The truth behind foods that cause bloating.
Your food choices could leave you feeling bloated! BUT they might not be the primary reason. Think of your gut health first before blaming it on food. Often, it’s our eating habits as well as other stressors causing the dreaded bloat, not necessarily the food themselves! So what is important to be mindful of?!
Gut health and the gut-brain-axis.
Your gut and brain occupy different nervous systems, the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) and Central Nervous System (CNS) which can both function independently of each other. But did you know that the two actually signal to each other as well?! In other words, your gut and your brain talk and affect each other quite a lot. The two-way communication between your gut and your brain is known as the gut-brain-axis and is facilitated by various chemical messengers, hormones and neurotransmitters which are made within the gut itself. So its really important that you look after your gut health as your gut health and mental health as both can have a big influence on the messages exchanged within the gut-brain-axis.
How your gut health might affect you.
What you consume and how you feel are the biggest contributors to your gut health and because of the gut-brain-axis, how you eat can influence how you feel and how you feel can influence your gut, digestion and even bloating. Your gut’s microbiome is a delicate balance of bacteria and different acidic and alkaline conditions which is mostly there for digesting your food but also has an effect on your mind. For example, a healthy gut microbiome is responsible for about 95% of your body’s supply of serotonin which has a positive influence on your mood. When your gut is disrupted however, be it through poor diet, under eating or other stressors, a stress response occurs, causing inflammation and bloating within your gut. Its important to understand the gut-brain-axis for this exact reason. Where you might find that you are getting bloated from eating certain foods or already suffer from IBS, the connection of the gut-brain-axis may in fact exacerbate the effects within your gut particularly if you are mentally stressed.
Chronic, and we mean CHRONIC under eating can be a significant cause of disruption to your gut microbiome which can incite stress responses that cause bloating. But what do we mean by chronic under eating? Under eating can be characterised by maintaining a calorie deficit for extended periods of time. Your relentless under-eating in pursuit of losing weight could in fact be causing a stress response through which your gut becomes more permeable, inflamed and bloated. Think back to the primary function of your gut, to digest food and absorb nutrients- if you are chronically under-eating, your body will be lacking nutrients therefore needing a mechanism to absorb more from what you are currently consuming. In turn, your body’s stress response of a more permeable gut will allow for greater nutrient absorption however at the cost of inflammation, as particles which are not meant to be absorbed, are. Under eating might also disrupt the bacteria in your gut leading to inefficient breakdown and absorption of food, adding to the problem. That’s not to say that over eating doesn’t have the same effect though, it does. But more often than not we don’t actually get enough food in, so don’t be scared of calories!
Foods that cause bloating
There are groups of simple sugars called FODMAPs which escape digestion, are fermented by bacteria in the colon and are often found in foods that cause bloating. For the majority of people with healthy digestive systems, these sugars are the energy sources for the digestive bacteria and aren’t harmful. But for those with unhealthy digestive systems and problems like IBS, these foods have the potential to increase bloating, gas and inflammation in the gut. Possible foods that cause bloating, due to containing FODMAPs, include stereotypically “healthy” foods like beans, broccoli, lentils, dairy and wheat as well as stereotypically “unhealthy” options like beer, sugar alcohols and carbonated drinks. Foods that cause bloating are often really only part of the problem, but knowing what they are can help in looking after your overall gut health. There are a host of foods which can in fact aid your gut biome, in turn allowing more efficient digestion, improved gut health as well as avoiding any unnecessary bloating.
How to improve gut health and avoid bloating?
Bloating and inflammation of your gut might not necessarily be all about the foods that cause bloating but rather stress responses from our environment, eating habits and overall gut health acting within the gut-brain-axis. That might sound complicated but small changes can make a huge difference and improve our gut health. Being mindful and gaining insight into your mental stressors can help you to manage stress by removing the things that stress you out. Exercise and relaxation can also positively affect your gut health by taking your mind off the things that bug you, and by releasing those feel good hormones we all love! When you’re dieting, its great not to be scared of calories, to take regular diet breaks, eat balanced meals and consume foods which promote good gut bacteria. But its also worth mentioning that you can also steer clear of foods that you know your body doesn’t process well. When it comes to drinks, it is even worth swapping out your usual fizzy drinks for a hot, soothing tea to help you wind down, relax and give you something tasty to enjoy!
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