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Natural Solutions for Abdominal Bloating and Distention

Dr. Matthew Marturano By Dr. Matthew Marturano, ND
Friday, December 28, 2012
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Abdominal bloating is an uncomfortable condition in which the abdomen feels tight and full. Often times, this symptom is accompanied by an appearance of a distended, or swollen, abdomen. Abdominal distension is often caused by the production of gas inside the digestive tract by microbes that colonize the abdominal wall.

Gut microbes, bacteria and yeast process carbohydrates (sugar, starch and fiber) present in food by a process called fermentation. The byproducts of which are alcohol and gas.

A small to moderate amount of gas production is normal in a healthy bowel. However, when gas is produced in excess, or is accompanied by uncomfortable sensations and odors, that may be a sign of an imbalance in gut microbes known as microbiome dysbiosis.

Research suggests a number of risk factors for gut microbiome dysbiosis, including:

  • Infections
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Prolonged and/or repeated antibiotic usage
  • Prolonged and/or repeated antacid usage
  • Not having been breastfed
  • Incomplete digestion (pancreatic insufficiency)
  • Overeating
  • Mood disorders
  • Improper nutrition
  • Hereditary/genetic factors
  • Food poisoning

While these risk factors and symptoms are sometimes associated with conditions that require medical intervention, they're most often diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For those who are seeking natural solutions for digestive health, and for whom prescription and non-prescription (OTC) medications have failed, there are many options.

Diet and Nutrition
The microbes in our gut feast on the food we don't digest. As the pancreas does not produce digestive enzymes that are capable of digesting fiber, the prebiotic fiber present in vegetables, fruit and whole grains provides the natural substrate for healthy bacteria to grow. When fiber is consumed in insufficient amounts and/or variety, this may weaken the gut bacteria. Therefore, ensuring adequate and diverse sources of fiber in the diet is a foundational dietary step toward digestive health.

If increasing fiber makes symptoms worse, it may be helpful to get evaluated for food sensitivities and pancreatic insufficiency by a trained practitioner as this may be a sign of a more serious condition.

Consuming small, but regular, amounts of fermented and cultured products like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and yogurt may help to sustain healthy levels of beneficial gut bacteria, but may not be sufficient to restore low levels back to normal.

Finally, eating smaller, more frequent meals can reduce the amount of undigested food passing down into the lower bowel. This may help reduce sensations of bloating and abdominal distention associated with belly bloat.

Herbal Remedies
Herbs and medicinal plants offer many natural solutions for digestive health:

  • Herbal teas, including mint, ginger and fennel tea, may be helpful in alleviating abdominal bloating and distention as well as improving digestive function.
  • Aloe vera, slippery elm, and marshmallow root may also be effective in harmonizing inflammatory conditions associated with abdominal bloating and pain.
  • Oregano oil, grapefruit seed extract (GSE) and black walnut all have potential antimicrobial activity to neutralize gut pathogens and invasive species.

Dietary Supplements
A number of dietary supplements are commonly used to help manage abdominal pain, gas and bloating and associated symptoms.

  • Zinc, carnosine and glutamine may assist in the repair of digestive tissue damaged by inflammation and/or acid reflux. These may also help keep the digestive system calm and tranquil.
  • Probiotics and prebiotics help colonize gut tissue and equalize the terrain in which beneficial bacteria may grow.
  • Digestive enzymes may help optimize digestive function, especially when pancreatic insufficiency is present.

Abdominal bloating and distension are sometimes associated with more serious gastrointestinal diseases, such as appendicitis, gastritis, Chron's disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease and should be ruled out by a medical physician if severe symptoms persist, or if fever is present.

For help with long-term management of digestive symptoms using natural means, seek out a nutritionist, naturopath, or functional medicine practitioner.


Products you may like:

Now Foods Probiotic Defense  Now Foods Probiotic Defense 
Why you may like this product? This probiotic contains 13 active bacterial strains and has been designed to support gastrointestinal health and immune system function.
Now Foods Slippery Elm 400 mg  Now Foods Slippery Elm 400 mg 
Why you may like this product? Slippery elm can help improve symptoms associated with numerous inflammation-related conditions including IBS, Crohn's disease, gastroesophogeal reflux and sore throats.
New Chapter Probiotic GI Tract  New Chapter Probiotic GI Tract 
Why you may like this product? Each capsule contains 10 strains of live probiotics which help support optimal digestive and immune system function.
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