London: Is the waistband suddenly feeling tight? It might not just be that you’ve eaten too much. Like hundreds of thousands of Britons women and men, you could suffer from stomach bloat, which can be triggered by anything from fluctuating hormones to eating reheated pasta.
Sometimes it can be caused by an innocuous glass of water. Bloating is often caused by irritable bowel syndrome, a condition affecting a staggering one in seven Britons. While most people’s stomachs may swell just a couple of inches, others’ can actually double in girth in just one day, only to ‘deflate’ overnight until the next attack.
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Not everyone’s stomachs will distend in this way — instead, they will report suffering an uncomfortable swollen feeling. So what could be behind your fluctuating waistband and bloated feeling — and what can you do about it? We asked the experts for their advice…
For some people, bloating strikes only when they eat out, says Luci Daniels, a registered dietitian in London and former chair of the British Dietetic Association. ‘I have patients who say they only get tummy trouble or bloating when they eat pasta, rice, or potatoes in a restaurant.
‘This is often because these foods have been re-heated.’ It seems reheating starchy food changes its molecular structure, turning it into ‘resistant starch’. This cannot be digested in the small intestine but passes into the large intestine — the bacteria that helps break it down produces gas, hence the bloating.
Some people find it harder to digest resistant starch than others. ‘If you do notice this, you don’t need to avoid these foods — just make sure they’re freshly cooked,’ says Luci Daniels. Processed foods such as ready meals and part-baked bread such as baguettes also tend to have more resistant starch.
Hormonal fluctuations during a woman’s monthly cycle are a common trigger for bloating. But while many women might put it down to ‘fluid retention, the cause is actually relaxed muscles, explains Leila Hanna, consultant gynecologist, and obstetrician at BMI The Sloane Hospital, London. ‘Many women find they are bloated before their period, and this is due to an increased level of progesterone,’ she says.
‘During ovulation, the ovaries produce more progesterone and it causes muscles in the abdomen to relax. Everything (i.e. the organs) isn’t packed in as tightly as usual, causing a woman to look bloated. It tends to get worse just before menopause.’
The muscles in the bowel also relax, meaning they are less efficient at moving food along the gut. This can cause constipation, triggering further bloating. It’s possible to overcome this by eating more fiber, says Ms. Hanna.
When you chew gum you swallow more air, which increases the risk of bloating, says Peter Whorwell, a professor of medicine at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, and a leading authority on irritable bowel syndrome. ‘Sugar-free versions are worse as they contain ingredients such as sorbitol and xylitol which are fermented by bacteria in the gut and may also cause bloating — double trouble,’ he adds.
‘These ingredients are also found in sugar-free drinks.’ Eating quickly can also trigger bloating or make it worse, adds Professor Whorwell. ‘As we eat we swallow roughly the same amount of air as we do food,’ he says. ‘Therefore, gulping down food quickly or large amounts in one bite means you’ll swallow more air and increase the risk of bloating.’
‘There is clearly a link between the brain and the gut — and so angst can make any digestive symptoms more severe,’ says Professor Whorwell. In irritable bowel syndrome, this connection is exaggerated and the gut is oversensitive to factors such as stress, diet, hormones, and bacteria.
In fact, stress is one of the biggest triggers for the condition, says Professor Whorwell. ‘I see many patients who say they’ve always had a bit of a funny tummy but the problem has got really bad since a stressful event a few years back. ‘It’s likely they always had a predisposition to stomach problems, but a stressful event has finally set them off.’ via dailymail