There's not much worse than chronic bloating, which leaves feelings of heaviness and unease in your stomach for hours on end. You know, the kind that makes you not want to get dressed in the morning, go out and socialize, or do the activities you normally love? Keep reading to find out why this bloating occurs, and how you can get to the bottom of it and improve your digestive health!
Do any of the following describe you?
- Belching or gas within one hour after eating
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Feeling bloated within one hour after eating
- Vegan diet
- Bad breath
- Loss of taste for meat
- Sweat has a strong odor
- Stomach upset by taking vitamins
- Feel like skipping breakfast/feel better when you don't eat
- Sleepy after meals
- Fingernails chip, peel, break, or don't grow
- Anemia unresponsive to iron
- Stomach pains or cramps
- Chronic diarrhea or shortly after meals
- Undigested food in stool
- Crave acidic foods (vinegar, citrus)
All of these "symptoms" are indicators that your stomach is not producing enough stomach acid!
Why is stomach acid so important? It's the first line of defense in your body's digestive cascade; responsible for sterilizing the stomach, killing unwanted invaders, breaking down proteins, and stimulating proper digestion! Without this powerful acid (ph of 1.5-3 that could burn a hole in your carpet), food is left to ferment in your stomach, and then it continues to cause havoc as it works its way through both your small intestines and large intestines. As you can imagine, these improperly digested particles cause irritation and sometimes damage to the delicate environment of the digestive tract, leaving you feeling bloated in the process. Undigested food can even act abrasively on your tissues (think sandpaper) because they are not broken down completely. Over time, this can lead to food allergies, digestive disorders, and eventually autoimmune diseases!
Why are you so low in stomach acid?
The standard American diet is plagued with processed foods and unnatural fats with little to no nutritional value. All these things contribute nutritional debt in the body, especially a deficiency of the mineral zinc, which you need to produce powerful stomach acid! B- vitamins are also critical for digestion, especially Thiamine (B1) because of it's role in promoting gut motility.
Low stomach acid can also cause you to become malnourished over time (even if eating a perfect diet)– because your body is not able to create the highly acid environment that is required to absorb vital vitamins and minerals. Calcium, zinc, and B vitamins are just a few examples of nutrients that require strong acid for absorption.
Common dieting and food restriction are other probable causes of bloating because it tells your body to SLOW the metabolism dialing DOWN your digestive juices over time. A slowed metabolism can also be confirmed by a waking temperature of less than 97.8 degrees.
Lastly, a Helicobacter pylori infection in the stomach (commonly called h-pylori) suppresses stomach acid secretion. A H-Pylori infection is incredibly common. In fact, it comes back on most of the GI Map (stool tests) I run on my clients. It's estimated that over 50% of the world is infected with this chronic bacterial pathogen. [2,3]
Other causes of Bloating
If your bloating symptoms are more severe, there could be something deeper going on. Here are some of the most common ones I see:
- Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) - opportunistic or good bacteria overgrow causing serious imbalances in your gut (this often occurs with H-Pylori because it decreases stomach acid and opens the door to invading pathogens and bacteria to have a party in your gut — not good for your bloating symptoms!)
- Pancreatic insufficiency - your pancreas is not releasing enough digestive enzymes to properly break down your food, so it goes through your system partially undigested and your gut bugs go to town on the new food
- Biliary insufficiency - your bile production in not sufficient, not moving properly or being recycled, this can also cause you to have issues breaking down your fats, as well as create an opportunity for overgrowth
- Another important and often overlooked factor is issues with your liver and detoxification. In many ways, the liver governs the digestive system. When the liver is sick from either protein deficiency or malnourishment, the bowel environment feels "poisoned." This can make the digestive system very sensitive, which can cause constipation, diarrhea, food allergies/sensitivities, and pain; the whole spiral of digestive disorders.
"I see bowel toxins rather as a relatively late-acting factor that accelerates a process which develops for other reasons. Once our detoxifying mechanisms begin to fail, bowel toxins pass the bowel with relative ease, and rapidly destroy the remaining systems of defense and detoxification. The altered hormonal environment and weakened digestion of an aging organism create a new balance between the animal and the bowel flora, sometimes allowing the proliferation of more toxic flora. The accumulation of iron and other heavy metals, and of unsaturated fats, and the progressive loss of copper under the influence of the stress of darkness, are probably the central events in the process of aging." Dr. Ray Peat, PhD
My favorite test that will show you all of this and way more is the GI Map. Find out more here.
How do you get rid of that bloated feeling?
A perfect place to start is by reading all my tips on how to fix your gut. You'll also want to get more nutrient dense foods and food-based supplements in your diet. Zinc and B-vitamins, especially Thiamine (B1) are big here.
Beyond that, if you want to banish bloating for good, you must focus on a multifaceted approach to up-regulate your metabolism and address your nutritional debt using with real food therapy. Gut testing and mineral testing exposes what your body needs and can help speed up the process. Complete recovery from bloating is absolutely possible and obtainable if you are ready to start understanding your body and what it needs.
Ready to address kiss your bloating goodbye right now?
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Are you bloated? If so, what helps? Please share in the comments!
1. Weatherby, Dicken. “Liver and Gallbladder.” Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. Nutritional Therapy Association, 2004. Print.