It’s unmistakable isn’t it? That feeling of bloating around the belly, but although eating too much can be one cause, at menopause there are others that are more likely, such as oestrogen dominance and fluid retention, but some of these may surprise you.
Why Am I Bloated?
1 Stomach gas Well too much stomach gas is often thought to be a cause but most people who think they’re bloated because they have gas are just more sensitive to it.
This is usually related to a health condition and possible causes include irritable bowel syndrome (when nerves linked to your bowel are too active), acid reflux (which irritates your oesophagus, the tube between your throat and stomach), and haemorrhoids.
2 Salt Your body needs it but in moderation. Salt makes you hold on to, retain, water and can cause more serious health problems like high blood pressure.
You may not add salt to your food, or only a little, but it’s usually in prepackaged and fast foods so check for salt (sodium) levels and remember just because you don’t taste it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
3 Carbohydrate overload These are essential fuel that your body can use quickly, but too many at once can make you retain water.
The faster the carbohydrates get into your blood, the more likely bloating is as simple carbs such as white bread, sweets, cake/biscuits, and soft drinks enter your blood almost instantly. The complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables don’t because they take longer to digest.
4 Eating too much It will surprise you to learn that your stomach is only about the size of your fist. It can stretch, but that can make you feel bloated, especially if you eat lots of salty food and carbs.
If your ‘eyes are bigger than your belly’ then that old rule about stopping eating before you feel full is the best policy here.
5 Carbonated drinks Those bubbles in fizzy water, colas and other drinks like beer, sparkling wine and champagne are filled with gas. When you drink them, they can fill up your digestive system.
It’s what makes you burp, but although you can get rid of some of it the way once the gas reaches your intestines, it stays until you pass it. As most such drinks are full of sugar, which can make you hold on to water, that also helps you feel bloated.
6 You Eat Too Fast The faster you eat, the more air you swallow and once that air passes to your intestine, it can make you feel bloated. It can take 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full, so you can eat enough to make yourself bloated and uncomfortable before your brain gets the message.
7 Constipation Most people are a little irregular from time to time, and that can make you feel bloated. Some foods can cause it, along with not drinking enough water, sudden changes in your diet, or stress.
It usually passes on its own, but exercise and a simple change of diet or remedies such as grated raw carrot and beetroot can help but if it persists more than a few days time to check with your doctor.
8 Dairy Foods like milk and ice cream can cause gas, belly pain, and bloating if your body can’t easily digest a dairy sugar called lactose. It’s not usually serious, but it’s a good idea to avoid milk products.
This is not the same as an allergy to dairy, where your body’s immune system treats it like a dangerous invader. That can be more serious, causing itching hives, vomiting, and bloody stools and must be reported to your doctor.
9 Weight Gain If you’ve gained 10 or more pounds in the past year, you may feel bloated because that weight often goes on around your belly and is very common at menopause.
That takes up space and leaves less room for your stomach to stretch so it swells out. Losing a few pounds may be enough to help it go down.
10 Fructose This is a kind of sugar, and it’s harder for your body to break down than other kinds. That can lead to gas, bloating, and pain.
It occurs naturally in some like fruit (especially dried fruit) as well as honey, onions, and garlic and it is in lots of foods in the form of “high fructose corn syrup,” so check the ingredient list in the supermarket.
A food diary can help you keep track of how you feel after you eat certain foods and figure out if this is a problem for you.
11 Fat Unfortunately your body takes longer to break fat down than other types of food and is essential to make cell walls, nerve tissue (like your brain), and hormones.
But too much can make you bloated because is in your body for longer. It’s also high in calories so keep to a sensible amount to prevent bloating.
12 FODMAPs Terrible name isn’t it, but it stands for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols (FODMAPs) which are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.
They are digested near the end of your intestine, where bacteria feed on them. For some people, this can cause gas and fluid buildup, belly pain, and bloating. FODMAPs are in some fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy — asparagus, garlic, pears, mangoes, peaches, wheat pasta, and rye bread are examples.
Keep a food diary to keep track of foods that affect you, and cut them out or speak to a nutritionist for help.
13 Coeliac Disease This is when your body responds to gluten — a protein in wheat, barley, rye, and many prepackaged foods — by attacking the lining of your intestine which is part of your digestive system.
It can cause diarrhoea, weight loss, pain in the belly area, and lots of gas, which can make you feel bloated. There’s no cure, but you can manage your symptoms if you stay away from foods that have gluten.
Many of the reasons for bloating can be managed easily by yourself, but if you also feel weak or lose your appetite, or have diarrhea, weight loss, fever, belly pain, or blood in your stool, talk to your doctor.
Oestrogen dominance, or excess oestrogen, is often behind bloating so tackling hormone imbalance and restoring normal levels with bioidentical progesterone can certainly help.