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After a meal, especially when we’ve eaten too much, it’s not uncommon to feel lazy, groggy, and somewhat bloated. It’s the potential downside of enjoying a good meal, and it impacts just about everyone at least a few times in their lives. There are some people that seem to struggle with it more than normal, though, and it isn’t always after an admittedly oversized meal. Living with a bloated stomach could actually be a symptom of an undiagnosed food intolerance. Interested in learning more? Keep reading.

Common causes of a bloated stomach

To be clear, discovering that you are dealing with a bloated stomach does not necessarily mean that you absolutely have an underlying food intolerance. Bloating can be caused by all sorts of normal food habits, including:

  • Eating too much at a fast pace: That big meal is enough to cause your stomach to balloon up as it struggles to digest and process what you’re putting into it. This is going to be especially so if you eat it quickly like most of us do. Large amounts of food comes in at such a fast speed that the stomach puffs out to make room for it all.  Eating quickly also means we are more likely to swallow air, which can create gas bubbles in the stomach as well.
  • Drinking carbonated drinks: Anything with carbonation is going to cause bloating in your stomach because you’re swallowing air bubbles. If you drink soda with every meal, you’ll notice that your stomach will be much more bloated than if you don’t.  Yet another reason to switch to water!
  • Rich foods: There are some foods that will create bloating simply because they’re rich in content. Beans, for example, are one of the worst culprits. Cream cheese and ice cream are also considered to be bloating foods.  If you want to get to the bottom of the possible stomach bloating problem, limiting these kinds of foods could be helpful.

Dealing with a bloated stomach is not something that should just be tossed aside.  Studies have shown that the real causes behind the stomach bloating can often get hidden behind the simply complaint or descriptor of dealing with bloat [1].  That is, even though stomach bloat seems like an inconvenience or annoyance, it could be hiding something bigger that is really going on.  Realistically speaking, studies have shown that patients dealing with bloating actually have impaired control of their gut [1].  Since their gut is unable to handle certain foods, it can create a lot of serious discomfort that even ranges to chronic, distressing pain if left unchecked and undiagnosed [2].

Even if you are simply finding that it looks unflattering, stomach bloating should never be something that you have to deal with if it’s something that is caused simply by your diet, like it is for most of us.

How food intolerances factor in

Where the food intolerance starts to work into a bloated stomach problem, is when you notice that you are having excessive stomach bloat even when you aren’t eating much of anything. For instance, just a few bites of cheese makes you feel bloated. Or, perhaps eating a slice of bread will make you feel the same way. Both of these examples wouldn’t typically cause the average person to deal with bloat, but someone who is either lactose intolerant or gluten intolerant might.

When living with a food intolerance, your body is not able to digest certain food ingredients (such as lactose or gluten). When these foods enter the stomach, the digestive tract starts to struggle to process them, and this work and effort creates symptoms such as bloating, excessive stomach noise, and even flatulence and nausea. The stomach has to work hard in order to attempt to process the food, so even small amounts of “problem” foods will cause this problem. The severity of the symptoms is determined by the severity of the food intolerance, so varying amounts of the problem foods will offer different severity of the symptoms in most people.

None of us want to face the facts that a few bites of cheese can make us swell up, but there is a connection between food intolerance and a bloated stomach. All that’s left is to determine what your trigger foods are by taking a food intolerance test.  This food intolerance test will also give you an idea for the severity of your intolerances and even guidance and support to help you adapt to the way your diet is going to change (for the better).

Studies show that there aren’t a lot of “cures” out there for stomach bloat, so making sure that you understand the cause of the bloat — and how to avoid it — is going to be important in making sure that its s no longer a problem in your day to day life [2].

Further research supports the fact that food intolerance are not harmful (meaning you can continue to eat the foods in which you are intolerant to), but it’s possible that you could be dealing with an underlying condition [3].  This is especially so if you find that getting a test done, and adapting to its results in diet doesn’t alleviate the symptoms.

References

[1] Azpiroz, F. and Malagelada, J.R., 2005. Abdominal bloating. Gastroenterology, 129(3), pp.1060-1078. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001650850501348X

[2] Schmulson, M. and Chang, L., 2011. The treatment of functional abdominal bloating and distension. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 33(10), pp.1071-1086. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/ajg/Abstract/2017/08000/Bloating_and_Abdominal_Distension__Old.9.aspx

[3]Turnbull, J.L., Adams, H.N. and Gorard, D.A., 2015. The diagnosis and management of food allergy and food intolerances. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 41(1), pp.3-25. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apt.12984