We all know that feeling – a painful, stretched, bloated stomach, which might be accompanied by excess gas, constipation, diarrhoea or cramps. However, for some people, bloating is more than an occasional irritation. Your pharmacist may also be able to provide medication for bloating to ease symptoms. So, is it serious and is there anything you can do about it?
Natural ways to beat bloating
If you suffer from regular bloating and excess wind, the first step is to identify if it is caused by your diet or lifestyle. Intestinal gas may cause the feeling of bloating.
Here are some suggestions to decrease bloating:
- Eat slowly, and consume smaller, more frequent meals
- Chew your foods well
- Drink beverages at room temperature
- Have your dentures checked for a good fit
- Increase physical activity during the day
- Sit up straight after eating
- Take a stroll after eating
It is important not to completely omit foods from the diet that may cause gas. As we know, a high-fiber diet is important for bowel regularity and colon health, so it is well worth the patience it may take to slowly build up tolerance to these types of carbohydrates. Start by adding the offending high-fiber food in smaller quantities, such as a half cup or less. Be sure that fluid intake and activity levels are adequate, as they help to move foods through the digestive tract.
Other natural remedies for gas include:
- Peppermint tea
- Chamomile tea
If you have tried a number of these tips to reduce bloating and are still suffering, you may have intolerances to some foods. This is often wheat, gluten or dairy products. Try reducing the amount of these products you consumer over time, and keep a food diary to see how this affects your bloating; or talk to a dietician for more advice.
People who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can also suffer with bloating, often linked to intolerances to certain foods which causes erratic bowel movement and can lead to excess wind. However this condition also causes stomach pain or cramps, diarrhoea, and constipation. If you think you may have IBS you should talk to your doctor.
Is bloating a sign of cancer?
Bloating is a very common symptom and is only rarely linked to cancer. However, long-term bloating and abdominal pain, especially if they persist, could be a symptom of bowel or ovarian cancer.
A change in toilet habits and blood in the stools are also symptoms of bowel cancer.
Medication for bloating
Over-the-counter medication for bloating
Your pharmacist can advise on over-the-counter remedies to help with bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and excess wind.
Two products on the market can help with food-related gas and bloating. Both products are packaged forms of the enzymes needed to break down the problematic carbohydrates. Lactase, found in products such as Dairy Ease and Lactaid, can be taken with dairy foods to help break down lactose and lessen gas. Beano helps digest the indigestible carbohydrate in beans and other gas-producing vegetables.
Over-the-counter gas remedies include:
- Activated charcoal
- Lactase enzyme (Lactaid or Dairy Ease)
Prescription medication for bloating
For more serious underlying conditions that can cause bloating, such as Crohn’s disease, your GP may advise prescription medication for bloating, depending on the diagnosis. If gas persists, you might have a breath test, which can help detect bacterial overgrowth. If your test is positive you might be given a prescription for rifaximin, an antibiotic that can help reduce gas causing bacteria.
When should you consult a doctor?
If you have been feeling bloated for most days in the past month and other interventions, such as exercise, keeping hydrated and eating well, haven’t worked, and especially if you have experienced other symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhoea, constipation, or unexplained weight loss, see your GP.
For more help and support, visit the NHS website