Bloating: What You Need to Know

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Bloating is a common and uncomfortable feeling characterized by an excessive buildup of gas in the digestive system which can cause fullness, pain, cramps and even flatulence. It is often associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which can further contribute to abdominal occasional constipation or diarrhoea. It can also be triggered by certain foods and drinks, hormonal shifts, irritants and other digestive problems such as food allergies and sensitivities.

The exact causes of bloating are not fully understood, but there are certain triggers that can cause an excess buildup of gas. Common factors that contribute to bloating include eating too quickly, swallowing air while talking, eating gas-producing foods such as beans, lentils and cruciferous vegetables, drinking carbonated beverages, consuming high-fat and highly processed foods, and consuming dairy products if you are lactose intolerant. Emotional stress and hormonal changes associated with menstruation can also bring on bloating.

The symptoms of bloating can range from mild and easily managed to quite severe. Mild bloating may simply cause a feeling of fullness or a distended stomach. More severe bloating can cause abdominal cramps and sharp pains, burping, flatulence, and increased gas and/or abdominal pain.

Treatment for bloating varies depending on the cause and the severity of the symptoms. Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can help to reduce bloating and relieve discomfort. Restricting foods that can cause gas, such as beans and cruciferous vegetables, can help to reduce bloating. Eating slower, cutting back on intake of processed foods, acidic foods such as citrus fruits, alcoholic beverages and carbonated drinks, as well as getting regular physical activity can all help to reduce symptoms of bloating.

Probiotics can also be helpful in treating bloating as they contain good bacteria which helps to maintain a healthy balance of flora in the gut. Drinking plenty of fluids can help to reduce the feeling of bloated by aiding digestion, and avoiding chewing gum or eating too quickly can help to reduce the amount of air taken in during meals.

In some cases, medications or supplements may be used to reduce bloating. Antispasmodic medication, such as mebeverine, can help to relieve abdominal cramps which may be contributing to the feeling of bloating. Simethicone, loperamide and antacids can also be used to reduce gas and help relieve symptoms.

If bloating persists or worsens over time, it is important to contact your doctor to rule out any serious medical conditions. A doctor can also provide more advice and treatment options to help relieve symptoms and reduce the chances of future bloating episodes.

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