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Bloating

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Bloating is generally caused by gas (and sometimes fluid), and it usually ebbs and flows—you may have a flat abdomen in the morning but by evening, you look and feel 6 months pregnant. Bloating has become a rapidly increasing epidemic. For many, the symptoms are daily and relentless, but even when symptoms aren’t severe, they can still be extremely bothersome. There are lots of different causes of bloating, and one of the commonest is excessive sodium intake, which causes you to retain water not just in your abdomen but throughout your body. A study published last month in the American Journal of Gastroenterology looked at data from the DASH-Sodium trial. 412 participants consumed three levels of sodium intake – 50, 100, and 150 mmol/day. Each intake was consumed over a 30-day period with 5 days of rest between each period. Presence of bloating was recorded at baseline and after each…

Did you know there’s a right and a wrong way to sit on the toilet? Most people don’t realize that their position when having a bowel movement is key to solving lots of GI complaints like bloating, gas, and constipation. The right position can also help improve more serious GI conditions such as diverticulosis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Squatting is the most natural stance for giving birth and, it turns out, for having a bowel movement. A squatting position helps to straighten the anorectal angle and keeps the knees pressed up against the abdomen, increasing intra-abdominal pressure, which helps to push the stool out. Over a billion people throughout the world don’t have access to toilets and squat over a hole instead. Interestingly, people in countries where squatting is the norm have much less constipation and colon cancer, probably because their diets, like their…

Allen: I experience constipation and bloat more than I feel regular and normal. I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle, with the exception of enjoying a few alcoholic beverages and eating out on weekends. I have a very well rounded diet filled with veggies, fruits, grains, and protein. I exercise 5-6 days a week. I avoid dairy as much as possible and eat red meat once a week at most. I drink a tablespoon of Metamucil every day and take a magnesium citrate supplement (200 mg). It helps, but does not seem to be a cure. Taking probiotics didn’t seem to do much either. I’m extremely frustrated and it’s causing a lot of unnecessary stress in my life. Should I see a gastroenterologist? Dr. Chutkan: Allen, bloating and constipation are probably the two most common complaints I see in my practice, so you’re not alone! And while some may believe these are…

Anne is a wisp of a woman who’s been terribly bloated and constipated for as long as she can remember. Two tablespoons of psyllium husk (soluble plant fiber that adds bulk to the stool) and one tablespoon of ground flax seed in the morning, followed by two capfuls of a polyethylene glycol osmotic cathartic (a powerful laxative), plus three stool softeners and six prunes at night—and she still has difficulty having a bowel movement. She’s had several visits to the emergency room after nearly passing out from abdominal pain. Each time, the main finding on X-ray was a colon full to the brim with stool. We take a dietary history. Impeccable: she’s quasi-vegetarian and her standard lunch is brown rice, lentils, and kale. She’s two years shy of being the age for colon cancer screening, and given the findings on X-ray, I recommend a colonoscopy to make sure there’s no…

Did you know women have longer colons than men – on average four to five inches longer? That may not seem like much but it can cause a lot of extra looping and twists and turns – what I like to call: The Voluptuous Venus Colon. Women also have a wider, deeper, pelvis in order to accommodate a fetus during pregnancy. This means that in women, the colon is located low down in the pelvis, where it has to compete for space with the reproductive organs. Men have a narrower pelvis so most of their colon ends up in the roomier abdominal area, and when it is in the pelvis, the only other thing taking up space there is a very small prostate gland. Men also have higher levels of testosterone, which causes their abdominal muscles to be tighter and stronger. In women, lower testosterone levels means a weaker abdominal wall…

Because food is such effective medicine, there are very few supplements I actually recommend. But over the last 20+ years of working with patients, I find myself returning to a handful of products that work well with minimal side effects. Ground psyllium husk is one of those. Psyllium is a form of water-soluble plant fiber with prebiotic effects that can help alleviate symptoms of many different digestive conditions by encouraging healthy bowel movements. Psyllium forms a viscous gel in the intestine to bulk the stool and move the products of digestion through in a timely fashion. You can think of psyllium like a broom that sweeps debris out of your colon and keeps things moving through efficiently. Psyllium is most helpful for constipation, but it also works for conditions where incomplete evacuation can be a problem, including dysbiosis (gut bacteria imbalance), irritable bowel syndrome (particularly in constipation-predominant IBS), parasites (helps to remove…