Uncomfortable and unflattering bloating is one of the main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), along with abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. All of the symptoms are frustrating, but bloating can really make you feel down. It sometimes occurs as a side effect of your treatments for the other symptoms. Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to both treat bloating and prevent it.
There are several products on the market that claim to reduce bloating and either reduce or prevent excess gas production from the digestion of certain foods. These typically contain simethicone, charcoal, or alpha-galactosidase. You may want to try these medications, but be prepared for disappointment. They are often not very effective, especially for someone with IBS.
There are many foods you may be eating that contribute to a sense of bloating. The most successful way to eliminate your bloated feeling, and the gas that is often associated with it, is prevention through your diet.
One top offender is dietary fiber. Foods that are high in fiber, such as beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables can make you gassy. Unfortunately, increasing your fiber intake can help treat other symptoms of IBS, but can cause bloating and gas.
You can try bringing up your dietary fiber slowly to allow your digestive system to get used to it, or you can try using supplemental fiber. Fiber supplements may not cause as much of the negative symptoms as high-fiber foods. Just be sure to take them with plenty of water. According to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), recent research suggests that fiber with psyllium may be more helpful than fiber with bran for this symptom in people who have IBS.
Dairy products can cause bloating if you’re lactose intolerant. Wheat can cause bloating if you’re sensitive to gluten. Try eliminating these foods and see if your symptoms improve. Most people experience some bloating and gas from artificial sweeteners, such as fructose and sorbitol. Avoid artificially sweetened foods and carbonated drinks, which may also increase the gas in your intestines.
While some special elimination diets may work for some people, the evidence to support this is weak according to the ACG. Be sure to work with your doctor before following specialized diets.
Bacteria that live in your gut and help you digest food are called commensal organisms or normal microflora. A lack or abnormal collection of these little bugs in your digestive tract may actually be part of the cause of your IBS. Probiotics are bacteria and/or yeast that are consumed and believed to improve health. In the gut, these probiotics are believed to help restore the balance of “good” normal microflora. The balance between the different bacteria in your gut can affect IBS and its symptoms. Research has suggested that consuming probiotics helps relieve bloating associated with IBS. Try a probiotic supplement or yogurt with live, active cultures. Discuss with your doctor the amount that you should aim for each day.
A newer idea in treating IBS is to give patients antibiotics for something called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Although the exact causes of IBS are not fully understood, experts believe that SIBO may be one of several factors that contribute to the condition. SIBO means having more bacteria in the small intestine than is normal. Antibiotics may eliminate certain bacteria and relieve symptoms like gas and bloating. The studies supporting this line of treatment indicate that rifaxamin may be promising in people who have IBS-related diarrhea. Talk to your doctor about this possibility.
Peppermint has long been used to soothe upset tummies and you may find at least some temporary relief with it. Try a hot cup of peppermint tea, which is known to relax the smooth muscles of your intestines. However, be aware that it may also cause heartburn. Always be sure to speak with your doctor before trying an herbal supplement.