Posted on Sep 17, 2020, 9 p.m.
Is your tummy making loud noises, maybe you are too full to move around, pants feel too tight, feels like a hardball in your midsection, whatever symptom you are experiencing being gassy and bloated is not a good feeling.
While there is no denying that diet contributes to gut health, there are still many potential causes of uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. Typically when experienced after eating it most likely due to byproducts that are created by bacteria in the GI Tract to help break down food because eating increases the water content in the gut and drawing in fluids can make one feel bloated.
"In general, diet is probably the main driver of a lot of GI symptoms," says Shanti Eswaran, MD, a gastroenterologist and internist at Michigan Medicine. "What we eat moves through our body and undergoes transformations as it's broken down by enzymes and bacteria in the GI tract."
According to Eswaran the primary cause of gas and bloating is IBS which can be caused by a range of things with the hallmarks being abdominal pain, discomfort, and altered bowel function including constipation and diarrhea. Those with IBS tend to experience increased pain or bloating after eating.
To help avoid experiencing gas and bloating try to eat smaller meals throughout the day and avoid carbonated beverages. Vitamin D deficiencies are prevalent among those with IBS, but this nutrient deficiency is not unique to this population of people.
"The majority of adults living in certain geographies or who lead indoor lifestyles tend to have low vitamin D levels and they are generally related to lack of sun exposure, though obesity is another risk factor," says Tamara Duker Freuman, RDN.
A report published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that vitamin D supplementation helps to significantly improve the severity of symptoms and disease-specific quality of life for those with IBS compared to those without.
But according to Eswaran supplementation on its own may not solve all gut-specific symptoms. "However, it may improve general symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency such as brain fog and fatigue, and if you're feeling well overall, it's possible that your GI symptoms may not bother you as much."
In addition to supplementation, one can naturally obtain vitamin D by spending some time in the sun, in some foods such as egg yolk, mushrooms, fatty fish, and fortified foods.
Fibre may or may not be beneficial for those that experience gas and bloating, for some a high fibre diet can induce or exacerbate gas and bloating while for others a low fibre diet can do the same thing. To add to that high intake of fibre may lead to some experiencing these symptoms as the result of a high stool burden or more fibre going in than is going out which can cause stool to build up, and to add to the confusion a diet lacking in fibre can also result in tummy troubles.
"Everyone is different, and you have to evaluate each case of bloating individually to understand what's behind it," Freuman notes. "The same remedy that helps alleviate symptoms in one person can worsen symptoms in someone else.”
"People with chronically low fiber intake can also experience intestinal gas or bloating if their low fiber intake results in chronic constipation and/or incomplete defecation of hard, small stools," adds Freuman.
"However, if someone is bloated due to constipation from a low fiber diet, the right answer is to add fiber very gradually, possibly in tandem with a gentle bowel regimen (or laxative) to help clear out residual stool that is causing a backup so that the fiber will be tolerated better," says Freuman.
To boost fibre intake while minimizing the risk of worsening gas and bloating try to eat fibre-containing foods that are lower in fermentable carbohydrates and have been texture modified to decrease fibre particle size such as smoothies and soups rather than salads, cooked veggies rather than raw, and nut butter rather than whole nuts which may be better tolerated for those who are prone to bloating from high fibre intake.
Fibre intake should be increased gradually by about 3-5 grams and staying at that level for several days before upping intake again to avoid discomfort. Also, be sure to increase your water intake as you add more fibre to your diet.
"Fiber and fluid should always be increased simultaneously," says Lauren Cornell, RDN. "Even if you have no intolerances to FODMAPs (most FODMAPs are a form of fiber), increasing your fiber intake without also increasing your fluid intake is bound to cause some gas or bloating."
If you continue to experience discomfort it might help to consult with a registered dietician who will work with you to identify your triggers and explore options to help with gas and bloating issues.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.