If you usually develop gas and your stomach swells after eating, you could be at risk of bloating. This is a condition where your stomach feels full and tight, often due to gas. When gas doesn’t pass through belching, experts say that it can build up in the stomach and intestines, thus leading to bloating (or passing gas through the anus) or belching (expelling air from the stomach through the mouth).
It is usually caused by excess gas production or disturbances in the movement of the muscles of the digestive system. Bloating can often cause pain, discomfort, and can also make your stomach look bigger.
According to Dr Raoul Kabadi Gizenga, the head of Gastro-Enterology, Endoscopy Unit at Hôpital La Croix du Sud (HCS),Remera, the possible causes of bloating and intestinal gas are various and complicated but in general, we all swallow air during the process of eating.
He notes that individuals can have excess swallowing due to sucking on hard candies or chewing gum. Drinking carbonated beverages such as soda or beer can also generate excess gastric air. In addition, individuals who experience anxiety may swallow air excessively.
Dieudonne Bukaba, a private nutritionist in Kigali, says that foods containing sorbitol could be a cause of gas in the stomach. Sorbitol is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit. You can even be bothered by carbonated soft and fruit drinks. If you discover that these foods are causing you excess gas, eliminate them from your diet or eat them in small portions.
He adds that almost any food or combination of foods can cause gas, for example, certain foods don’t get along well in certain people, your stomach might feel gassy if you combine fruits with protein, or if you eat starch and protein together.
Private Kamanzi, a dietician at Amazon Wellness Centre, Remera, says that it is normal to have gas, however, when it exceeds normal, it turns into discomfort, pain at times and bloating.
He adds that eating while drinking could cause bloating as the stomach finds it hard to digest both solid and liquid food at the same time.
Bukaba states that if you take liquids with meals, you lose stomach acids and can’t break down food. Try drinking about 30 minutes before a meal to help your stomach digest better.
“When you eat or drink fast, you can swallow a lot of air, which can cause gas. You should slow down while eating. If you have dentures, check with your dentist to make sure that they fit properly so that you don’t gasp air while eating,” he says.
Kamanzi says that over consuming fats like butter, and fried food such as chips, or taking alcohol and smoking can cause stomach bloating.
However, Bukaba stresses that upper gastrointestinal disorders’ occasional belching is normal, but frequent belching may be a sign of an upper gastrointestinal disorder. If you have had abdominal surgery, a hernia, or significant weight loss or weight gain, never dismiss your gas-like symptoms as normal. Go for check-up immediately.
Kamanzi states that taking cold and warm food mixed together can cause swelling of the stomach, as the stomach pH finds it hard to turn the food into the same temperature.
He adds that you should avoid processed foods like sugary drinks, ice cream, cheese, fast foods, since they lack fibres, because fibres help in digestion. This complicates digestion, thus leading to bloating.
Failure to chew food properly, eating while sleeping or sleeping immediately after eating, affects digestion, If digestion is affected, bloating will occur.
Kamanzi states that if you are lactose intolerant you are unable to fully digest the sugar (lactose) in milk. As a result, you could have diarrhoea, gas and bloating after eating or drinking dairy products.
Gizenga says that poorly fitting dentures and chronic postnasal “drip” can also cause excess air swallowing. As a result, significant amounts of gas can enter the stomach and small bowel in 24 hours which can lead to belching, bloating or flatulence.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
Kamanzi warns against consuming fried and sugary foods, rather, eat foods that contain fibres, for instance, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Do away with chewing gum, sleeping while drinking or eating while sleeping to enable your stomach have proper digestion, he notes.
Bukaba says that one way to manage flatulence and belching is to eat fewer of the well-known gassy foods; certain fruits, like apples and pears, specific vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and onions; whole grains like bran; and dairy products, including milk, cheese, and ice cream. These items contain fibre, sugars, and starches that don’t digest or absorb easily, eventually causing intestinal gas.
Most of the time, gas and bloating are not caused by any serious medical condition, and you can make some changes to reduce your symptoms even if they are caused by a medical problem, Gizenga notes.
“However, he advises you to see your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve with simple changes (behavioural changes or the dietary changes), or particularly if your gas is persistent or severe, or if it’s associated with vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, unintentional weight loss, chest discomfort, loss of appetite or feeling full quickly, blood in the stool or heartburn.
He further says that in the long run, the key to preventing bloating is understanding its cause. If mild constipation is the problem, a fibre-rich diet, water and exercise may help, but these steps won’t always work.