Just how much bloating is normal? First, consider what causes bloating: gas. The intestine normally contains gas that was either swallowed by a patient or produced by the bacteria that lives in the intestine, Dr. Abdullah Shatnawei, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Fox News. He noted that flatulence anywhere from around 10 to 20 times a day is considered normal.
If your bloating starts to affect the quality of your life, though, it may be time to see a doctor. “The majority of cases [of bloating] are benign and nothing to worry about,” Shatnawei said. “But there is a chance that this may be signaling an underlying problem.”
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Additional symptoms, such as pain in the abdomen, weight loss, or blood in the stool, can all signify a serious underlying issue that requires further medical investigation, Shatnawei said. In these cases, make an appointment with your physician.
Still, for the normal — but uncomfortable — bouts of bloating, there are some steps you can take to feel better. Fox News asked Shatnawei and dietitian Kimberly Gomer about their tips to reduce bloating:
1. Cut down on the carbs — including sugar
“High carbs are the most common contributor to gas production,” Shatnawei said. Foods like wheat, potatoes, starches, and sugar — especially in excess — can all lead to more bloating. Try to avoid a diet high in sugar and stick with healthy, unprocessed foods, he advised.
2. Avoid cruciferous vegetables
Shatnawei noted that foods such as cabbage, onions, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can all contribute to bloating. Gomer agreed, adding that often the raw forms of these vegetables lead to more gas production than the cooked versions.
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3. Treat the underlying cause
Patients may be bloated because they are constipated, or if they have an overgrowth of bacteria, Shatnawei said. He noted that over-the-counter medications or certain lifestyle changes — including upping fluid intake or exercising — can help remedy this.
Another possibility? Lactose intolerance: Gomer told Fox News that many of us start losing an important enzyme, lactase, as we get older, which then makes it harder for us to digest lactose in milk products, leading to bloating, gas and diarrhea. Try cutting dairy and see if you feel better, she advised.
4. Slow down and chew your food
“If you don’t chew your food well, you don’t digest well,” Gomer said. Try slowing down as you eat.
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5. Avoid carbonated beverages
Carbonated beverages are another culprit: Shatnawei noted that these can also lead to bloating. Cut back and make sure to drink enough water.
6. Toss the gum
Just as eating too quickly can lead to swallowing air, so can chewing gum. Avoid gum, especially the sugar-free kind, Shatnawei said.
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7. Keep experimenting
Keep experimenting with your diet in order to determine what works best for you. “That’s the whole art of nutrition,” Gomer said. “We take all these principles and do all that detective work to find out: What are your symptoms, what makes it worse, what makes it better?” Look at your whole diet and lifestyle, she advised, to see what could be aggravating you.