Unpleasant as it is to admit, everyone experiences stomach gas, bloating, pain, and flatulence throughout their life. These annoying and oftentimes embarrassing conditions can be caused by anything from a poor diet and dietary choices to swallowed air to anxiety to improper digestion. A combination of understanding your body’s reaction to dietary choices and lifestyle choices and employing natural remedies will provide relief, sometimes immediate, as well as curb any future bouts of discomfort.
Stomach gas and flatulence, often resulting in bloating, are normal body functions. Most people produce and pass a significant amount of stomach gas every twenty-four hours. Stomach gas, a result of swallowing large amounts of air, is due to a combination of eating and drinking too quickly, inefficient breathing patterns, anxiety, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages. While most of this gas is relieved through belching (expelling gas from the stomach out through the mouth) and flatulence (expelling gas from the stomach out through the anus), the gas that is not expelled remains in the abdomen. This housed gas creates a sensation of bloat. Bloat is a subjective sensation that can be described as tightness, swelling, a feeling of fullness, or simply an increase in the diameter of the stomach. The sensation, how it feels, and how it is therefore described, is in the eye of the beholder. It is interesting to note that because feeling bloated is subjective and may not necessarily fit into the medical definition of bloating—gas trapped in the abdomen, unable to be released through belching or flatulence—the antidotes to bloating vary.
Critical to relieving your symptoms is awareness of your body. Awareness can be as simple as noticing when and how you are experiencing the sensations associated with the symptom. Keeping a journal on paper, on your phone, or even just mentally may help you pinpoint some answers. When feeling bloated, stop to observe and describe the sensations you are feeling. Ask yourself questions regarding tension, like “does my stomach feel more pressure or less pressure compared to the rest of my body?” and sensation like “does my stomach feel full or empty?” Once you have described the tension and sensation either on paper or to yourself, notice the time of day and the duration you feel the discomfort. For example, you may feel bloating for a few hours after eating lunch every day or when you wake in the morning and then consistently throughout the day. After a few days of keeping a journal, notice the patterns and make adjustments accordingly. If you feel bloated after your afternoon Diet Coke, you may want to cut back or replace the beverage with soda water or plain water to see if you feel a difference in your stomach. Be your own best sleuth!
While investigating the relationship between your body, food intake, and lifestyle choices, try home remedies for bloating to relieve the discomfort.
- Chew fennel seeds. Chewing fennel seeds, about 7 grams (or 1½ teaspoons) provides almost immediate relief from gas and bloating without any side effects. The magic in fennel seeds is the phytonutrient compound anethole, which is thought to relax muscles in the digestive tract to allow trapped gas to pass. Fennel seeds can be chewed when experiencing any of these symptoms or chewed regularly to prevent such symptoms. As an added bonus, fennel seeds also freshen the breath!
- Stay relaxed. Inefficient breathing patterns cause us to gulp excessive air into our system, causing air to stay trapped in the body and ultimately cause bloating. When feeling anxious or upset, stop to notice your breath. Does it sound or feel fast? Are you holding your breath? Try a simple four-part breathing technique to regulate your rhythm—inhale, pause, exhale, pause.
- Chew your food. One of the most common and easy-to-resolve causes of abdominal bloating is our faster-than-ever eating patterns. Count how many times you chew your food before swallowing. Chances are that you swallow too soon. Try to chew each bite of food ten times before swallowing. Once you’ve mastered that, try to chew each bite fifteen times before swallowing. Notice how chewing your food not only allows you to enjoy what is in your mouth but also slows down and relaxes each meal.