A Fitness Model's Battle with Bloating
Gas, bloating, and constipation… Oh my! I call them the miserable three. Those three gas-y words are ones most all of us have experienced. Some of us more often than others. If you are wondering if I am going to talk about bloating for this entire article...you are completely correct. Let’s do this!
I am someone who has experienced bloating quite frequently. As of late, I have had more issues than usual (am I just getting old?) so I felt it was about darn time I did some research on this bubbly topic and share my journey. I am over feeling bloated, looking pregnant, and having to choose clothes that hide my bloating belly. I put all this hard work into eating well and working out to look sexy, not preggo! It is time to say goodbye to the bloating belly.
So I am going to do my best to overcome this. But even if I don't, the most important thing is that I continue to feel beautiful; beautiful to the core. I want to use my situation to help empower other women to love themselves, no matter the circumstances. Embrace your imperfections and let your self confidence shine so it is the first thing others notice about you.
Why is my stomach so bloated? In this article I will cover the common causes of a bloating stomach and constipation, plus how to get rid of stomach bloating.
Before I get into the causes, tests, and treatments for bloating I want to share my personal story so you understand why I have spent so much time researching it. Keep in mind, it affects me even more as I am a fitness model as well.
In July 2016 I began having GI issues. I woke up with severe lower abdominal pain that was causing burning and stabbing pains along with nausea. I was hospitalized for three days and went through many tests like a CT Scan, Barium Xray, and blood work. Besides the fact that my intestines are too long and my appendix is on my left side instead of my right (I’m weird) everything else was normal and I left there without an answer. That was the first time I had ever been to the ER or the hospital. It was terrifying. I was in agony and I was deathly afraid of being cut open. Not only because surgery sucks but also because I am a fitness model so having a big abdominal scar would not be ideal. The only things that made me feel better were the morphine and my sweet, loving husband sitting by my side (during his finals week at school).
So when I walked out of that hospital after three days, I told myself I never wanted to be in that situation again. And more importantly, I never wanted to put my husband through that much pain again. He was so supportive but deep down, under his sexy muscles, behind his beautiful eyes, I could tell it hurt him even more than it hurt me to be in that situation.
Do I rock the gown or what?!
So I left there seeking answers. I asked around and went to see the best GI doctor around. She examined me and ordered a colonoscopy (oh joy). I never thought I’d have to get one of those at 29-years-old. After being treated like VIP by the nurses and getting a nice nap in, I passed that with flying colors and I moved on to further testing. Next up was a celiac test and bloodwork for food allergies. The results? Negative celiac. Positive food allergies for milk, yeast, and egg whites. Ok, easy peasy! I’ll just cut those foods out of my diet. A few minutes later it hit me.... There’s milk in chocolate! Holy moly I cannot go without chocolate. It is my saving grace to a long day at work. I thought there must be a way around this. It took some getting used to finding food brands I could eat because let me tell you, they put milk in a lot of treats these days! But finally after a few trips to Sprouts I was a happy camper walking out with dairy-free chocolate, ice cream, cookies, and cheese. Woo! I was relieved to have an answer. Fast-forward to a month later.
I had followed a strict dairy-free, yeast-free, and egg-free diet for a month. I did exactly what I was supposed to. The only problem was, I was still getting the severe bloating cases 1-2 times a week (extremely worse than a normal food baby). It’s crazy because it would even happen mid-day when I wasn’t even eating! The bloating is very random for me. Epic fail. Back to the drawing board.
Not Quite Photo shoot Ready
Next up was a visit to an Allergist. I got allergy tested there and the results came back as mild allergy to turkey and cinnamon. Plus a severe allergy to MOLD. What?!?! Completely different results from the bloodwork. These tests can be so inaccurate. So clearly, I don’t have an allergy to the yeast, milk, and egg whites like I thought. The way my Allergist described it to me is that unless it is a positive test on both the bloodwork and the allergy test, it is unlikely to be a true food allergy. He told me to try a food log and elimination diet instead.
Since starting the elimination diet, I finally got some relief about two months later. All of the sudden, one day I woke up to a flat stomach and I have not had an issue since. I had cut out many foods and then later added most back in except cheese. So currently, I can eat everything else just fine without bloating. Hallelujah!! Still no real answer to what caused my severe and uncomfortable bloating. However I have a strong inclination that I have a severe allergy to cheese/mold, because just a few Cheezits made me blow up! But I am happy to say that a combination of food elimination, taking ginger tablets, taking probiotics, taking enzymes, an stressing less has helped. Those were my answers apparently.
CAUSES OF BLOATING
What are some causes of bloating? Well besides a more serious GI diagnosis, the more basic causes are quite simple. One of the most common is overeating (aka your eyes being bigger than your stomach). This is why our parents taught us to chew our food and eat slowly. It takes time for our bodies to digest the food and send us signals that we are full. If we eat too quickly, we bypass those signals and as a result, we eat more than we need.
Another cause of bloating is air. Taking in too much air can cause a buildup of gas which makes sense, right? If you fill up a balloon with air it is going to inflate and keep stretching and stretching. The same thing happens to our intestines, except we don’t burst open once we are filled up with air...we just get really, extremely, painfully uncomfortable. So what causes us to take in too much air? This could be done by drinking through a straw, chewing gum frequently, smoking, or drinking carbonated drinks. Therefore, avoid those things or else you’ll end up like Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who inflates into a giant blueberry!
If you address the two above causes but are still having issues, you could have a food allergy or food intolerance if symptoms only occur after eating certain foods. An allergy is more serious and can be tested through blood testing or allergy testing with an Allergist. However those tests can be inaccurate so the best way is to keep a food diary of the foods you eat every day and the symptoms you have daily. If you still have trouble pinpointing the cause, try an Elimination diet. It takes time and patience but can be one of the best tests for finding the food(s) you are symptomatic to.
Photo Credit: Greatist.com
Let’s go over the difference between food allergies and intolerances. Food allergies usually cause immune system responses right away and can be life threatening. Symptoms may include a rash, itchiness, hives, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a drop in blood pressure. The most common food allergies are of peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat.
On the other hand, a food intolerance is less immediate, does not trigger an immune response, and occurs later once you have eaten more of the food. Symptoms may include gas, cramps, heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, or a headache. The most common intolerance is of lactose which is a sugar found in milk and dairy.
If you have gotten tested and are still having symptoms, it may be time to dive deeper. There are other possible issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stress, and celiac disease that may need to be tested by your GI Doctor.
FOODS THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO DIGEST
Here is a list of foods that are more difficult for us to digest. If you have a bloating problem, I recommend you cut down on these foods for a few weeks. Then slowly add some back in later to test how your body tolerates them. If your test proves positive and the gas-iness returns, then maybe you will have to cut them out for good. It’s trial and error when it comes to determining which foods your body tolerates and which it does not.
-Veggies like Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, onions
-Fruits like prunes, apricots, apples, peaches, pears
-Artificial sweetener like sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol
Also keep in mind fiber intake. The suggested amount of fiber is 14g per 1,000 calories consumed per day. Any more than that could be a cause of excessive bloating or gas. This is yet another reason why tracking your food intake is beneficial for your health. When tracking intake, the most important things to be conscious of are your proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber.
(See Related: Following a Macro Based Nutrition Program)
TREATMENT FOR BLOATING
There are a few other lifestyle tips you can try to aid in combatting the belly. Here are a few tips on how to get rid of stomach bloating. First off, drink more water. I am guilty of getting too busy at work to hydrate enough. Make it a priority, buy a gallon or bottle, and force yourself to drink a certain amount by lunch, dinner, and bedtime.
The second tip is to take digestive enzymes. I take them at every big meal to aid with digestion. I can always notice when I have forgotten because the bloating gets much worse than normal. Next, you should get on a regular workout program. Getting your body moving should help your digestive system get moving and grooving as well.
Last but not least, consider taking a probiotic supplement like Align. They can be pricey though, so some people prefer to get probiotics by eating yogurt.
I hope these gas-y tips have been helpful. If you have tried any of them out or have any questions, comment below!
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Hi! I just thought I’d drop a quick note. My husband has ulcerative colitis. We’ve tweaked his diet many times and I know how hard it is to figure out what foods trigger symptoms. It can be so scary/daunting/frustrating/discouraging. If you don’t have much luck with the elimination diet another direction you could look into is FODMAPs. Some people don’t process those types of sugars well and they can cause all kinds of digestive distress. Also, one of my husbands single biggest triggors is stress… and it’s really hard to not be stressed when you’re in pain. 🙁 I hope you get to feeling better soon!
Natalie, I truly appreciate your tips and advice. Very sweet of you to take the time to share that with me. I will keep that in mind. The elimination diet is helping me narrow things down right now, but I will keep the FODMAPs in mind. And I will work on decreasing stress levels. Thanks again. You are wonderful!