Abdominal bloating-that uncomfortable feeling of tightness or fullness in the stomach caused by either a buildup of gas or fluid retention-is very common affecting about 30 percent of people. Bloating is especially common and bothersome in sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome and is the result of gas trapped inside the bowel. Here are some common causes of bloating:

  • Overeating
  • Foods like beans, cabbage, cauliflower, and fatty or spicy foods
  • Swallowing large amounts of air while eating or chewing gum.
  • Stress
  • Anxiety

Bloating Caused by Hormones

Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause can also wreck havoc on the digestive system, resulting in excessive bloating. Erratic levels of estrogen during perimenopause can cause water retention, which leads to bloating. Estrogen also impacts the production of bile, a substance that aids in digestion. When estrogen levels decrease, so does bile production causing stools in the small intestine to become dry and hard, resulting in constipation and bloating. A good indicator that your digestive system is sluggish is having a bowel movement fewer than three times a week.

If you have chronic bloating, see your doctor to determine the exact cause and the best remedy for you.

Finding Relief

Getting regular exercise-between 30 minutes and 60 minutes most days of the week-increases circulation and can help offset hormonal imbalance and relieve bloating. These tips can also help:

  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can help relieve bloating. Choosing foods containing certain probiotics-good bacteria naturally found in the digestive tract-such as lactobacillus acidophilus can help your body break down food, speeding it through the digestive tract. An eight-ounce serving of yogurt containing live cultures (check the label for acidophilus) should provide adequate benefit.
  • Limiting the amount of salt, sugar, caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soft drinks, and stimulants such as chocolate and alcohol in your diet can reduce water retention.
  • Chewing slowly while eating can reduce the intake of air eliminating excess gas and bloating.
  • Drinking herbal teas such as fennel, ginger, peppermint, and chamomile, calms the digestive tract.
  • Cutting down on fatty foods will help you beat the bloat. Eating greasy, high-fat foods slow down the amount of time it takes the body to break down excess fat causing it to linger in the digestive tract longer.

Sources: www.med.unc.edu/medicine/fgidc/abdominalbloating.pdf; 34-menopause-symptoms.com/bloating.htm