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Have you ever tried to put a pair of jeans on only to find out that they don’t fit quite right?  Perhaps the button is straining or maybe they just feel tight.  The first common thought is that it’s weight gain, but what about a bloated stomach?  Bloated stomach appears to be one of those commonly misunderstood details but when you understand the potential cause for it and how it works, you can see how something like a low FODMAP diet could be really helpful.

Causes of a bloated stomach

Studies have shown that bloating is a common problem in a lot of people of all ages, especially in those with IBS[1].  However, despite the popularity of stomach bloating, most people don’t tend to think past the supposedly logical conclusion that they simply ate too much or they’re gaining weight.

Researchers say that there are many causes thought to be behind bloating, including diverticulitis, celiac disease and food intolerances[2].  Even though all of these are unique causes, they require different diagnoses and unique treatments to clear them up.  So, stomach bloating may not be so random or casual after all.

A particularly popular cause of a bloated stomach is a sensitivity to FODMAP foods, research suggests[2].  This is similar to a food intolerance, but instead of being to gluten or lactose, it’s to FODMAP-containing foods.  This fancy acronym stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols and they appear in many of our foods that we eat on a regular basis, even daily.  Simply focusing on the potential for high-FODMAP foods to cause stomach problems in otherwise healthy people (ie: you don’t have IBS or diverticulitis) could lead you to better gut health that will give you all kinds of advantages.

Can a low-FODMAP diet help with a bloated stomach?

Following a properly organized and monitored low-FODMAP diet is thought to be able to help with a bloated stomach when there are no suspected underlying causes.  You’ll need to go through a detox faze in which you cleanse your body of high-FODMAP foods and flush it out.  This is carefully monitored to make sure that you are still keeping your nutritional needs in check.

From there, you’ll start to eat only foods are low in FODMAPs by following a strict and structured diet every single day.  While there are a lot of diets that take weeks to show results — think of how long weight loss takes to show up! — studies support that both children and adults can notice a difference in stomach bloating in as short a time as 48 hours after starting the diet[3].  This is because the stomach is no longer dealing with rich and complicated foods that create irritation in the stomach or the digestive tract.  The body is able to digest as normal and your stomach will look just as you expect it to — plus it’ll feel a whole lot better too!

How can I help a low-FODMAP diet work for me?

If this sounds like something that you want to try, there are a few things that you can look to in order to get a handle on the diet as well as the stomach bloating that you are trying to get rid of as well.  

Firstly, don’t be afraid to reach out and get support and help.  There are all sorts of forums online that will offer you support, encouragement and tips from others who are adapting to the low-FODMAP diet as well as living long-term with it.  These can be helpful especially if there aren’t people in your life physically who are doing it alongside you.  

Another thing is to really take the time both before you start the diet, and after, to find some meal plans as well as recipes that low-FODMAP friendly.  It can be reassuring to know that you can find new ways to still enjoy some of your now lost flavors, and you’ll find all sorts of delicious recipes that are going to widen your horizons when it comes to quality food, too.

Most importantly, studies and statistics suggest that the best way to notice significant changes in stomach bloating is to stick to the diet consecutively with no cheat days or meals, etc[4].  What you’ll find if you spend time researching recipes and meal plans, is that you won’t be missing out on anything at all.  If anything, you’ll be adding all sorts of new foods to your diet and you’ll be able to enjoy everything without that embarrassing, frustrating and sometimes a painful bloated stomach.

While the low-FODMAP diet is not a cure to bloat, it can be a serious helping hand in getting to the bottom of it.  Before long, you’ll wonder why you ever waited as long as you did to adapt to this new way of eating and living!

References

[1] Sullivan, S.N., 1994. Functional abdominal bloating. Journal of clinical gastroenterology, 19(1), pp.23-27. Available at: https://europepmc.org/article/med/7930428

[2] Hunt, R., Quigley, E., Abbas, Z., Eliakim, A., Emmanuel, A., Goh, K.L., Guarner, F., Katelaris, P., Smout, A., Umar, M. and Whorwell, P., 2014. Coping with common gastrointestinal symptoms in the community: a global perspective on heartburn, constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain/discomfort May 2013. Journal of clinical gastroenterology, 48(7), pp.567-578. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25000344

[3] Chumpitazi, B.P., Cope, J.L., Hollister, E.B., Tsai, C.M., McMeans, A.R., Luna, R.A., Versalovic, J. and Shulman, R.J., 2015. Randomised clinical trial: gut microbiome biomarkers are associated with clinical response to a low FODMAP diet in children with the irritable bowel syndrome. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 42(4), pp.418-427. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26104013

[4] Muir, J.G. and Gibson, P.R., 2013. The low FODMAP diet for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(7), p.450. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736783/