Bloating is a sign of intestinal dysfunction, especially if it is accompanied by severe discomfort or pain.
The obvious cause is eating much larger meals during the holidays. Eating so many food groups at once places a lot of pressure on the digestive system. Snacking between those meals can only make the situation even worse. A bit of sugar here and there, and a touch of alcohol, and a war is raging inside your gut.
One of the key issues is that eating too much (and too fast, not taking the time to thoroughly chew each mouthful) can lead to undigested food to be propelled inside the intestinal tract due to the pressure. This forces the pancreas and the small intestine to produce more and more digestive enzymes to break down the avalanche of food. However, they may not be able to pick up the pace, because the 'tap remains opened' (you continue to eat, even though you're feeling full. How could you possibly turn down a slice of Christmas pudding and some alcohol-infused custard?).
Because different food groups are digested at a different speed, or not at all in the stomach. For example, carbs are not digested in the stomach and so may ferment quickly and produce a lot of gas, while the stomach is actively breaking down meat and larger protein molecules. This applies pressure on the sphincters and gas can either escape upward or downward, bringing with it stomach acid or poorly-digested food pieces respectively. This can lead to heartburn and irritation and/or immune reactions in the upper part of the intestines. Immune cells identify large molecules (which should not be there) as pathogens and mount an immune response. If this is happening often, you may be at risk of increased food hypersensitivities (IgG-led reactions, or intolerances), fuelling inflammatory pathways in the intestines and irritating the gut lining (increasing the risk of intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut’ syndrome).
If enzymes are not efficient enough (due to building blocks or co-factors missing in the diet), proteins will also putrefy, mixing with sugar, and contributing to a lot more pressure in the intestines, producing a large amount of gas. This is further exacerbated by gut inflammation and gas-producing bacteria feeding on the sugar, which also produce alcohol, histamine, and many pro-inflammatory markers. And so, you inflate like a balloon and you are spending most of the afternoon trying to digest all of that food and deal with the discomfort as best as you can. Intestinal distention can lead to pain (depending on the ‘normal’ state of your gut). At that time, you may also need a nap due to the extreme level of energy being diverted to the intestinal tract to deal with the raging war inside your gut.
If you're prone to bloating, it is important to take a moment, mark a pause, before eating. Whatever it is you want to do, let it be mindful breathing, a 3-minute prayer or even meditating, you can gently prepare your body into a state of ‘rest-and-digest’ so you can be more mindful. This will set the pace for the rest of the meal. Chew each mouthful thoroughly. Take your time. Do not drink too much during the meal as this will dilute stomach acid and digestive enzyme concentrations. Take a pause after the main meal to breathe. Take this opportunity to initiate a conversation with the whole table, talking about feel-good family souvenirs and memories. Anything to activate the parasympathetic ('rest-and-digest') response and improve digestion. This plays hugely on symptoms like bloating and discomfort. When everyone is ready for desert, then you will have enough space in your stomach. You may want to drink a warm tea like dandelion, nettle or fennel, to help your digestive function, and perhaps happily nod off for a little while, a time during which your body can 'rest-and-digest' some more. If you are prone to bloating, you may benefit from taking digestive enzymes and perhaps hydrochloric acid (if you are low on stomach acid due to medication or chronic stress). This will provide much-needed relief.
You can find more tips about mindful eating and the power of food on the body and prevent food hypersensitivities in Olivier's book Energise - 30 Days to Vitality. Click here to order.
If you suffer from bloating regularly this can lead to long term health problems due to nutrient deficiencies and a whole cascade of resulting health challenges. Always get to the route of the problem before things get worse. Drug meds only alleviate symptoms temporarily and lead to further problems as the route cause is left undealt with. To make an appointment with one of our clinical team click here.
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