Bloating - what is causing it - and what you can do?

Do you feel or even look as if you’re 3 months pregnant, but you are not?

Gas in your bowel, also known as wind, flatulence or farting, is normal - everybody farts between 5 to 15 times per day.

Our intestines produce between 500 and 2000mls of gas - consisting of methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide - which is passed out of the anus regularly. Most of the gas is produced by your bacterial flora in the colon, and the rest is from swallowing air. Our bacteria do not only produce gas though, they also remove it (thank goodness).

Some people however suffer from excessive flatulence and smelly winds, which can not only be uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing, but could also be an indication of a health problem.

What causes it?

Many different reasons can be the cause of bloating; some of the most common ones are:

Poor eating habits

If you eat while stressed or busy doing other things such as watching TV, you are more likely to eat too quickly, swallow too much air and not chew your food properly.

Low hydrochloric acid

If you don’t have enough hydrochloric acid, your body won’t break down the food effectively causing symptoms such as bloating.

Digestive problems

Other problems involving poor digestion and absorption such as constipation, coeliac disease, pancreatic insufficiency or lactose intolerance.

SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)

A condition where some of your bacteria that usually resides in the colon move to your small intestine.

Variations in bowel flora composition

Even minor disturbances in your gut microflora can lead to significant changes in gut function, including gas production.


Fats in food – slow down the transport of food, gas and liquid in the intestines.

Fibre – can also slow the passage of gas through the intestine and feed our bacteria, which then produce gas. Fibre however is important for not only your digestion but general health, so don’t stop eating it.

Sugars that are commonly digested poorly and malabsorbed are lactose (found in milk and lacking in people of ethnic origins other than Northern and Western European), sorbitol (sweetener found in low calorie foods and ‘sugarless’ chewing gums) and fructose (high fructose in corn syrup, also in some fruits and vegetables).

Beans & legumes can also result in increased production of hydrogen & carbon dioxide by colonic bacteria.

Physical obstruction (blockage)

Anywhere from the stomach to the rectum.

Functional obstruction

Poor functioning of the muscles of the stomach ore intestines.


Bloating is often a side effect of many drugs including ibuprofen, statins, antifungals and laxatives.

What can you do?

Ensure healthy eating habits – eat slowly and consciously and avoid swallowing too much air.

Drink a cup of peppermint tea or chamomile tea at night. Peppermint tea is not recommended if you suffer from GERD or severe reflux. Also have your cuppa at least 2 hours away from medication and after meals.

Mild physical activity – shown to enhance gas clearance. A good posture will also help with bloating.

Keep a food dairy and record your symptoms to find out what food could be contributing to excess gas. Do not restrict your diet from healthy foods, as you want to feed your gut bacteria. Instead ensure to have a good digestive function.


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