Chronic bloating or discomfort is a sign that your digestive system is under stress. Food is not breaking down properly, fermenting, causing inflammation, and/or bacteria is having a party in your belly. Here are common causes of chronic bloating, gas, or IBS like symptoms.
- Bacterial Overgrowth/SIBO: Bacteria in the gut is normal and healthy when it is the right kind, in the right place, and at the right level. It keeps our digestive systems functioning properly, helps us produce optimal vitamins like B's, keeps our brains and mood happy (neurotransmitters like serotonin), and helps with our immune function. When it is overgrown, or the "bad" critters become excessive, we can have symptoms of bloating, especially after meals, gas, fatigue, constipation or diarrhea/loose stools. Common causes are overuse of antibiotics (even one round/course can sometimes cause this), drinking chlorinated water, excess sugar or processed starch in the diet, alcohol, stress (slows down our digestion and allows things to ferment, see below), or some other pharmaceuticals.
- Stress: Our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that kicks us into a more sympathetic state. This is normal in small bursts when we need to get through a stressful situation or emergency. It also helps to stimulate our appetites and manage inflammation, among other things. However, when it is too high, or high for too long (chronic stress, over exercising, over exertion), it can wreck havoc on our bodies. When in a sympathetic state (stress), our digestion shuts down to save energy to "fight or flight". This means that the movement in our intestines (peristalsis) that helps to move food and stool through is not functioning optimally. This can lead to constipation or diarrhea/loose stools, undigested foods, poor absorption of nutrients, and also cause the food to ferment in the gut as it sits there too long. This allows bacteria to overgrow, and gas to develop. Hello Bloating!
Stress also decreases the amount of stomach acid and enzymes you have to break down food, allowing for acid reflux, fermentation and gas to develop. Again... Hello Bloating!
- Parasites: Yes, as gross as it sounds, sometimes we can get parasites from contaminated food or water (eg. raw fish/meats). If left untreated, malabsorption and diarrhea can persist.
- Histamine Intolerance: Histamine exists in most foods, but some are higher than others. For a list of high histamine foods: LINK
In healthy guts and immune systems, the body can break down dietary histamines. However, for some genetic reasons, or sometimes due to SIBO/bacterial overgrowth, the enzyme we need for histamine breakdown, DAO, is deficient. This allows histamine to build up in the body causing symptoms often seen right after eating, such as nasal congestion, headaches, increased heart rate, anxiety, sweating, dizziness/lightheadness, abdominal cramping, skin rashes or itchiness, and even can contribute to irregular menstrual cycles and PMS in some individuals.
- Hormone Triggers: Imbalances in hormones can trigger bloating. For example, imbalances in progesterone and estrogen leading up to a menstrual period can create water retention in the lower abdomen, or sometimes all over.
- Caffeine: Caffeine stimulates the nervous system. For some people, this can lead to loose stools, diarrhea, or indigestion.
- Candida Overgrowth: A yeast overgrowth in the gut can create symptoms of bloating, loose stools and generally not feeling great. Sometimes you will see skin rashes, and fungal overgrowth elsewhere on the body, a thick white coat on the tongue, and fatigue. Candida can be caused by anything that kills off good bacteria -- antibiotic use, chlorinated water, sugar, alcohol consumption. Good bacteria keeps the bad stuff balanced.
Our Wellness Programs aim to discover what underlying cause or causes may be contributing to your digestive issues. From there, we can create a protocol for you that will help to re-balance your gut. Eg. Using herbal antimicrobials to kill off the bad critters, and promote the good guys; healing the gut lining, and adjusting the diet to optimize digestion.
Common test kits that can help us uncover digestive triggers can be sent to your house. These include:
OAT/Organic Acid Test: tests for bacterial and candida overgrowth
Food Sensitivity Test: tests foods your immune system may be reacting to
Stool Test: tests for parasites and bacteria
Acupuncture is also extremely helpful for regulating the nervous system, getting the body out of fight or flight, and training the system to stay in "relaxed mode" even in stressful moments. This can help to reduce bloating and improve peristalsis/movement in the intestines to optimize digestion.
Often, a combination or our Wellness Programs which address the overgrowth issues, nutrition, diet, and Acupuncture can be the perfect combination to heal the gut.
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