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How to beat bloating
Culprits, causes and cures for tackling gas

By Liza Finlay
First published in Chatelaine’s July 2003 issue.
© Rogers Publishing Ltd.

Can’t fasten the clasp on your khakis? You might blame it on retaining water, but the truth is that most bloating is caused by gas, says Dr. Alan Cockeram, a Saint John, N.B., gastroenterologist. Unpassed gas in your abdomen and intestinal tract can make your stomach feel like a balloon. What causes it and how can you deflate? Here are four common culprits and cures, plus strategies on how to deal with water retention when it really is the problem:

Culprit Cause Cure
Last night’s bean burrito When the large intestine breaks down fibre-rich foods such as beans, which contain raffinose sugars, it sometimes generates large amounts of gas. • Keep eating. The body adapts to raffinose sugars with practice.
• Try Beano, which contains an enzyme that eases digestion, available at drugstores.
Swallowing air Eating too quickly, overindulging in carbonated beverages and excessive gum chewing all fill the belly. • Use a straw to cut down on air intake from soft drinks.
• Put your knife and fork down while chewing to slow down meals and reduce air intake.
• Swap your gum for mints.
Your drive-thru diet A diet that is low in fibre creates hardened stools, which may cause constipation. Insufficient fluid intake and inactivity can also make you constipated. • Drink more water and hit the gym.

• Bulk up on fibre: enjoy grainy breads, fresh and dried fruit and vegetables.

• A laxative may be a quick fix, but talk to a doctor before long-term use–it may have serious consequences, such as inflammation of the small intestine.

Stress Stress may aggravate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is associated with intestinal contractions during digestion that are too intense or not intense enough, causing cramping, diarrhea or constipation and gas. • Move to a remote tropical island far away from your boss. Not an option? Try to find practical ways to reduce stress.
• Medication may provide some relief for serious IBS.
• Eat more fibre to bulk and soften stools, easing their passage.
That time of the month When you’re premenstrual, hormonal fluctuations and caving into salty food cravings can cause water retention. • Eat natural diuretics such as watermelon, cucumber and celery.
• In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe a diuretic pill.
• Wait it out, wear loose clothing and know that this, too, shall pass.

  • Last night’s bean burrito
  • Swallowing air
  • Your drive-thru diet
  • Stress
  • That time of the month
  • Stop blood clots
  • Swap tips in our Health forum

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