We have all experienced gas and bloating to some extent, but many of us experience it on a regular basis. The trouble is, gas and bloating are symptoms of a wide range of digestive conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, Candida overgrowth, dysbiosis, indigestion, and food sensitivities are common causes of gas and bloating. But how can you tell which of these you might have? And what if it’s something more serious? I’ll help you get the bottom of your gas and bloating with a few tips.
Of all the gas and bloating causes, lactose intolerance may be the easiest to identify. Do you get gassy and bloated after eating dairy? Your body probably doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, the sugar found in milk. As a result, the bacteria in your gut go wild feeding on lactose, giving off gases that cause the rumbling in your belly. Some people only react to dairy foods higher in lactose, like ice cream, milk, or soft cheeses, and may be able to tolerate hard cheeses or yogurt. Either way, you might benefit from taking the digestive enzyme lactase. You can also purchase lactose-free dairy products, which are becoming more available.
Indigestion is often associated with heartburn, because it starts in the stomach. Similar to lactose intolerance, your body may not produce enough enzymes to break down a variety of different foods. Amylase enzymes help break down carbohydrates, protease enzymes help break down proteins, and lipase enzymes help break down fat. If your body doesn’t produce enough of any of these enzymes, you won’t break down your foods properly, and the bacteria in your gut will have access to a wider variety of foods (your waste is food for your bacteria) than usual, creating a similar effect as occurs with lactose intolerance. It’s basically the same process, just with different enzymes. Try taking digestive enzymes with your meals to see if that eases your symptoms.
You may also not be producing enough stomach acid. Contrary to what many conventional doctors will tell you, heartburn may actually be the result of not enough stomach acid. Drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in some water every morning helps many people with this issue. An HCl supplement with your meals might also help.
Food sensitivities unrelated to enzyme production can also give you symptoms of gas and bloating. Certain foods can trigger digestive reactions in sensitive individuals. Not quite a full-blown allergy, food sensitivities trigger a delayed immune reaction that creates inflammation in your gut, disturbs your gut bacterial balance, and results in digestive symptoms that include gas and bloating. Abdominal pains may or may not accompany these food sensitivities. Some people can have food sensitivities and experience no digestive symptoms whatsoever, but still have systemic effects of inflammation in other areas of the body. Food sensitivity tests are available to help you uncover foods sensitivities. An elimination diet can also help. Common foods to avoid include gluten, dairy, corn, peanuts, soy, nuts, nightshades, and foods containing artificial colors or flavors.
Those gut bacteria I keep mentioning are very affected by the foods you eat. A high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet can disturb the balance of bacteria in your gut. They are also affected by certain medications, like antibiotics and proton-pump inhibitors. A high amount of stress can also shift the balance of bacteria in your gut. Even the way you were born and whether or not you were breastfed can set the stage for a less-than-healthy gut bacteria balance. The result? More gas and bloating than the average person. A Comprehensive Stool Analysis can help you determine whether you have dysbiosis.
One particular type of dysbiosis is Candida overgrowth, which is just as it sounds—an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans in the gut. Candida albicans exists naturally at low levels in many people. But when it starts multiplying and taking over the natural balance of bacteria that normally keep it in check, it can become problematic. If in addition to your gas and bloating, you crave sugar and carbohydrate foods, have frequent yeast infections, and maybe even have a tongue coated in white film, you might have Candida overgrowth. There are a host of other symptoms of Candida overgrowth, many that mimic symptoms of other conditions. A Comprehensive Stool Analysis can help you identify Candida overgrowth. You can also take the questionnaire in my book Gut Solutions to help determine whether Candida overgrowth is an issue for you. If you are struggling with Candida, in addition to my supplement recommendations below, try Nutribiotic’s grapefruit seed extract.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is, itself, a tricky condition to diagnose. It tends to be a diagnosis by elimination. More serious conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis) or bowel cancer, are ruled out first. If no other causes are determined, you’re left with a diagnosis of IBS, unless your doctor tells you that your symptoms are all in your head. (Get a new doctor if that’s the case. An antidepressant won’t fix your gut.) Many of the conditions I’ve already discussed in this blog could be to blame for IBS symptoms, so if you haven’t looked into them, do so.