Doctor-approved ways to beat belly bloat
Gas in the car: Great! Gas in the belly: Not so great!
Bloating. That swollen, distended belly that can feel very uncomfortable and cause your clothes not to fit properly. One cause of bloating may be excess gas. Is there a way to get rid of it, or stop it from happening in the first place?
The internet thinks so. It, along with TV infomercials, are swelling with advertising for detox teas, pills and fly-by-night remedies to relieve bloating. Do they work?
We turned to a gastrointestinal specialist for answers.
“There are many myths and even more speculation around the causes of bloating,” said Gerard Siciliano, M.D., gastroenterologist with Norton Gastroenterology Consultants of Louisville. “There simply is no clear-cut cause of bloating. Bottom line: Bloating is a side effect of many things and happens to many people.”
Intestinal gas (a fancier way to describe bloating) tends to settle in the abdominal area, causing the belly to stick out and feel full. The gas can also be painful, causing sharp pain or pressure. It can be caused by foods we eat, liquids we drink or medications we take, just to name a few.
“When the discomfort hits, the best thing you can do is get up and get moving,” Dr. Siciliano said. “Exercise may decrease the pressure and get the intestinal gasses to either absorb into the body or be expelled.”
How about all the hype on the internet?
Over-the-counter medications or mail-order remedies may work for a short while, but if not taken as directed, can increase symptoms or interfere with other medications, according to Dr. Siciliano.
“It is always best to talk to your doctor about your symptoms before trying detox teas, cleansing remedies or gas reducers,” he said. “Your doctor will advise you on making dietary and lifestyle changes, such as trying the low FODMAP diet, or work with you to make changes to your medications.”
Start by monitoring the amount of fresh fruits, vegetables, salads and dairy products you eat.
“In our minds we know these as healthy foods, so we tend to load up on them, but by doing so we may be creating excess intestinal gas,” Dr. Siciliano said. “Don’t cut out these foods; just limit yourself to the correct portion sizes.”
He also recommends:
- Reducing or eliminating sodas and carbonated drinks
- Drinking plenty of water
- Keeping salt intake to a minimum
- Trying peppermint
- Limiting artificial sweeteners, which are hard to digest
- Eating meals at regular times
- Taking a trial of probiotics
If your bloating is persistent even after making dietary and lifestyle changes, it’s time to talk with your doctor.
“Unexplained bloating or long periods of bloating may be a sign you need testing for celiac disease, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome or another medical condition,” Dr. Siciliano said.
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing bloating along with:
- Weight loss without trying or making lifestyle changes
- Frequent or unexplained diarrhea
- Severe pain that comes on suddenly, as this could be a sign of a bowel blockage
- Blood in your stool or vaginal bleeding between periods
Need a physician? We can help. Find one who’s right for you.