Gastrointestinal issues are common. They can range from annoying at best, to debilitating at worst. One issue that affects pretty much everyone from time to time is bloat.
Bloating occurs when your gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes filled with air or gas. This is generally caused by something as simple as eating a food that is known to produce gas. It can also be caused by:
- Food intolerances
- Swallowing air
- Acid reflux/GERD
Prevent Bloat by Avoiding Triggers
Occasional bloat is nothing to be worried about. It eventually goes away on its own. But there are ways to prevent it in the first place.
- Try not to overeat. Reduce your portion sizes so that you don’t get tempted to eat too much.
- Eat more slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re full. By eating more slowly, you give your body a change to realize your stomach is full.
- Avoid using straws, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages. All of these contribute to bloat by making you swallow air.
- Be aware of problematic foods. Hard-to-digest foods often cause bloating and gassiness. The most common culprits include:
- Beans and lentils, which contain oligosaccharides. These sugars are indigestible and must be broken down by bacteria in the gut.
- Fruits and veggies such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, carrots, prunes, and apricots.
- Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, and sugars like fructose used in processed foods.
- Dairy, which has a sugar called lactose that many people can’t digest.
- High-fiber foods like whole grains. Fiber is excellent for digestion and overall health, but abruptly increasing your fiber intake can lead to bloating. It’s always a good idea to add more fiber to your diet, but do so gradually so you can prevent GI distress.
The downside to avoiding foods that are known to cause gas and bloat, is that a lot of them are really good for you. It’s one thing if you have an allergy and need to steer clear of things that could put your health in danger. It’s another if you simply have an intolerance and your body needs a little help with the digestive process.
This is where certain supplements can help.
Supplements for Digestion & Bloat Prevention
You probably already know about the usual recommendations for digestive health: probiotics/prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and L-glutamine, to name a few.
If nothing else, start taking a probiotic. Diet, stress, travel, and even medication use can lead to an imbalance of good vs. bad bacteria in your gut. Tipping the balance of bacteria in favor of more beneficial, less gaseous strains can go a long way in preventing and reducing bloat.
Newport Natural Health’s Microencapsulated Probiotic with FOS is an excellent option. It contains multiple strains from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families, both of which are known to reduce gas and bloating.
You may also want to try boosting your levels of a little-known, but highly effective mineral: sulfur.
Sulfur helps in the production of mucus, which is integral to healthy digestion. Without an adequate layer of mucus in the GI tract, the gut can become permeable, leading to leaky gut syndrome. With leaky gut, the intestines become thin and porous. This allows toxic substances that should remain in the intestines to leak into the bloodstream. This increases not only risk of inflammation, but food allergies and intolerances.
The good news about sulfur is that it is readily available in many natural, whole foods. Some of the best sources are allium vegetables, which include garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and shallots. These are second only to the cruciferous family of vegetables, which include cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and arugula.
You can also take supplements to increase sulfur in the body.
Methylsufonylmethane (MSM) is a compound that naturally contains sulfur. It is found in both plants and animals, but also made in supplement form.
MSM is a potent anti-inflammatory that is typically used to treat arthritis and other joint/muscular conditions. It has also been shown to help alleviate GI disorders like constipation and diverticulosis.
N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is also helpful in keeping the gut and mucosal lining healthy. NAC is the precursor to glutathione, one of the most important and powerful antioxidants in the body.
The primary role of glutathione is to protect cells from oxidative stress, but it is also very abundant in the mucosal cells in the GI tract. Research shows a “direct relation between glutathione concentration and mucosal damage…”1
Our Healthy Guts Formula contains MSM, NAC, and other compounds that support a healthy gut. It provides precursors the body needs to produce sulfur, and therefore a strong mucosal lining. It works to detoxify the gut and foster the formation of compounds that reduce inflammation.
When your mucosal lining is strong and robust, your gut is better able to break down typically-hard-to-digest foods. When you’re able to eat healthy, but gas-producing, foods like beans, lentils, cabbage, and whole grains, you provide your body with a wider range of nutrients from whole food sources. In the long run, this makes you healthier and helps your body function better.
In conclusion, if you suffer from bloat, and the “usual suspects” like probiotics or digestive enzymes aren’t offering the relief you want, try upping your sulfur intake and see if that helps!
Loguercio C and Pierro M. The role of glutathione in the gastrointestinal tract: a review. Ital J Gastroenterol Hepatol. Jun-Jul 1999;31(5):401-7.