Bloating is a common symptom in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), particularly in women. Bloating may be the only symptom for some people with IBS and although not typically serious is quite discomforting.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that affects the large intestine, or colon. Its symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. IBS is common, affecting up to 20 percent—one in five—of adults in the United States. More women suffer from IBS than men. There is currently no known cause of IBS, but, according to research, it’s probably the result of sensitivity of the large intestine to certain foods and stress. Effective treatments for IBS are very much needed.
Although no specific therapy has been proven to be of definitive benefit in relieving the symptoms of bloating some dietary and life-style factors may help reduce bloating.
Regular exercise. Exercise improves bowel function and is recommended. As well as formal exercise sessions, movement during work time may be important. Many jobs involve sitting for much if not all of a day. Long periods in this position may worsen bloating regular breaks to “stretch the legs," and perhaps therefore the abdomen, may help.
Small regular meals. Don't avoid eating during the day, followed by a large evening meal. Avoid rushed eating, but rather set aside 30 minutes to eat in order to “digest” your meal. Reduce fat consumption. A varied diet low in saturated fats may help.
Reduce fiber consumption. Unless constipated (see below) do not add excess bran, fruit or fiber to your diet as these products can induce bloating. A sensible dietary fiber intake is suggested.
Avoid constipation. Bloating is often worse in severe constipation, and a regular bowel habit can help reduce it. There is clearly a problem in avoiding constipation while reducing consumption of bran and bulking agents. Nevertheless, with some experimentation a happy medium can usually be found.
Dietary and life-style measures may help to reduce bloating, although a complete cure for the symptom is perhaps asking too much. These tips, combined with your personal physician’s advice and medications he may prescribe, might at least make the bloating more bearable and thus less of an interference with other activities.