The hidden message of a bloated stomach

A hidden message of a bloated stomach

Bloated stomach, distended gut, swollen belly. Whatever your version, you’ve been there.

I used to have my own bloated stomach variant I had to put up with. It plagued me for years, but finally I can say I won the battle with the bloat.

Now, this is the part you need to pay attention to. In the process of beating the waist bulge, I learnt with horror that a bloated stomach is not just a digestive issue. It is a whole-body problem.

Bloated stomach is a sign of declining health

Bloated stomach is not just unsightly and uncomfortable. It is a sign of declining health. You may have already realized that pumped, gassy belly is seldom from overeating. It is more from eating foods that disagree with the body. That’s right, the whole body, not just the gut.

It may sound confusing, because you eat a healthy diet and healthy food shouldn’t be bad for the body. Surprisingly, there are many “healthy foods” that aren’t that healthy.

The bloaters masquerading as “healthy” can be very sneaky. They may not only pump your waist three sizes bigger, but also transform your body from healthy into not. These sneaky bloating foods can do a lot of unexpected harm from intensifying aches and pains to sending you into depression.

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 Why Gas-X isn’t the best solution for a stomach bloat

If you are reaching for Beano, Gas-X, fennel tea, or chamomile every time you get a bloat, you are not alone. Most gas-inconvenienced individuals will look for an immediate solution. On the surface it makes sense: letting go of gas, also means letting go of uncomfortable belly distension.

There is only one problem. Besides temporarily flattening your stomach, there aren’t other benefits. Not only you will get the stomach bloat again, and again, and again, but you are to keep all the long-term side effect of the poor digestion, including mood changes and lower brain function!

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Bloated stomach can cause mental health problems

A chronically bloated stomach isn’t limited to a mid-section enlargement. Distended belly has many more serious consequences. The big gut can dramatically change the way you think, feel, and behave, without you suspecting a thing about it. Have you ever considered that your anxiety or sexual problems may actually come from a bloated stomach? But, how could you? Your doctor never mentioned it.

Here is a shocking list of health conditions associated with a bloated stomach[i] [ii] [iii]

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (51% of bloaters)
  • Fibromyalgia (49% of bloaters)
  • Migraines
  • Facial pain (64% of bloaters)
  • Chronic pelvic pain and prostatitis (50% of bloaters)
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Loss of libido, bloating or pain after sex (41% of bloaters)
  • GERD (47% of bloaters)
  • Dyspepsia, indigestion (57% of bloaters)
  • Chronic inflammation after infection
  • Bulimia
  • Obsessive Compulsive disorder
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anxiety (up to 94% of bloaters)
  • Panic
  • Depression, even suicidal thinking (up to 94% of bloaters)

 Bloated stomach advice that keeps you stuck sick

What do you do when you look for bloated stomach advice on the internet? You get a list of poorly-performing tips:

  • avoid drinking very hot or cold beverages,
  • avoid tight-fitting clothing,
  • don’t eat when upset,
  • don’t swallow air, and
  • don’t overeat.

Or some other advice that help with gas movement in the gut chamber:

  • do abdominal massage,
  • do yoga,
  • go for a walk,
  • relax, and
  • take probiotics (that one isn’t quick to do the trick)

I tried all of them. With desperation, I nearly wrote a complaint to Google bloat advice department. None of the tips (even the ones that came from top experts) helped me with my bloated stomach. Why?

First, I found those tips rather ineffective (some even silly). Second, I could seldom apply those tips in the real world. Try rubbing your belly at a wedding party, do post-breakfast yoga while trapped in your car to work, or stop breathing while chewing on a biscuit.

Foods that cause bloated stomach

Google is my “go-to” source of information, also for a stomach bloat. Initially, in order to ease my bloated stomach, I wanted to get a list of foods that are known for this trick. Google did not disappoint. It gave me a tally of well-known stomach bloaters. Here it is:

  • carbonated beverages
  • spicy foods
  • fatty foods
  • broccoli
  • onions
  • cabbage
  • beans
  • dried fruits and
  • anything that ends with -itol like sorbitol, mannitol, etc.

Google also made an effort to inform me about foods low in Fodmap, and specific carbohydrate diet that seem to be popular and effective for a large subgroup of gassy bellies.

Great! Except, I’ve been there and done that…. with varied results. Avoiding notorious bloaters and sticking to low Fodmap or specific carbohydrate diet did make a difference, but it also had drawbacks: a very long list of “allowed” and “avoid” foods that had to be memorised for the diets to be effective.

And then there was another thing: a never-ending label reading ritual that extended grocery shopping time to impossible.

I may have even stuck to it for good, but… the diets weren’t keeping my belly happy 100%. And I really wanted something that would always work. In search of definite answers I discovered something unimaginable..

 Eat more fibre, pay the stomach bloat piper

The gut was always of great interest to me (as a doctor). Before the mainstream medicine announced that the immune function, brain, and heart health comes from the gut, I was already prescribing probiotics and conducting dietary experiments to improve mood and blood pressure.

At one time I experimented with dietary fibre. I knew that good bacteria feed off fiber, so I concluded that the best way to multiply the good guys is to prescribe heaps of vegetables to the patients. I wasn’t wrong… for a few weeks. Then the whole hell broke loose.

IBS patients alerted me first. Instead of getting flat and quiet stomachs, they complained about gas and other problems. Many started to mysteriously develop other problems in their bodies: joint pain, foggy brain, and sleeplessness.

Fiber… maybe it’s doing more harm than good?

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My bloated stomach journey

It was a hard truth to swallow. A decade or two ago the whole world believed in fiber. Unconditionally. At that time there wasn’t even a smidgen of a suggestion that fiber may not be for everyone. As it turned out it wasn’t for me. 

Once I started suspecting fiber for a wrong-doing a few other things suddenly became obvious. Not only I tracked down all the gas-producing foods, but also noticed a predictable pattern.

Out of all stomach bloating culprits, sugars got on top of the list. The next ones in line were starches and starchy vegetables. And then it was this one, least expected but equally potent: soluble fiber

When too much of a good thing….

… is a bad thing.

SIBO, have you heard of it? SIBO stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth and yes, you may give it to yourself by being too zealous about your gut health. You may think you are doing yourself a favor by taking mega probiotics and eating mountains of veggies, but instead you may actually be starting the ugly gut-brain down spiral process.

This is what happened to me. I ate so many veggies and good bacteria that I gave myself SIBO. This was hard to figure out, because the consequences of bacteria overgrowth weren’t always obvious. The symptoms came in waves, repeated cycles that lasted several days.

Bloated stomach – depression pattern isn’t easy to spot

The pattern wasn’t easy to spot, because the symptoms moved from digestive tract to connective tissue, to the brain. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell what. The symptoms shape-shifted as if I had multiple problems, not just one.

My pattern can interest you quite a bit if can’t figure out why you suffer from stubborn weight, anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, or body aches. Maybe my experience would clue you into something about yourself.

The symptoms start the day I eat lots of soluble (fermentable) fibre such as starches or vegetables and progress for several days. 

Here is my fibre-symptoms pattern:

Day 1: My belly gets bloated, but not with gas. It feels as if it is retaining water. PS. Swelling is a sign of inflammation

Day 2: My abdomen feels heavy and large. It makes the whole body feels sluggish. Water retention is obvious. The scale shows it. Anxiety grows.

Day 3: The feeling of being overwhelmed shows up. Fatigue is present. I must nap, but if I do, I can’t sleep at night. I feel completely unproductive. Brain fog is unbearable.

Day 4 +: The body stops working. I just want to sleep. I feel physically weak and completely mentally unmotivated. Nothing helps. I feel useless.

Day 7+: I feel heavy and can’t focus. I have no strength to lift things. I have doom and gloom in my head.

After few days things start to improving until the next time, when the “good” gut bacteria get to party on the fiber.

I couldn’t believe that conclusion at first. How can fiber, instead of being healthy, trigger a whole list of problems? But then again… I wasn’t healthy (although I believed I was) my entire life. I always had something, if not a bloated stomach, then fatigue or anxiety. But, who doesn’t?

After exhaustive research, I decided to go on a no-fiber experiment: no vegetables, no nuts, no fruits, no seeds, no grains, and no beans. Call me crazy, but I am glad I did it.

Within a short time, all the nagging symptoms were gone. No more stomach bloat, no more anxiety, no more fatigue, no more joint aches. Magic, or what?

My scale stopped being stubborn and cooperated. I was losing weight (Yey!). Afternoon naps became obsolete as my energy went through the roof. My brain started to finally work. I focused with ease, talked with ease, thought with ease. Now I believe in miracles.

Bloated stomach lesson you may take

My experiment thought me three big lessons:
  1. Stomach bloat may not just be excess gas or a single-day event
  2. Chronic bloat can morph into non-digestive symptoms
  3. Eating healthy foods may not be healthy at all

I no longer eat foods because someone said they were healthy. I no longer believe healthy/unhealthy food media hype. I no longer stick to first page on Google, and I no longer follow my doctor’s standard dietary advice.

Things changed. In the past I would have shrugged my discovery as interesting, but unimportant. I would have said: “yeah, broccoli may give gas, but it is good for you.” That’s exactly the attitude that got me stuck in vicious cycle of eat healthy – feel sick.

Today I would give myself a different advice: “run away from whatever bloats you, regardless how “healthy” it is. If onion bloats you, don’t eat it, if cauliflower pumps your belly, drop it, if cabbage does not feel good, don’t force it.

And most of all, don’t just get your Gas-X and go on with your day. Because, whatever gives you a stomach bloat today, may also leave you with other lingering surprises down the road.


Misinformation is the number one cause for poor health

 

 

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11910364

[ii] https://www.verywellhealth.com/ibs-and-overlapping-health-problems-1945277

[iii] https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(02)80189-5/fulltext

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