – especially women.
You won’t typically hear men complaining about bloating. That’s because men don’t really get bloated like women do. Science is uncovering more and more about a Mars/Venus difference at play, but right now, this is what’s known:
- Women’s digestive tracts are longer (around 10 cm), and follow a slightly more convoluted route than men’s, according to Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist, and author of Gutbliss, The Microbiome Solution, and most recently The Bloat Cure. This is likely due to the need to be able to accommodate a growing baby, many experts believe.
- Women generally digest food more slowly and have a tendency to be more constipated than men. The Mayo Clinic conducted a study that found a substantial difference between men and women’s bowel transit times (also known as bowel motility). Men had an average bowel transit time of 33 hours, while women had an average of 47 hours – that’s a 14-hour difference!
- Many new studies suggest that gender (and estrogen) plays a part. Stress can trigger changes in the microbiome in females. Different phases of the menstrual cycle can also influence digestion, and contribute to symptoms of IBS. No longer just the microbiome, this emerging area of study is called the microgenderome – the effect of sex hormones on the gut. There’s still a lot to be learned, but one thing is for sure: there are differences between men and women! (1)
This is not to say that bloating is acceptable for women. It is not! Bloating can signal a more serious medical condition, but for the majority of people, bloating can be reduced by a few small adjustments to diet and lifestyle.
No need to get “hozo” (that’s horizontal, if you were wondering) after your next meal, or make a mini mountain of clothes on the occasional chair in your bedroom when you’re getting dressed – here are some reasons why you may be bloated, plus some natural remedies to deal with that bloating for good.
- Your microbiome can play a part in symptoms of bloating, and it’s important to have lots of “good” bacteria in your gut. These bacteria help to digest the food that you eat, improve peristalsis (the rhythmic, wave-like contractions of the large intestine that encourage bowel movements) and improve overall digestion. “Good” bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacterium have been shown to reduce bloating in clinical research (2). Our advanced gut health probiotic helps to SEED the gut with 15 strains of lacto and bifidobacteria that mimic healthy human gut flora. Plus, a unique plastic-free, delayed-release capsule ensures that the probiotic gets exactly where it needs to go to flourish.
- Lots of “good” bacteria is a good thing! But the location of the bacteria matters – bacteria in the large intestine is good, but a bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (known as SIBO) can spell trouble. SIBO causes bloating because the small intestine is where nutrients from food are absorbed by the body. This is a process that doesn’t require much bacteria, but when too much bacteria is present, it can interfere with the absorption process and lead to gas and bloating – especially when carbohydrate foods are consumed. Fortunately, SIBO can be reversed! Clinical research is finding that probiotics can help with overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (3).
- Certain foods impact different people with respect to bloating. Listen to your body to find out which foods make you feel good and which foods make you feel bloated. This can take some time, but it is well worth it.
- Most reliable bloat-inducing foods include dairy, fatty foods, sugar, bread and gluten-containing grains, legumes, and some cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. People with SIBO often find that eliminating sugars and complex carbohydrates in the short term can help to reduce bloating. If protein powder is at the top of your bloating list, try our fermented vegan proteins+ and fermented Greek yogurt proteins+, which have been fermented to help you absorb, digest and nourish more, with NO BLOAT!
- Avoid chewing gum and carbonated beverages, whenever possible, as they can add unwanted air to the digestive tract.
- Stress can slow down many “non-essential” functions, such as digestion, due to several mechanisms. Your gut contains more neurons than the spinal cord, and the gut is often called the “second brain” – what is going on in your mind can influence your gut and digestive processes! For example, have you ever had “butterflies” in your stomach? In addition, stress can cause changes to the microbiome, leading to less diversity.
- Activity level can decrease bowel transit time, reducing constipation and bloating. In addition, some forms of exercise, like Pilates, can help to pull the abdominal wall into a more flat position helping the belly to appear flatter and look less bloated!
(1) Mulak A et al. Sex hormones in the modulation of irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Mar 14;20(10):2433-48. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i10.2433.
(2) Ouwehand AC et al. Probiotics reduce symptoms of antibiotic use in a hospital setting: a randomized dose response study. Vaccine. 2014 Jan 16;32(4):458-63. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.11.053. Epub 2013 Nov 26.
(3) Khalighi AR et al. Evaluating the efficacy of probiotic on treatment in patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)–a pilot study. Indian J Med Res. 2014 Nov;140(5):604-8.