Do you wake up with a fairly flat stomach most mornings, but find your clothes unbearably tight round your middle by the end of the day? If so, you’re not alone.
Studies show that 16 to 30 per cent of the population experiences the uncomfortable symptoms of bloating.
In our March issue, dietitian Dr Kate Marsh reveals the six most common causes of bloating (see below) and the best ways to treat this unwelcome condition.
According to the Gut Foundation, nearly one in five people over the age of 30 will have constipation at some stage of life. Normal bowel function varies from person to person, but if your stools are hard or lumpy, and you have to strain to go, you’re constipated.
Irritable-bowel syndrome (IBS)
This is probably the worst culprit, as 90 per cent of IBS sufferers experience bloating, along with other symptoms, such as excessive gas, constipation and diarrhoea.
FODMAP is an acronym for the scientific names of particular short-chain carbohydrates. Some examples of FODMAPs include lactose (milk sugars), fructose (fruit sugars) and fructans (components of wheat, rye, barley, onion, garlic and some fruits, vegetables and nuts). Some people can’t tolerate foods that contain FODMAPs, and eating them may result in wind, bloating and distension.
As the sugar in milk and milk products, lactose is one of the five FODMAPs. Lactose intolerance can also occur independently of other FODMAPs if you’re deficient in lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose to enable its absorption. Our lactase production slows with age, and this intolerance is also more common among certain ethnic groups, particularly people of Asian descent.
Certain foods can trigger bloating, and legumes are a well-known offender. Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and borlotti beans all contain a FODMAP that the digestive tract has trouble absorbing, thereby giving rise to gas and bloating.
This condition affects one in 100 Australians, for whom gluten triggers an immune reaction in the small intestine. Common symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss.
To find out how to treat these allergies and intolerances, grab the March issue of Healthy Food Guide magazine.