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  • Writer's pictureGemma Westfold

Let's get to the bottom of your bloating with these easy steps!

Updated: Apr 30

There are myriad digestive issues that can cause bloating so to make sure I am systematic with how I look for the root cause, I use a 'top to bottom' approach to investigate.

Why? Because each step of our digestion has a knock-on effect to the next step, making this the most logical way we should investigate. Is it low stomach acid? Gallbladder issues? Lack of digestive enzymes? Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth? By looking at how food travels along the gut from top to bottom we can get an idea of why you are bloating. Then we may just have the root cause.

The Standard American Diet (ironic acronym SAD) which is gaining more ground in the UK (Standard UK Diet - ironic acronym SUK) and is based on highly processed food will cause bloating regardless of what else we do.

Therefore, I’m going to assume that you have an 80/20 attitude towards food, with a healthy, whole food approach 80% of the time. So let's start at the top and make our way down to the bottom (I just like saying it!)


Use your senses!

Firstly, we must start our digestive process by looking and smelling our food. The anticipation of eating prepares the gut for digestion, releasing stomach acid, enzymes and a little insulin before the first bite. This is the first point of good digestion and where we could get a jump on bloating. We call this the cephalic stage.

Chewing

Whist counting to 30 chews can be a complete bore, there is science to back it up. Work on chewing the food for long enough that it is unrecognisable from its original food. This gets the digestive enzymes in the saliva started on the carbohydrates, stimulates blood flow to the gut and preparing the food for its next part of digestion. Bonus – you won’t be the first to finish.

Stomach acid

Stomach acid is vital in immunity, mineral and vitamin absorption and central to the digestion of protein. As we age, we lose the ability to make acid and a little-known fact is that heartburn can often be because of too little stomach acid rather than too much. If you find that you have bloating after eating a protein heavy meal, with burping and bad breath, low stomach acid could be the culprit. One way to counter this is to increase your stomach acid by eating bitter greens salads before a meal. I rely on rocket, extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar for this.


Digestive enzymes

They continue the breakdown of food in the small intestine. If you bloat after a starchy meal, a large salad or high wholegrain meal, this could be due to low levels of pancreatic digestive enzymes. A natural way to increase these is to eat pineapple core (I’d put it in a blender first) or papaya before a meal. Both showed by research to increase pancreatic enzymes.


Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

The small intestine isn't so small. It's the largest interface in the body between the inside and outside world, it is one cell thick, and it has the dual role of letting

nutrients in whilst keeping foreign invaders out (large food proteins, bacteria, toxins etc). Relative to the large intestine, the small intestine should be low in bacteria, however bacteria can translocate from the large bowel through the valve that separates them, or bacteria may not have been killed off with strong stomach acid and may have made its way through in the food. This overgrowth can lead to bloating, amongst other symptoms. One way to try to avoid SIBO is to keep stomach acid at healthy levels. However, if you test positive for SIBO (there are GP and functional tests) then a diet and supplement protocol with a registered nutritional therapist or other health professional is advised.


Gallbladder

The gallbladder is the pear-shaped organ below the liver that stores the bile secreted by the liver. Bile has some very important jobs, one of which is to aid in the digestion and absorption of fat. If you bloat after eating a high fatty meal (heavy on olive oil, deep fried or greasy) then the gallbladder may need some attention. Natural ways to do this include eating more food known as cholagogues which improve bile flow. Artichoke has well researched cholagogue properties.


Large intestine

Our last stop on this epic journey through the gut is in the large intestine. It is home to trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaea which we collectively call our microbiota. We have a great relationship with our microbiota, we give them food, and shelter and they give us immune capabilities, increased digestive capabilities, vitamins, anti-inflammatory compounds and crowd out those bad bugs we don’t want. However, if they are in imbalance and there are too many bad guys growing like weeds then this is called gut dysbiosis and it can lead to lots of different symptoms throughout the body, not least chronic inflammation and bloating. There could also be too many good guys – in this case there is definitely too much of a good thing. One way to know for sure is to do a stool analysis with both PCR testing and the old-fashioned culture testing. Let's get to know what is in there. Then a nutrition, lifestyle and supplement protocol can be put in place to trim those weeds!


If any of this is sounding like a light bulb moment, I’m really glad. Give the hacks a go. However, if nothing is working then maybe we need to delve into this more. In that case, give me a call and have a free 20-minute call to discuss your health, health goals and walk away with a few personalised tips to get you started. Click here to book right now Book me in!

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