Stomach bloating describes those collection of symptoms that affect the tummy, such as an uncomfortable stretching sensation. It usually happens after an intense bout of eating and drinking. For some people the problem can occur all too frequently. Bloating often occurs in the evening time, when you should be winding down, disrupting your sleeping patterns. Luckily, there are various ways to prevent bloating before bedtime,
Here are five tops from Simon Smale, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Spokesperson for The IBS Network.
1 – Cut out alcohol, fizzy drinks and caffeine – particularly in the evening
Caffeine can have a negative effect on the gut and can promote wind and gas, so try to limit yourself to a couple of cups of coffee a week rather than a couple of cups a day.
Avoid excess alcohol too. Recent research by the British Gut Project shows that spirits in particular are bad news for gut health. But it’s not all bad news where alcohol is concerned, as it also found that red wine can be beneficial.
Wine’s benefits are down to polyphenols, the top class anti-oxidants which you can also find in artisanal ciders, which feed the microbiome, increasing the diversity of microbes. In fact, red wine is better for the microbiome than grape juice, which also contains polyphenols, so alcohol plus fruit is good. Just stick to glass rather than a bottle.
Carbonated drinks which are full of gas and often sugar too, have got to make a swift exit from your cupboards immediately if you suffer from gut health problems. These create gas in the intestine that leads to flatulence.
Ditch those fizzy drinks and drink water instead. Water comes with an added bonus as it will help lubricate your gut to keep everything moving; if water feels too boring try herbal teas for healthy flavour hit – select one with chamomile which is known to promote relaxation.
Plus, drinking too many fizzy drinks could even make you feel anxious and this won’t help you relax. This is due to the gut brain connection. A diverse gut biome links to higher blood tryptophan, and tryptophan turns into serotonin, the brain chemical we need to be happy.
2 – Don’t eat all your calories in the latter part of the day
Start by eating regularly, by not leaving long gaps between your meals and certainly don’t skip meals.
Lunch is ideal about three to four hours after breakfast to maintain steady blood glucose levels and keep hunger at a manageable level. Dinner is best eaten three to four hours after lunch, and two hours before going to bed, to promote optimal sleep and the efficient use of calories.
Don’t save the bulk of your calories for your evening meal. Try and aim to eat dinner at around 6pm to allow your body sufficient time to digest before lying down in bed.
3 – Choose carefully – avoid indigestible pasta and bread, certain vegetables and ready meals
Some foods which contain high levels of complex carbohydrates, commonly found in microwave products and prepared meals, tend to pass to the large bowel undigested. Here they will ferment and produce excess wind and bloating.
Eat less broccoli and cauliflower. While healthy, these are two foods that are also commonly associated with a FODMAP exclusion diet. Broccoli and cauliflower are examples of cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, or sulfur-containing chemicals. As glucosinolates break down in the intestines, they form other compounds like hydrogen sulfide, which is why gas passed after eating these foods smells like sulphur.
Similarly, those who eat more high-FODMAP foods such as Brussels sprouts have demonstrated prolonged hydrogen production in the intestine and colonic distension by fermentation. Which means an excessive build-up of wind in your intestine. This leads IBS symptoms such as gas, bloating and stomach discomfort.
Try to avoid eating stoned fruit such as plums, peaches, nectarines and mango. This is (no)thanks to fructose. Fructose and sorbitol (sugar alcohol) are the sugary compounds found in every fruit, and some people have great trouble digesting these and therefore will experience bloating symptoms.
4 – Try a clinically proven probiotic
Patients often ask me if they should take a probiotic to help their gut problems, and there is a growing body of evidence that probiotics may benefit people with gut bloating and other symptoms of IBS.
However, it is important to look for a probiotic that is clinically proven. A clinically proven probiotic is one that has evidence that it works for patients with irritable bowel syndrome. That means that is has to get to the bit of the gut which it is actually meant to affect. It must also get there in sufficient numbers so that it actually impacts upon IBS symptoms. Alflorex, for example, would be one of those probiotics which has been studied independently and is clinically proven to target IBS symptoms.
5 – Improve your sleep ‘hygiene’
A large number of lifestyle factors can influence the way our guts function. I would start with looking at your sleep routine. Lots of people sleep poorly, and that has a significant impact on the way your bowels function. It’s all very well me saying you just need to get eight hours of sleep every night, because in reality that is really difficult.
Getting enough sleep is difficult for a number of reason; we all have such busy lives and when we go to bed we don’t always have the best sleep hygiene or bedtime routine, meaning the quality of our sleep isn’t always that good.
Aim to go to bed at a similar time every night. Clearly that isn’t always possible, but aim towards going to bed nearest to a regular time as you possibly can.
Your gut and your stress levels are inextricably linked. In fact, the gut is the organ with the greatest number of nerve cells in the body, even more than the brain and we know the gut has the greatest quantity of serotonin within it which is the neurotransmitter we associate with mood and happiness. So you can imagine if your gut is going awry, those feelings will influence your emotions and vice versa.
That’s why we see a lot of depression, anxiety and mood issues in people with gut problems – but we rarely know which came first, the mood problems or the gut issues – they both impact each other.
Occasionally, however, stomach bloating may be a symptom of an underlying health condition. According to the NHS, “If your bloating symptoms persist, consult your GP to rule out a more serious condition. Bloating, and a persistent feeling of fullness, are key symptoms of ovarian cancer.”