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 treatment 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 decrease or prevent excess gas production from the digestion of certain foods. These products typically contain simethicone, charcoal, or alpha-galactosidase. They might be effective in some people for treating mild signs and symptoms, but are typically not the most effective option. For more severe cases of IBS, you will need to make lifestyle changes to accommodate the condition.
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 with prevention through your diet.
One top offender is dietary fiber. Foods that are high in fiber, such as beans, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables can make you gassy. Unfortunately, increasing your fiber intake can help treat other symptoms of IBS, but it can also cause bloating and gas when consumed in large or sudden amounts.
You can try increasing your dietary fiber slowly to allow your digestive system to get used to it, or you can try fiber supplements. 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), 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 special elimination diets may work for some people, the evidence to support them is weak, according to the ACG. Be sure to work with your doctor before following any specialized diet.
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 bacteria 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 suggests 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.
In recent years, researchers have linked IBS to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO means having more bacteria in the small intestine than is normal. 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. Antibiotics may eliminate certain bacteria and relieve symptoms like gas and bloating.
Peppermint oil 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.