Abdominal discomfort is a condition that is familiar not only to those who like to eat delicious and not very healthy food, but also to fans of diets and proper nutrition. Our expert, Lyra Gaptykaeva, an endocrinologist, nutritionist, member of the Russian Association of Endocrinologists (RAE) and the National Association of Clinical Nutrition (NACP), explains why this happens and how to deal with it.
What are you complaining about?
“Doctor, I am concerned about the constant bloating and abdominal pain that increases after eating,” – with such complaints, the beautiful half of humanity often turns to me. First, it is unpleasant when the stomach is inflated like a balloon. Secondly, it can make loud noises that you can’t always control. Third, it seems that you are 5-6 months pregnant, when you can no longer wear your favorite dress or skirt, and trousers or jeans only increase the discomfort.
The formation of gases in the intestine is a normal physiological process. But under certain conditions, there may be bloating (flatulence) – excessive formation of gases. Most often, this happens when there are errors in nutrition and eating foods containing fiber.
Fiber is called dietary fiber, which is contained in food. In turn, fiber can be soluble or insoluble in water. Water-soluble dietary fiber can reduce appetite, slow down the digestive process, reduce sugar and cholesterol levels, but more often cause gas formation. Such dietary fibers are not digested by the enzymes of our body (substances of a protein nature that regulate all biochemical processes, they are necessary for the normal functioning of our body), but serve as a nutrient medium for the beneficial microflora of the large intestine. Healthy intestinal microflora is an important component of our health. It participates in fat, water-salt metabolism, in the synthesis of vitamins and amino acids, regulates the immune system, removes toxins.
Sufficient consumption of fiber serves as a prevention of many diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, atherosclerosis and hypertension, cancer. In the fight against excess weight, the inclusion of fiber in your diet allows you to improve the functioning of the intestines, which in turn serves not only to prevent constipation, but also allows you to normalize the level of cholesterol and blood sugar. According to nutritionists, it is recommended to consume at least 20-25 g of fiber daily.
Why does bloating occur?
To successfully solve any problem, it is necessary to influence its cause, and there can be many of them with increased gas formation:
- irregular eating patterns;
- abuse of sweet, refined foods;
- “craze” for certain foods;
- switching to a certain type of food, for example, vegetarianism;
- taking antibiotics or other medications;
- alcohol intake;
- sleep and rest disorders;
- intestinal dysbiosis.
Intestinal dysbiosis (which is popularly called dysbiosis) is a condition in which the balance between beneficial and pathogenic bacteria of our body is disturbed, which leads to the development of various diseases.
Also, this discomfort can be seasonal, more often in the summer, when we begin to “lean” on fresh vegetables and fruits. But usually then our body gradually rebuilds and after 3-4 weeks can feel great.
What foods can cause gas formation?
All foods can be divided into 4 groups:
- berries and fruits;
- vegetables and herbs;
- flour and sweet.
Each of these groups contains foods that can cause both excessive and moderate gas formation. The greatest discomfort is caused by eating carbohydrates such as sweets, cakes, cakes, fast food. Why is this particular group of foods that we love most provokes gas formation?
Flour and sweet foods are foods that contain an abundance of oligosaccharides (complex types of carbohydrates, for example, lactose, fructose, sucrose). In the intestine, they are broken down to monosaccharides (simple carbohydrates) and absorbed into the bloodstream. Certain enzymes are required to break down oligosaccharides to monosaccharides. If the synthesis of these enzymes in the body is disrupted, for example, due to intestinal dysbiosis, eating foods rich in carbohydrates leads to increased gas formation.
Another factor is the presence of a large amount of indigestible fiber in the food, the processing of which by microorganisms of the large intestine is accompanied by increased gas formation. For example, when eating rye or wheat bread, gas formation may be higher than when including foods such as bran or bread in the diet, since they contain a greater amount of insoluble fiber in water. Mushrooms contain indigestible fiber-chitin, so after them, discomfort in the intestine can be more pronounced than when eating cucumbers or zucchini. If we eat watermelon or prunes, due to the high content of dietary fiber, the risk of gas formation will be higher than when eating raspberries or strawberries.
Where to start?
In the event of excessive gas formation, first of all, it is necessary to carefully consider your diet. The following recommendations can help:
- Normalize the diet (it is recommended to eat 3 times a day, if necessary, you can include 1-2 snacks)
- Do not forget about a sufficient drinking regime, especially when including foods rich in fiber in the diet, since a lack of liquid in the diet can provoke constipation. It is necessary to drink according to the need, but not less than 1 liter of clean water per day.
- Normalize sleep and wake patterns. What does it mean? Learn to go to bed at a certain time no later than 23: 00-00: 00 hours of the night.
- Add physical activity (it is recommended to find at least 30-40 minutes a day for sports or any other aerobic activity).
What to do if, despite changes in diet and lifestyle, complaints persist?
You can give up your favorite food or use drugs that reduce gas formation. In pharmacies, there are many such means, one of the mechanisms of which is to reduce the surface tension of the gas (gas bubbles in the intestine burst, relief occurs). Such drugs do not directly affect the cause, but only remove the discomfort when it has already occurred.
And is it possible to prevent gas formation, rather than fight it, and at the same time not limit yourself in the choice of dishes? For these purposes, nutritionists recommend the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. This is an enzyme that helps break down oligosaccharides to monosaccharides even during the digestive stage in the small intestine, thereby preventing the process of gas formation in the large intestine. This product can be used as an additive to food when eating foods that cause flatulence.*
Before use, it is recommended to consult a doctor. Be healthy!
*Gas-forming foods: vegetables (artichoke, mushrooms, cauliflower, bean sprouts, sweet peppers, Chinese cabbage, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, pumpkin, potatoes, radishes, seaweed (nori), spinach, tomatoes, turnips, zucchini), fruits (apples, apricots, blackberries, canned fruits, dates, dried fruits, figs, mangoes, nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, plums, persimmons, prunes, watermelon, bananas, blueberries, melons, cranberries, grapes, kiwi, lemon, lime, mandarin, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines), cereals (wheat, barley, rye, cereals, corn, oats, cereals, chips, pancakes, pasta, noodles, pretzels, waffles, oatmeal cereals, oat bran, popcorn, quinoa, rice, rice bran), legumes (soybeans, soy foods (soy milk, tofu), all types of beans, peas, cashews, bulgur, lentils, miso, pistachios), herbs (chicory, artichoke, all types of salads, onions, garlic, carrots, parsley, sorrel, celery, spinach, dandelion greens, asparagus), bakery foods (rye flour bread, borodino bread, grain bread, wheat bread, rye bran, wheat bran, bread).