Bloating is one of the most common symptoms I see in my IBS patients and it’s usually the one symptom that is the trigger for getting some professional help.  Research suggests that between 66% – 90% of Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers experience bloating.

What’s the reason this is the IBS symptom that triggers the desire to say goodbye to Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

  • it’s uncomfortable
  • having to keep 3 different sizes of clothes in your wardrobe can be depressing, and
  • if you get bloating and gas, then it’s embarrassing.

What is Bloating?

Bloated StomachBloating is when your abdomen feels larger or you have a feeling of gas in your abdomen. Although it happens in your colon, it’s often described to me as having a bloated tummy or a bloated stomach.  You don’t need to have an actual distended abdomen (as evidenced by an unexplained tighter waistband) in order to be bloated.  It’s the feeling of being bloated rather than a change in your circumference.  The circumference of our abdomen naturally increases during the day and reduces overnight so we wake up in the morning with our waist size exactly where it started the day before.  This is completely normal.

IBS studies have found that more women than men tended to have bloating.  People with constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C), rather than diarrhoea-predominant IBS (IBS-D), tended to have bloating.

What Causes Bloating?

It’s complicated.  A number of factors have been suggested.  Becoming familar with these possible causes can help you to reduce bloat.

Your gut flora or microbiota

You have more than 500 different species of bacteria in your gut and they play a vital role in your ability to break down and absorb nutrients, maintain a healthy gut wall (often referred to in literature as the mucosal barrier), and also in having an effective immune system.  Many things affect our unique and highly individualised gut flora population – our diet (including during infancy and childhood) and antiobiotic use are the most well-documented.

Changes in your gut population may not change the quantity of gas that’s produced in your gut but it could change the type of gas that’s produced.  This can affect how quickly food moves through your gut and also your perception of how much gas is in there.

Bloating and Gas

We all have gas.  It’s a byproduct of your gut flora breaking down food.  If you have a higher concentration of gut flora that feed on gases such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide, then you will have less gas.  People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome don’t produce more gas than others, but the concentration of different gases may mean that you feel more bloated.

Some IBS sufferers have trouble moving the gas

As a result, instead of being expelled or absorbed, it builds up.  If you are prone to constipation, passing a stool more regularly will allow you to move the gas out of your gut.

Understanding why you are bloated is the first step in taking action in order to banish the bloating.  Tomorrow we will be talking about things you can do to reduce bloating.

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