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What is bloating?

Understanding your condition

It’s normal to feel a little bloated from time to time. However, for some bloating can be an uncomfortable, distressing and sometimes embarrassing, chronic condition. It causes a sensation of abdominal fullness, either in conjunction with or separately from, abdominal distension.

Regular, everyday bloating is known as functional bloating which is a reaction to consuming food and drink. Other forms can be related to volatile reactions, such as irritation, inflammation, or retention of gas or fluid in the gut.

young woman holding hands across bloated stomach
young woman sitting on bed scrolling through mobile phone smiling

Providing natural treatment for bloating

Seeking the help and guidance of a functional medicine bloating specialist like our practitioners can help resolve bloating so you can feel comfortable and happy in your body.

A bloating specialist can provide a variety of natural bloating treatment strategies, once the cause of your symptoms has been identified and any more serious conditions ruled out.

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Common bloating symptoms

It’s estimated that up to 30 per cent of the population battle with chronic abdominal bloating. And most of them are unsure why they’re bloated, or what to do about it.

Although most commonly related to minor gastrointestinal disorders, bloating can be a sign of more serious conditions like bowel cancer or ovarian cancer, so all cases of ongoing or chronic bloating should be investigated.

There are 4 defined symptoms of bloating, which can include:

  • Sensation/feeling of swelling or bloating in the abdomen, which may increase over the day and may not include an actual increase in size or shape of the abdomen
  • Extension/distension of the abdomen (though 24% of cases don’t experience this), where the size of the abdomen increases, altering the fit of clothing
  • Increased volume of abdominal tissue or material, due to fluid retention, constipation, or gas
  • Increased awareness of muscular activity, and cramping of the abdomen

When bloating occurs regularly or persists long term, it could be a sign of a more complex underlying issue.

What causes eczema?

There isn’t one single cause of eczema but a range of potential contributing factors that are unique to each person. These include:

Genetics

Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.

These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.

Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected. 

Food allergy and sensitivity

Food hypersensitivity has been found to cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis in 10-30% of cases, and 90% of these are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat.

Compromised gut health

The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).

Weather and environment

Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.

Hormones

Hormones also play a role in the course of atopic dermatitis, including the stress hormone cortisol which triggers an inflammatory immune response affecting all organs of the body, including the skin.

Mould exposure

Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.

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What causes bloating?

Sometimes it’s easy to identify an obvious trigger for bloating, such as lactose intolerance or food sensitivities, and other times bloating can come and go for no apparent reason. To help you understand the potential causes, here are some of the most common bloating triggers.

Slow motility of waste: The slow transit time of matter can cause bloating if the bowels aren’t working effectively. “Pooling” of food and waste matter occurs in the digestive system, creating fullness and discomfort. This cause is often associated with constipation, and is exacerbated by dehydration, lack of physical activity, insufficient digestive enzymes and medications such as opioids. Difficulty passing stool may also be a result of abdominal obstruction, a mass in the bowels, or a disorder such as diverticulitis, and should always be investigated.

Gas retention: Build-up of gas is a common cause of bloating, and can result in flatulence or belching. This form of bloating expands the volume inside the gastrointestinal organs, which creates pressure on the intestinal walls resulting in bloating. Gas can build up as a volatile response to food and drink, especially where there is microbiome imbalance (dysbiosis), food intolerance, insufficient digestive enzymes to properly break down food, or overeating.

Fluid retention: Just like gas and solids, fluid retention increases the space being taken up in the gut, especially in IBS, which bloating is a symptom of. However, fluid malabsorption also contributes to diarrhoea, and pain, and can compound other digestive problems. Fluid retention can be driven by hormones, compromised gut health, a response to food intolerance/sensitivity, or a result of medications.

Trapped air: Sometimes the cause of bloating is as simple as trapped air in the GI system, caused by consuming carbonated drinks or drinking through a straw, or even simply eating quickly.

Medical conditions: Bloating that is excessive, painful, ongoing, or unrelated to food may be caused by an underlying medical condition. Bloating commonly happens in response to a wide range of health complications, including:

  • SIBO
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Coeliac disease
  • Food intolerance
  • Parasites
  • Inflammation
  • Endometriosis


How to reduce bloating - the conventional approach

Conventional medicine offers limited options for treating abdominal bloating. People commonly reach for over-the-counter treatments targeting wind and gas, such as Immodium and De-Gas. Similarly, people may turn to laxatives to hasten a slow transit time. These medications, however, are only intended for short-term relief, and carry potentially harmful side effects. 

Anti-gas medication: Medications like simethicone, which is used in the popular product De-Gas, use silicone compounds that function by decreasing the surface tension of gas bubbles in the gastrointestinal tract. This results in dispersion and accumulation of gas bubbles and easier removal from the intestines as either flatulence or belching. But unlike the name suggests, they don’t actually reduce the production of gas.

Antacids: Some people may even use antacids in an attempt to reduce bloating associated with heartburn and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). This group of drugs is known as proton pump inhibitors, and they have recently been linked to potentially fatal side effects including cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and upper gastrointestinal cancers.

Laxatives: As a result of constipation, compacted stool or slow transit time, laxatives are commonly used. Providing short term relief of constipation by speeding up the transit time of material through the gut can impair nutrient absorption from food. Long term use of laxatives can have serious side effects which worsen bowel dysfunction, including dehydration, intestinal paralysis, lazy gut, irritable bowel syndrome, and pancreatitis. 

Antibiotics: If abdominal bloating is occurring as a result of bacterial overgrowth or a parasitic infection, antibiotics may be recommended. Antibiotics are non-selective, which means that they target both beneficial and non-beneficial bacterial species alike. The resulting microbiome imbalance can be a trigger for bloating, so this option may not provide the desired relief from bloating, and might make bloating worse.

Natural treatment for bloating - the functional medicine approach

The first priority of functional medicine is to identify and understand the underlying root cause of your condition. 

Our bloating specialists at Melbourne Functional Medicine will ask questions to uncover any patterns that point to a potential trigger for your bloating, using a range of functional testing and diagnostics to find the cause. 

We can then help you avoid and remove triggers to prevent bloat from occurring, rather than only suppressing the symptoms.

Dietary change: Our practitioners may ask you to keep a food diary and make a note of any bloating events to help identify potential triggers in your diet. Common triggers include dairy, gluten, grains, legumes, nightshades, processed foods, soft drinks, alcohol, too little fibre, or inadequate hydration. Our practitioners will also consider factors such as dietary nutritional imbalances and deficiencies. A well-rounded diet for bloating with a focus on highly digestible, unprocessed whole foods can help to improve digestion and reduce inflammation and bloat.

Intolerance testing and elimination diets: Food intolerance is one possible cause of regular or chronic bloating issues. It’s a common response in coeliac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder, but also in lower-level sensitivities such as lactose, gluten and FODMAP intolerances. Short-term elimination diets may be recommended to prevent bloating while proactively supporting gut health.

Anti-inflammatory, gut-health compounds: Intestinal flora imbalance is one of the most common causes of bloating, so using prebiotic and probiotic foods and supplements can restore balance and bring about relief. In the initial stages of introduction, prebiotics and probiotics may exacerbate gas and bloat, as can selecting an inappropriate type, therefore should be introduced under the guidance of a trained functional medicine practitioner. Some options include foods such as berries, fermented vegetables and bone broth, through to herbal extracts of curcumin, ginger, cinnamon, peppermint and ginseng. 

Importantly, our bloating specialists understand the discomfort and inconvenience of bloating and will work closely with you to develop a personalised approach to addressing your individual needs. 

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FAQs

How to reduce bloating? What tea is good for bloating?

Have you considered seeing a naturopath bloating specialist?

Functional medicine trained naturopaths used evidence-based natural treatments to relieve bloating and restore digestive function. If you are experiencing ongoing bloating symptoms it is important to first rule out any underlying conditions, such as: 

While treatment for each condition will be different, some people find short-term relief from herbal teas such as ginger, peppermint or chamomile, or ginseng to relieve bloating. Some find increasing their fibre intake with whole unprocessed fruits, vegetables and grains along with good hydration can help relieve symptoms.

Bloating vs fat - how can you tell?

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell just by looking in the mirror.

Do your clothes fit around the waistband one day, then not the next, then back again? That may indicate bloating. If your size is steadily and consistently increasing, then perhaps it is fat gain.

Are you eating more, or just differently?

Bloating can occur for a number of reasons, including food intolerances/sensitivities, stress, constipation, gas retention, fluid retention, trapped air, medical conditions, medications - so if you have been experiencing symptoms regularly, or symptoms are persisting long term, it’s important to have it checked out.

A functional medicine trained, naturopath bloating specialist can help isolate the root cause and design a tailored, natural treatment plan to help you feel well again.

Best probiotic for bloating in Australia?

The best probiotic for bloating in Australia depends on the underlying cause of the bloating. There can be a wide range of causes and contributing factors to bloating, including food sensitivities, constipation, slow motility, gas retention, fluid retention, trapped air, medications and some medical conditions. 

Specific strains of probiotics perform different functions, e.g. Lactobacillus is the genus, plantarum is the species and 6595 at the end designates the specific strain, which will perform a different job to L.plantarum HEAL9. 

A naturopath bloating specialist, trained in functional medicine can help prescribe the precise strain to help reduce your bloating.

Foods that cause bloating? Will a gluten-free diet help with bloating?

Food intolerances and sensitivities can cause bloating, though the types of foods can vary from person to person.

The main food groups that cause bloating are dairy, grains, legumes and nightshades such as tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini and eggplant.

If coeliac disease is the cause of bloating, then a gluten-free diet is likely to help with bloating, along with treatment for coeliac disease. Many people who don’t have coeliac disease find they are still sensitive to gluten, or to wheat, or other specific grains that might cause bloating.

Functional testing for food sensitivities can help. 

Finding the underlying cause of bloating is essential to finding relief. Our functional medicine naturopath bloating specialists can provide a bloated stomach treatment plan to turn your bloating around.

What is the best supplement for bloating?

The best supplement for gut health and bloating will depend on what is causing the symptoms.

There can be a range of different causes and contributing factors as described above.

Slow motility or the slow transit of food through the digestive system is a common underlying cause, so increasing fibre can often help.

Psyllium husk, slippery elm powder or PHGG can all be helpful however, increasing fibre without drinking at least 2 L of water per day can potentially make things worse. 

If symptoms are regular or persistent, it is important to have your bloating checked. Our functional medicine bloating specialists can help to determine the cause of your bloating and provide a personalised bloating treatment plan to resolve your bloating for good.

How to get rid of a bloated stomach naturally? What herbs are good for bloating?

There are a number of reasons you may be experiencing bloating, so there are a variety of treatments. First, understanding what is underlying your symptoms is important, as it can be a sign of other medical conditions.

Increasing hydration to 2 L per day while increasing fibre intake with whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, and limiting foods such as fast food, sugar, dairy or known food sensitivities may help.

Testing to find out any food sensitivities will help to isolate potential causes.

Herbs that are good for bloating are chamomile, ginger, peppermint, or ginseng. Peppermint tea for bloating can sometimes help, although can sometimes cause acid reflux.

What is the best tea for weight loss and bloating?

Generally, weight loss and bloating are two separate things however, sometimes it’s easy to think we are increasing weight when it is in fact bloating.

Do you find that the waistband on your clothes is tight one day and loose the next, or loose in the morning but as the day progresses, it gets tighter? Then, this might be a sign that you are experiencing bloating.

You can ‘feel’ bloated, without an increase in the size of your abdomen, and you can have an increase in size without the sensation of feeling bloated. There are a number of causes and contributing factors that trigger bloating.

It can vary from person to person, and will depend on the underlying cause of your bloating, however, ginger, chamomile, peppermint or ginseng teas can sometimes provide short-term relief.

It is important that if your bloating is regular, or persistent that you have this checked to rule out an underlying medical condition. Our functional medicine bloating specialists can help.

What supplements for gut health and bloating should I be taking?

There are a number of over the counter supplements for bloating available in Australia.

However, a variety of reasons can be causing gut health and bloating symptoms.

It is important to find out what the cause is so that it can be treated properly and not cause further discomfort, or rule out any serious underlying health conditions.

For the natural treatment of bloating, taking the right supplements, at the right time, in the right dosage will ensure that bloating gets resolved, doesn’t cause further discomfort, and that you don’t waste money on inappropriate products.

Speaking to a bloating specialist like the digestive health practitioners at Melbourne Functional Medicine will help to isolate the root cause of bloating, and provide holistic, tailored treatment plans with the right supplements, for you.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.

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