Abdominal gas and bloating is the condition where the stomach feels full and tight and is slightly swollen due to accumulation of gas in the small intestine.
Bloating is often seen along with other symptoms like pain, diarrhea, cramps, lower back pain, and shortness of breath. This condition is caused by many reasons. Most important of them all is indigestion. The gas is produced as a fermentation product of the non-digested food. This gas descends to the rectal area to get released. Suppressing the gas can cause discomfort and may lead to constipation and other bowel problems. Bloating happens to be gaseous storage in the larger intestine. This condition is not painful but distressing nonetheless.
What causes Gas and Bloating
Constipation, water retention, overeating, irritable bowel syndrome, PMS, menopause and ovarian cancer can cause excess gas formation in the stomach. Other than these, the major cause for gas and bloating are listed below.
- Indigestion: The intestinal gas is formed due to improper digestion of the food especially protein. The un-digested food materials undergo fermentation, releasing gas. This gas buildup is what causes the discomfort. When the stomach lacks enough stomach acid, it becomes alkaline and the food will not be properly digested. The best way to avoid this is to eat the protein at the start of the meal and not in the end. Protein needs all the stomach acid available to get digested and if it is taken at the end the amount of acid available is not enough to fully digest it and cause gas and bloating. As for some complex sugar molecules like the oligosaccharides, they need some specified enzymes called alpha galactosidase enzymes, to aid in their digestion. When these enzymes are not present they also tend to undergo fermentation and form gas.
- Intestinal Bacteria: Our gastro-intestinal tract is a hub for both good and bad bacteria. There is often struggle between these two types to have upper hand. But most often the good bacteria wins over the bad ones. But in conditions like gas and bloating, the bad bacteria seems to have won. They start multiplying and cause the gaseous condition. In order to avoid this condition, include fermented food items to have a better population of the good bacteria in the stomach. Food like yogurt, buttermilk, cheese etc can help grow the good bacteria that eliminate the bad ones causing trouble.
- Gall Bladder Problems: Gall bladder is a small storage unit that stores the bile secreted by the liver and releases it in required amount whenever needed. But if there is any problem or blockage at the gall bladder the bile thickens to form a sluggish mix that causes more discomfort by generating gas after eating. This condition may last for a while before it subsides. The bile is released when the food reaches the small intestine and when the food is fermented instead of digestion, the released gas makes it difficult. If the gas or bloating occurs along with pain in the right shoulder or back, feet and itchy feel, then there is something wrong in the gall bladder and you might want to have immediate medical attention.
1. Activated charcoal is the oxidized form with pores. It can absorb the toxins or chemicals that might cause the gas. The toxins are trapped in the pores. It is effective both to relieve the symptoms of gas and bloating as well as for preventive measures. It comes in powdered, capsules and tablet forms.
2. Baking soda can be used for instant short term relief from gas. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda in warm water and drink it. It can also be added into lemon water and salt. This should not be overused as the sodium bicarbonate can reduce the production of the digestive stomach acid.
3. Banana contains potassium that helps regulate the fluid levels and decrease the production of gas in the intestine. Eating bananas regularly can prevent bloating. Eat it in any form but have it on daily basis at anytime.
4. Castor oil is a natural laxative and helps relieve constipation. Slow bowel movements also cause bloating and using a laxative can solve this problem. One teaspoon of castor oil taken can help with smooth bowel movements. The taste may be unpleasant but do not take sugar after it, instead opt for water or lemon juice to rid of the unpleasant taste. In case of severe constipation, the oil may take a few hours to get into action, so patience is a must while choosing this method to get rid of the gas. Do not use it continuously but only occasionally.
5. Fennel seeds are multi-functional. They can reduce the gas, is an excellent pain killer, and has anti-microbial properties. It can deal with the non-beneficial bacteria and at the same time reduce the muscle spasms of the digestive tract. Eating a few fennel seeds after a meal is an excellent method to prevent gas formation due to indigestion. Take fennel tea 2-3 times a day. Prepare it with a teaspoon of seeds in boiling water steeped for a while. The tea may not be pleasant and if it is too unbearable opt for hot water that has fennel seeds soaked for a few minutes.
6. Ginger is the best remedy for indigestion. The active components in it help in digestion and also curb the intestinal gas. Slice a small piece of ginger root after cleaning properly. Put these pieces into a cup of boiling water and turn the heat off. Let it steep for 10 minutes. Add some lemon juice and honey to taste and have it before or after a meal. If you can, eat some grated raw ginger before the meal.
7. Peppermint has the ability to cease the muscle spasms and relaxes the stomach muscles. This helps reduce the gas release and also improves the food movement in the stomach. Chew on a few mint leaves or make a peppermint tea. Put in a small amount of mint leaves in boiling water and let it steep for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid and have it for relief from bloating.
8. Pumpkin contains vitamin A and potassium that helps with digestion. Including this in the daily diet helps improve digestion and also reduce the intestinal gas formation. Pumpkin may be eaten boiled, baked, or grilled. At least a cup of pumpkin is required per meal. It can reduce the gas formed due to indigestion.
9. Strawberries: Though there are no evidence to prove its effects, eating a few strawberries can provide relief from the intestinal gas. It is a method for quick relief and the effects may not last for long.
10. Warm lemon water consumed in the morning on daily basis can increase the production of stomach acid. The acidic nature of the lemon triggers more acid production. This helps in better digestion and chances are lesser for the food to ferment and thus reducing the intestinal gas. It is also a detoxifying method to get rid of unwanted toxins along with the chemicals that can produce the gas. This works better when taken on an empty stomach.
- Do not take too much of drink along with a meal as it can dilute the stomach acid and slows down the digestion process. Have the drink at least half an hour after the meal. Drink water all day long, but not with the meals.
- Avoid using straw as it can take in more air, always sip the drink.
- Try to have meals at regular times so that the body gets used to the time and can produce the necessary digestive enzymes at the same time it requires.
- Chew the food slowly and allow the saliva to digest the food initially so that it is easier on the stomach acid to continue from there.
- Never fill up the tummy, fill it just the 2/3 rd of the stomach to allow access to the digestive fluid to move about.
- Give a gap of 3-4 hrs between meals to let the previous meal to digest completely.
- Do not mix raw and cooked food together. Fruits are better when eaten alone to get digested faster.
- Soaking legumes overnight helps release the components that produce gas. Do not use the soaked water for cooking, use fresh water.
- Try to include carminative herbs in the diet. Basil, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cloves, garlic etc are carminative in nature and can reduce the spasms.
- Bitter herbs and vegetables can increase the production of the stomach acid. Bitter gourd is one such example. It can be used sautéed or made into juice.
Gas and bloating is something that is not within our limits to stop. We can only try to avoid it one way or the other. Try to have a balanced and regular meal schedule. It helps the body tremendously to have a routine, and there will not be any timing problems with the digestive system. If you experience this problem regularly, try the home remedies alternately and do not stick to only one method to find relief. Taking a few digestive enzyme supplements may also help. Remember, routine is the key to a healthy diet and proper health.