Although it's not something we like to share, some days we can feel bloated, 'blocked' and sluggish. Maybe we had an unusually large meal the night before, or ate something that doesn't agree with us, or it's completely out of the blue.
Whatever the cause, there are some simple, natural ways that can help boost digestion and get things moving again.
"Bloating and other digestive symptoms have become more common in Australia, with one report stating 87 percent of Australian women suffer from digestive issues (including bloating)," Charlene Grosse, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for DAA, told HuffPost Australia.
"It is thought that digestive issues are caused by nerve endings in our digestive system being hypersensitive to fermentation and wind production, which result can in flatulence, distention, bloating and altered bowel movements."
Feeling bloated now and again is normal. However, if you are permanently feeling bloated, this needs to be investigated further by a healthcare practitioner to rule out any possible underlying health condition.
Common causes for slow digestion and bloating
"Feeling sluggish and bloated can be the result of food choices -- from too much alcohol, salt, sugar and high fat foods, to natural fermentable sugars in fruits, vegetables, dairy, legumes, grains and cereals," Grosse said.
"For others it is the amount and type of fibre they are eating, the speed at which they eat (too quickly), skipping meals and having large portions."
According to nutritionist Fiona Tuck, our bodies can hold more fluid on any given day, caused by things such as lack of exercise, long-haul flights, premenstrual bloating, hormones and diet.
"Slow digestion may be worsened by foods that are rich or high fat such as fatty red meats and creamy foods," Tuck told HuffPost Australia. "Food intolerance can also cause bloating, so it is wise to monitor symptoms so you can start to track which foods cause uncomfortable bloating."
Other common causes for slow digestion and bloating can relate to poor gut health, nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin explained.
"[This includes] dysbiosis (from overgrowth and imbalance of bad bacteria or bacteria in the wrong spot, food allergies or intolerances including FODMAP sensitivities), low stomach acid production, and poor enzyme production," Bingley-Pullin said.
"If you have ongoing digestive issues, pain, blood in your stool, or waking at night to use your bowels, it is important that you see your GP," Grosse said.
"Many digestive symptoms are generic for a number of diseases, so it is important to have the correct tests to identify the cause of your symptoms."
For general bloating and slow digestion, try these five simple tips.
1. Gentle exercise
While it may not be the first thing you want to do when bloated, exercise can do wonders for digestion.
"Walking or gentle jogging can help to stimulate bile production and digestion, and can even help to stimulate the bowels," Tuck said. "Deep breathing can also help to stimulate the colon, aiding constipation, so exercise and even yoga can be extremely beneficial."
2. Feed your gut
"Good gut health requires regular fibre intake, prebiotics (found in vegetables, legumes and fruit), probiotics (found in yoghurts with live cultures, sauerkraut, miso) drinking adequate water and exercising," Grosse explained.
"Fibre is relatively indigestible and helps to keep the digestive system healthy by adding bulk to the stools and being an important food source for the bacteria in our bowels."
There are two main types of fibre
Soluble fibre which helps to bulk out stools and allows it to pass through the gut more easily (e.g. oats, legumes, psyllium, flesh of fruits and vegetables)
Insoluble fibre which speeds up the time food passes through the gut (found in nuts, seeds, skins of fruits and vegetables).
3. Eat slowly and without distractions
Eating in a rush or with distractions like the TV can inhibit proper digestion, leading to feeling bloated and uncomfortable, Tuck explained.
"Chew food thoroughly until it has almost liquefied in the mouth," Tuck said. "Saliva contains enzymes to start the digestive process so if we are gulping down food and not chewing it thoroughly, this can have a negative impact on digestion."
4. Identify and manage stress
Chances are if you're feeling stressed or anxious, your gut and digestion can take a hit.
"Stress has also been linked with increased gut symptoms in some people so including meditation, walking and yoga into our weekly regimen can be an effective starting point in managing our day-to-day stresses," Grosse said.
5. Identify food triggers
"Keep a food diary to monitor foods that cause bloating, so you know which your trigger foods are," Tuck said.
Following a low FODMAP diet under medical supervision can also help tease out which foods aren't agreeing with you.
Dietary changes can affect the bacterial make-up in your gut, so it is important to do them alongside an expert that can help you.
"FODMAPs refer to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are poorly absorbed sugars that can pass along the digestive tract and act as a food source to the bacteria that live there normally," Grosse explained.
"The bacteria can digest or ferment these FODMAPs and can cause IBS symptoms, including abdominal distension, bloating, changes in bowel habits and excess wind.
"FODMAPs are found in a wide range of foods. A low FODMAP diet is trialled for 4-6 weeks and for 75 percent of people, symptoms will improve. The challenge phase identifies which specific FODMAPs a person is sensitive to."
What not to do when experiencing digestion issues
When feeling bloated, 'blocked' or sluggish, Tuck recommends avoiding processed foods.
"Avoid eating foods that can worsen bloating, such as junk foods and high-sugar foods which can throw out the natural gut flora, creating more fermentation. And avoid high sugar-laden alcohol."
Although digestive symptoms can be the sign of a food intolerance, Grosse warns of starting an elimination diet without guidance and support from a health expert.
"Dietary changes can affect the bacterial make-up in your gut, so it is important to do them alongside an expert that can help you."
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