Because - while we're all acutely aware that it's largely to do with what we put in our bodies that causes bloating - we chatted to Dr Ayesha Akbar, Consultant Gastroenterologist at St Mark's Hospital, to see if there are any other reasons many of us end up looking like we're sporting a five-months-pregnant belly at the end of a day.
As it turns out, there are…
We're always told to drink our two litres daily but who knew it could ward off the bloat, too? "Drinking lots of water can potentially reduce the likelihood of bloating because dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can halt digestion," explains Dr Akbar. She goes on: "When your body attempts to counter-balance the effects of being dehydrated, it holds on to excess water." Cue: a big round belly.
2. Lack of Sleep
It turns out not getting enough kip at night doesn't just make us grumpy the next day, but it can play havoc with our digestive systems, too."With lack of sleep, our bodies release a stress hormone called cortisol," says Dr Akbar. "Cortisol can disturb our digestive system to cause things like bloating and constipation." Nice. Real nice.
3. Food Allergies or Sensitivities
Food allergies, sensitives or intolerances can lead to bloating; the problem is, it's just so damn hard to detect which foods are causing the problem. But as a heads up, "the two most common forms of food that lead to bloating are dairy products and foods containing gluten," says Dr Akbar. "Even people who are not officially diagnosed as being 'gluten allergic' (coeliac disease) can often experience sensitivity to these foods and can experience constipation and bloating." And she also notes that other foods which frequently induce a bout of the bloat are apples and avocados, so you might have to bump those down your list of favourite foods.
4. Eating Too Fast
Raise your hand if you're guilty of THIS when you've got a delicious plate of food in front of you. "If we eat too quickly, it is possible that we inhale a lot of air. Therefore, we end up with large volumes of gas sitting in our stomach that can manifest as bloating," says Dr Akbar. Who knew?
"Constipation may be the most obvious reason as to why you have a bloated stomach," notes Dr Akbar. "Constipation can lead to stool remaining in the intestines, therefore giving you a hard-feeling stomach, pain, discomfort and gas." Lovely stuff. But why do we become constipated in the first place? It could be with eating too little fibre, not drinking enough water, a lack of physical exercise, side effects of medication, or stress-related, explains the doctor.
No therapy has been proven to be of definitive benefit however dietary and life-style factors are perhaps the most likely to help bloating in the long term. When looking for remedies to relieve bloating, some options include:
1) Get you body moving and into the routine of exercise. Exercise improves bowel function and is recommended. As well as formal exercise sessions, movement during work time may be important. Many jobs involve sitting for much if not all of a day. Long periods in this position may worsen bloating regular breaks to “stretch the legs," and perhaps therefore the abdomen, may help.
2) Reduce fiber consumption. Unless constipated (see below) do not add excess bran, fruit or fiber to your diet as these products can induce bloating. A sensible dietary fiber intake is suggested.
3) Avoid constipation. Bloating is often worse in severe constipation, and a regular bowel habit can help reduce it. Get the bowel moving with a natural laxative like liquorice or try something containing senna leaf like Skinny Tea.
4) Chew food throughly & take small regular meals. Don't avoid eating during the day, followed by a large evening meal. Avoid rushed eating, but rather set aside 30 minutes to eat in order to “digest” your meal. Reduce fat consumption. A varied diet low in saturated fats may help.