If your symptoms of bloat are not timed with your menstrual cycle (or you’re a male or a post-menopausal woman), then gastrointestinal issues are the likely cause. And there can be many, from occasional gas to more chronic conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome
, gluten sensitivity
or lactose intolerance (see signs of lactose intolerance
Richard Sundberg, M.D., a gastroenterologist on the staff of California Pacific Medical Center in San FranciscoOpens new window
, notes that certain foods do, indeed, tend to produce more gas. That little ditty about beans is based on facts. “Most of our food is broken down in the small intestine, but sometimes food moves into the colon not fully digested, and is metabolized there, producing gas and causing discomfort.”
Lactose intolerance exists when the enzymes needed to digest milk and milk products is lacking. This family of enzymes, known as lactase, is most prominent when we’re babies -- when milk is intended to be our primary food. As we grow older, our lactase levels fade. Some ethnic groups also tend to produce less of the enzyme (see Lactose Intolerance in the Genes
Dr. Sundberg says other types of food intolerance can prompt bloat as well, including sensitivity to the protein gluten, which is found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. Other interesting sources of gas can include legumes (beans, peas and peanuts) and Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener used in many things, including candy and gum.
Another surprising source of bloating discomfort can simply be swallowed air. “If you chew gum, drink through a straw, or smoke, you are bringing an extra amount of air into the digestive system.”So, should I see a doctor if I have gas and bloating?
Dr. Sundberg says that symptoms after a meal, or late in the day, are probably related to your diet. A good home remedy for sorting out food intolerance is to remove a category of food (dairy products, or wheat) for a week, and then reintroduce it. “If that food was your problem, it should become very clear to you,” says Dr. Sundberg. For example, you can try this gluten free diet plan
for one week and see if you notice an improvement in your symptoms.
If your discomfort is severe and persistent – or you notice it first thing in the morning, upon awakening – it would be wise to see your doctor.