This post first appeared on Darou Wellness.Bloating is one of the most frequent complaints that I hear in my office, and the good news is that it is almost always treatable once we have determined the underlying cause. Frequent bloating can be uncomfortable, but for many women it affects their confidence and how they feel about their bodies.
Here are some of the most common things I am looking for when a patient complains of being bloated:
- Intestinal yeast overgrowth
- Food intolerances
- Gluten sensitivity or celiac disease
- Insulin resistance
- Poor food combining
- Irregular meal-times
- Deficiency of digestive enzymes (including lactose intolerance)
- Other causes of dysbiosis – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or parasites
Some of these conditions can be tested for – food intolerance, gluten sensitivity, celiac, insulin resistance, and in other cases we treat based on the symptoms and history.
1. Intestinal yeast overgrowth
Intestinal yeast overgrow is extremely common, and it is usually caused by frequent or long-term antibiotic use. The most common scenarios are – many rounds of antbiotics as a child for ear or tonsil infections, long-term antibiotic use for acne (tetracycline or minocin), or antibiotics for frequent urinary tract infections. Antibiotics alter your digestive flora, allowing yeast which are an opportunistic organism, to take over.
When there is too much yeast in the body, you will be bloated and gassy. This is because yeast ferment foods, causing gassiness. Some people will also experience very high sugar or carb cravings, tendency for binge eating, brain fog, fatigue, vaginal yeast infections, and possibly fungal skin infections.
The good news is that this is treatable by rebalancing your intestinal flora with a yeast cleanse: eating a no-sugar diet, taking supplements to kill yeast, and replenishing your intestinal flora with probiotics.
2. Food intolerance
Food intolerance is different from food allergy in that it is a delayed reaction to a food, rather than an immediate response of itching, swelling or anaphylaxis. Food intolerances cause immune stress and inflammation, and this can also irritate the intestinal tract causing bloating. The most common food intolerances are dairy, eggs, certain fruits (banana, citrus, pineapple especially), sometimes nuts (almonds and peanuts are most common), wheat, gluten, corn or others.
Food intolerances can be tested with a blood test to accurately identify them, which takes the guess-work out of eating. Food intolerance would be suspected in someone with a history of allergies, eczema, asthma or a family history of autoimmune disease, but can also be associated with many other skin conditions, digestive disturbances, and low energy. Typically bloating will improve within 4-6 weeks of eliminating any aggravating foods.
3. Gluten sensitivity or celiac disease
Gluten intolerance and celiac disease (a more serious form of gluten-intolerance) are definitely on the rise, largely due to the great changes in wheat over the past 50 years, and also our high consumption of grain products. Many people with a gluten sensitivity will complain of bloating, with or without gassiness, constipation or diarrhea.
There is testing available for gluten intolerance and celiac which does pick up most cases, although many people who test negative, still feel better off gluten. Another marker for gluten intolerance is someone who has low vitamin B12 levels without a vegan or vegetarian diet.
If you suspect that gluten may be a problem for you, a starting point is to do appropriate blood tests to confirm, or to start a 5 week strict gluten-free trial. After 5 weeks strictly off gluten, it is important to challenge it back into your diet to clarify your reaction. There are so many great alternatives to gluten: rice, quinoa, millet, squash and sweet potato to name a few.