3 simple ways to improve your digestion and reduce bloatingFeb 13, 2023
Bloating and uncomfortableness are incredibly common, with about 15 to 30% of the population regularly experiencing these irritating and bothersome symptoms.
They can significantly impact quality of life and happiness. Patients often tell me bloating stops them from attending social events, enjoying activities like going to the beach and leaves them feel self-conscious, lacking confidence and uncomfortable in their clothes.
The causes of bloating can range from simple to very complex. It can be as simple as poor food combining, eating too quickly or a diet high in inflammatory foods that feed bad bacteria and damage the gut lining. The majority of bloating cases I treat are a combination of low stomach acid, low bile production from the liver and some overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria caused by lifestyle and dietary factors. More complex cases of bloating might be due to serious bacterial overgrowths, nervous system hypersensitivity or dysregulation (common in IBS), and underlying conditions such as coeliac disease or SIBO.
SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is becoming more prevalent. The small intestine has a very low number and limited type of bacteria, compared to the large intestine where our microbiome lives. In SIBO, there is an increase in the number and change of type of bacteria present in the small intestine where they shouldn’t be. These bacteria ferment the food you eat and create gases as a byproduct that cause bloating and distention.
In more complex cases, it’s also helpful to do some microbiome testing to assess the large intestine and find any potential pathogens (such as bacteria, parasites or fungi) that might be causing issues.
There is no one cause of bloating, and therefore no one product that can get rid of bloating. There are, however, some simple steps to start improving your gut health and digestion that will start to relieve the bloat and help your gut feeling happy again!
Start by being mindful of not eating quickly digested foods like melons or fresh juices with other foods, and eat them alone. Next, consider reducing some of the inflammatory foods that are known to disrupt the bacteria and cause gut inflammation such as gluten, dairy and corn. Then, increase your intake of fresh fruits and leafy greens, which support your liver health, lower inflammation and feed the good bacteria in the gut.
Here are 3 ways to improve your digestion and reduce bloating
1. Increase stomach acid
Stomach acid helps to start breaking down proteins and some nutrients like B12 and non-haem iron. It also helps to stimulate your digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver to be released to help break down your fats, carbs and proteins.
- Drink lemon water in the morning. Squeeze half a lemon in 500ml of water and drink first thing upon waking to stimulate your digestive juices.
- Ginger and gentian drops. These two herbs are powerful for stimulating gastric juices. A naturopath can dispense these as drops taken before meals.
- Take zinc. Most people are deficient in this important trace mineral that it is necessary for stomach acid production.
2. Increase bile production
Bile is necessary to digest fats and for the motility of the gut. Bile is produced by the liver, so optimal liver health is important for supporting digestion.
- Drink dandelion root tea daily. Can help stimulate digestive secretions and bile.
- Globe artichoke. Increases production and secretion of bile.
- Eat more fruit. Fruit contains phytochemicals such as polyphenols that help feed good bacteria and support liver function.
3. Modulate the gut microbiome
Reducing the number of pathogenic bacteria while increasing the variety and number of good bacteria can do wonders for overall health.
- Aloe vera juice. Anti-inflammatory to the gut, and also helps modulate the gut immune system, meaning it can help keep the bad bacteria in check.
- Gut Relief powder. Contains prebiotics which help feed the good bacteria and increase their quantity.
- Thyme tea. Powerful antimicrobial against some of the most common pathogens creating problems in the gut.
A happy gut is so important to your overall health and vitality. Start with these steps to being optimising your gut health and microbiome!
Originally published in the 2022 Flannerys Organic Summer Magazine.