BLOATING is something we all experience from time to time - especially after a large Sunday lunch.
And while usually it goes away on its own, without much trouble, it shouldn’t always be brushed aside as “normal”.
Experts have described the signs that your swollen tummy is verging on worrying.
Bloating is when the stomach feels bigger and sometimes painful or uncomfortable. You may fart more than usual or have gurgling sounds from the belly.
A bit of bloating now and again is to be expected, said Sammie Gill, a gastroenterology dietitian and research and development manager at probiotic supplement brand Symprove.
For example, women are more likely to experience bloating around the time of their period as a result of fluctuations in hormones.
Sammie told The Sun: “There are several reasons why bloating occurs.
"It may be the gas produced by our gut microbes, it may simply be down to the volume of food/fluid you’ve consumed, or it may be due to constipation.”
The most common reason for bloating - which you can help yourself - is having a lot of gas in the gut.
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This can be caused by some food and drinks, such as some vegetables and fizzy drinks, or by swallowing air if you eat too quickly.
Sammie said: “There are different types of bloating – for example, bloating that is continuous or bloating that comes and goes during the day.
“The former is less common. The latter can often be managed through diet and lifestyle.”
Watch out for…
There are four signs that Sammie noted as a reason to see your GP.
She said: “If you notice the bloating you’re experiencing is continuous, painful, excessive and/or is affecting you on a day-to-day basis, pop along and visit your GP.
“It’s not something you should have to put up with, and the good news is that there are many strategies available to help alleviate it.”
On a more serious note, there can be some serious underlying health issues at the root of bloating.
Both tend to come with other symptoms, such as constipation or diarrhoea.
Generally speaking, without a cause you shouldn't really be bloated, so if that is the case you need to get medical attentionDr Ahmed El Muntasar
When excessive bloating is paired with symptoms such as pain, altered toilet habits, blood in poo, or unintended weight loss, it could signal bowel cancer.
Meanwhile, Dr Ahmed El Muntasar, GP and The Aesthetic Doctor, said: “The thing that we worry about is any cancers that are associated.
"For females, the one that you worry about is ovarian cancer.
“Ovarian cancer in women requires a visit from the doctor to examine and perform a blood test called CA125 and that's usually to check for ovarian malignancy.”
Dr Ahmed said bloating usually occurs due to the 5 F’s; “fat, flatus (gas), foetus (pregnancy), faeces (needing to go for a poo) or fluids accumulating in the abdomen”.
He added: “Generally speaking, without a cause you shouldn't really be bloated, so if that is the case you need to get medical attention.”
Both experts said women tend to suffer from bloating more than men.
Dr Ahmed said: “Bloating is so much less common in men than women, it's very much a female thing.
“I think in the last eight years I've probably seen maybe three or four men that have bloating and that was related to liver failure because of excessive alcohol consumption, but in women I see it all the time.”
Helpful tips for people who bloat
Because bloating can sometimes be a by-product of what and how we eat, Sammie said: “Chew your food well and slowly.
“Eat mindfully without distractions such as your phone, laptop or TV.”
Sammie said avoid chewing gum, foods with added sweeteners, and carbonated drinks in order to beat the bloat.
“Avoid drinking large volumes of fruit juices or fruit smoothies,” she said.
“Eat smaller regular meals throughout the day, rather than large volumes of food in one go.
“Rule out food intolerances with the support of a dietitian or registered nutritionist.”
Stress can be a cause of bloating, and generally holding onto body fat round the middle.
“Try and relax the gut-brain axis via meditation, yoga, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, or apps such as HeadSpace or Calm,” Sammie said.
“Try abdominal massage or gentle exercises (walking) or stretching.”
A little gentle exercise every day can help keep the bowels moving regularly and reduce the severity of bloating symptoms.