Chronic bloating: How to manage it and when to speak with your doctor

Bloating is an uncomfortable but common occurrence for many women. That familiar abdominal discomfort and gassy feeling is often just a natural part of the body’s digestive process. But if it never seems to go away, it might be chronic bloating.

Chronic bloating can be caused by many things, including various foods, lifestyle decisions and even diseases. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to relieve the discomfort. Learning more about bloating can help you find out if it’s time to speak with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and concerns.

What is bloating?

A doctor comforts a young woman suffering from stomach painBloating is another term for a buildup of gas in your intestines. Brigham and Women’s Hospital explained that it can be caused by a number of different things, such as the foods you eat, talking while eating and even the clothes you wear. Your monthly menstrual cycle can also cause bloating, Women’s Health reported.

Normally, gas leaves your body through belching or flatus up to 25 times per day. If you’re experiencing moderate (or worse) discomfort, or find you are regularly dealing with bloating, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause. The Mayo Clinic noted that there are six main causes of excess bloating:

  1. A diet rich in high-fiber foods. Fermenting foods in your colon create gas. High-fiber foods — which are healthy and good for you — typically produce the most gas. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, grains and beans.
  2. Swallowing air. When you eat quickly, chew gum or drink through straws, some air can make it into your intestines.
  3. Other conditions. Inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, colon cancer and other serious conditions can cause excess gas and chronic bloating.
  4. Food allergies or intolerance. If your body struggles to break down components of certain foods, it can create excess gas. Lactose and gluten intolerance are common culprits.
  5. Artificial sweeteners. Xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol are all known to cause gas.
  6. Constipation. If you’re constipated, it can be hard to pass gas. This can lead to bloating.

How can I relieve chronic bloating?

There are several natural home remedies you can try to relieve bloating. First, pay close attention to your eating habits:

  • Try not to eat too quickly, limit talking while eating and drink directly from the glass (instead of a straw). It’s also important to avoid overloading your stomach with food.
  • Avoid foods that cause excess bloating, like broccoli, cabbage, fried foods, beans, apple juice and artificial sweeteners.
  • Brigham and Women’s suggested that peppermint tea and chamomile tea can relieve bloating.

In addition to changing your eating habits, the Mayo Clinic reported that exercising can help to move gas through your system and relieve discomfort.

If your bloating becomes more painful, severe or frequent, it’s time to see your doctor. Together, you and your physician can find the cause of your chronic bloating, take steps to treat any underlying conditions and improve your symptoms.

Image source: Flickr

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