Beat the Bloat - The Underlying Cause of Your Gas and Bloating
Bloating and excessive flatulence (gas) abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and persistent constipation are some of the most common digestive symptoms I see in my practice. But why is it so important to properly identify the cause and treat it?
Excessive bloating can cause significant disruption in one’s life, creating food fear, fear of eating out with friends and family members, fear of activity that may require increasing abdominal pressure (exercise or sex), and general embarrassment.
But let’s back up for a minute...
What is “bloating”? How do you know if you experience "bloating"?
- Some describe bloating as a swollen feeling or distended belly (abdomen) to the point of feeling like a balloon that could burst.
- It may feel like waking up comfortable with a flat belly, and progressively getting more uncomfortable (stretchy pants here we come!)
- It may get worse with meals and throughout the day, without a particular food trigger
Bloating in your belly (intestines) is a direct result of microbes (bacteria) in your gut consuming soluble, fermentable carbohydrates, and producing GAS as a by-product (similar to naturally fermenting kombucha or making cider). This process is normal when everything is in balance. Bloating becomes abnormal when it starts to become uncomfortable or even painful, is associated with excessive flatulence (farts) when your belly bloats so much after eating that it starts to create food fear, fear of exercise or sex due to the discomfort or embarrassment, or when it is also associated with nutrient deficiencies that are difficult to correct (iron deficiency in women).
The gas that forms in your intestines causes pressure to build-up, which can create pain, and may alter bowel movements creating either constipation or diarrhea. Once this gas is created and trapped in your intestines, it has to go somewhere. This leads to excessive flatulence (gas), or belching, which can often help relieve the belly pains (like a pressure relief valve).
Bloating and Gas as an Underlying Sign of Microbial Imbalance
Excessive bloating and gas may indicate an underlying microbial imbalance in your intestines. Too many gas-producers are present relative to the non-gas producers. Not all bacteria create gas when they ferment carbohydrates, like fiber, from foods we eat. Some beneficial intestinal bacteria will make short-chain fatty acids and other NON-gaseous metabolites that may promote a healthy gut.
SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is the main cause of this excessive gas production by bacteria in your intestines. In SIBO, the normal balance of healthy bacteria is lost which leads to microbial imbalance.
This is the lactulose breath test commonly used to diagnose SIBO. This relatively inexpensive test may help shed light on the underlying cause of your stomach discomfort.
Below are two sample reports of a lactulose/SIBO breath test. By measuring bacterial by-products such as hydrogen and methane gasses, we can estimate, based on averages and standardized testing, how imbalanced the flora in your intestines may be and what we can then do about it. It is the best method we have currently to objectify and quantify and potential bacterial overgrowth or imbalance in your intestines.
Figure 2: SIBO Sample Test. This report exemplifies a typical Hydrogen predominant SIBO result. These patients are often labeled with IBS - Diarrhea type. Excessive hydrogen gas in the intestines may promote loose stool and diarrhea.
Figure 3: SIBO Sample Test 2. This sample test shows an imbalance in methane gas-producing bacteria in the intestines. Commonly excessive methane gasses in the intestines produces persistent constipation. Patients with persistent constipation consuming a healthy, fiber rich diet commonly test positive for methane-predominant SIBO via lactulose breath testing.
If this experience seems relatable – you NEED to know:
This does not have to be the way it is.
You can have calm digestion with no bloating, gas, or pain.
This can be achieved without restrictive dieting or life-long reliance on medications or supplements.
This is testable & measurable
This is treatable
This is curable
Contact or book a free meet and greet to discuss more evidence-based information and how to test and treat excessive bloating and abdominal pain without restrictive diets, or life-long reliance on medications or supplements.
Lets calm digestion, improve food tolerance and enhance your gut health.
Dr. Randi Brown | Naturopathic Physician