Uncomfortable, annoying, distressing; these are just a few words that can describe bloating. While gastrointestinal symptoms are a common issue that affects many people, it might be a sign that something is slightly off with your digestion system. It’s important to start to get to know your digestive symptoms and what is normal for you.
To delve deeper into digestion, the process starts in the mouth when we taste food. Saliva is produced in the mouth and contains salivary amylase, which begins the breakdown of starches.
The act of chewing our food (mastication) is also important as it starts to break down our food into more manageable portions for the rest of our digestive system.
Food is moved down the esophagus into the stomach via a mechanism called peristalsis. Food mixes with hydrochloric acid and enzymes produced by the stomach lining to begin the breakdown of protein.
The small intestine then absorbs nutrients as the ‘mixture’ (or chyme as it is called at this point) moves through the digestive tract. As undigested food moves through the large intestine, water and electrolytes are absorbed. The remaining waste is formed and expelled.
Often, symptoms arise in our digestive system when certain foods (some fermentable sugars and carbohydrates) go undigested and enter our large intestine. This can be quite painful and cause symptoms such as bloating, cramping and diarrhoea.
Not only does it assist with the breakdown of food before it reaches the stomach and assists in nutrient absorption in the small intestine, it can help with satiety (fullness).
Reduce your carbonated fluid intake and aim to have fluids away from meals.
Check the ingredients label on any packaged foods. This also includes pre-workouts or BCAAS. Some sweeteners might be listed as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame.
While some caffeine may be beneficial to performance, mood and alertness, having too much caffeine may affect your digestion. If you do suffer from IBS symptoms or bloating in general, try reducing your caffeine intake over the day (or better yet, a caffeine free day). Remember: caffeine is in coffee, black and green tea, chocolate, and some pre-workouts - it’s not just in coffee.
If you do eat a lot of packaged foods, you may be ingesting a lot of preservatives and stabilisers that are added or used in the manufacturing process. Try reducing your overall consumption of processed foods and it might help in reducing your overall bloating symptoms.
Knowing your body’s signs and symptoms can start to give an indication of the health of your digestive system. If you suspect your symptoms to be more than just bloating or you’re suffering from prolonged bloating, it may be worthwhile to see a professional (Doctor, Dietitian or Gastroenterologist). There are also other gastrointestinal diseases which bloating may be a symptom of and may need to be ruled out.
Our digestive system is extremely complex and intricate; each person will have slightly different symptoms and it can be worthwhile to seek the opinion of a trained health professional.
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