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Bloating and Wind

Chronic bloating, wind, belching and abdominal discomfort are often early signs that all is not well with the digestive triad of absorption, assimilation and elimination.

Often the culprit is dysbiosis of the gut, which is a fancy way of saying that there is an imbalance in the gut flora. Constipation is known to be a major factor in gas production. Recently, densities of the well known beneficial bacterial species Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus were observed to be lower in patients with constipation, and concentrations of potentially pathogenic bacteria and yeasts such as candida albicans were higher. For some reason a predominance of bad bacteria or yeast organisms has occurred in the gut, and these often produce hydrogen or methane gas. These symptoms will be alleviated once this imbalance has been corrected.

Another common problem is maldigestion or malabsorption of carbohydrates. Unabsorbed carbohydrates in the colon act as food for bacteria, and this breakdown produces hydrogen gas and short chain fatty acids. At the low end of the scale this can produce wind, and at the high end, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Lactose intolerance is a potential culprit, as is celiac disease. For Lactose intolerance, an enzyme supplement such as Lactase Plus will deal with the issue. If one is celiac, then a gluten exclusion diet is advised.

Only 60% of fructose, the sugar found in fruit and soft drinks, is absorbed in the gut, and as little as 37.5g can cause bloating symptoms in individuals. Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener in diet foods, is malabsorbed by over 40% of the population. Some subjects are susceptible to as little as 5g of sorbitol, whilst nearly all develop severe symptoms with 20g. Isomalt, xylitol and sucrose can cause problems to varying degrees. Oligosaccharides like FOS, which are often added to probiotics, may also make the situation worse.

Dietary fibre may also increase wind, with whole grains producing five times more hydrogen than refined flours.

More Information about Bloating and Wind

Symptoms

Some of the common causes of bloating and wind are:

  • Irritation of the GI tract
  • Digestive enzyme deficiencies
  • Intestinal bacteria imbalance
  • Candida overgrowth
  • Food intolerances
  • High sugar diet
  • Emotional stress
  • Parasites
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Antacids and proton pump inhibitors
  • Diabetes
  • Constipation and slow gut transit
  • Medications that reduce gut motility

Abdominal distension and bloating are more often reported by women with IBS than men, with symptom increases noted in relation to menstruation.

Most studies show bloating to be more associated with constipation related IBS than with diarrhoea related IBS.