Stomach bloating describes what happens when too much gas clogs up the gastrointestinal tract. It typically follows a blowout meal. Cutting out gassy foods known to trigger the condition may address the issue. If this fails, natural supplements may help to restore the gut balance and beat the bloat.
According to Dr Brewer of Healthspan, there are five supplements that could help bloating.
As Dr Brewer explained: “Symptoms may be related to insufficient bile production in the liver which is needed to emulsify dietary fats before they can be absorbed.
Extracts of globe artichoke stimulate bile production and can quickly relieve bloating without side effects, she said.
“It is also helpful when bloating and indigestion are due to overly spicy food or drinking alcohol, said Dr Brewer.
As Dr Brewer reported, one study found artichoke extract particularly helpful in treating people with irritable bowel syndrome. When participants took artichoke extracts with meals, their symptoms of bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain and constipation significantly improved over a six-week period.
Good benefits were noticed within 10 days and 96 per cent rated artichoke extracts as better than or at least equal to previous treatments for their symptom.
“Artichoke also helps to reduce fatty infiltration of the liver and to reduce cholesterol synthesis,” she said.
She added: “Usual doses are 360 mg two or three times daily with food. Select a supplement standardised to provide a guaranteed amount of the key active ingredient – cynarin.”
Probiotic supplements provide specific strains of beneficial digestive bacteria (usually Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species) that have beneficial effects on digestion to reduce bloating, explained Dr Brewer.
“As well as aiding the breakdown of food, probiotic bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which are transported to the liver to have positive effects on bile production, fat digestion and cholesterol metabolism,” she said.
Evidence has found taking probiotics for four to 26 weeks can improve IBS symptoms, including bloating, when used alone or in combination with standard anti-spasmodic medications.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that probiotics used to manage IBS should be taken for at least four weeks.
“Select a supplement providing a known quantity of probiotic bacteria, such as five to 50 billion colony forming units (CFU) per dose, consisting of at least three different strains,” advised Dr Brewer.
According to Dr Brewer: “Peppermint oil improves digestion and relieve bloating by increasing gastric emptying, stimulating secretion of digestive juices and bile.
“It also has a relaxing effect on the intestinal tract to relieve spasm.”
Peppermint is somewhat of a panacea for gut health, and can be taken to relieve bloating, indigestion, colic, intestinal cramps, flatulence, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome, explained Dr Brewer.
The results from 12 clinical trials, involving almost 600 people, explored the effectiveness of peppermint oil, fibre or antispasmodic drugs (eg mebeverine, hyoscine, otilonium bromide) in treating IBS.
The number needed to treat to prevent one patient having persistent symptoms was 11 for fibre, five for antispasmodics, and 2.5 for peppermint oil, making it the most effective treatment.
“A person can drink peppermint tea as required, or take a peppermint capsule (100mg) per day,” Dr Brewer explained.
According to Dr Brewer, magnesium is a natural relaxant and constipation can sometimes be related to low magnesium levels and this can cause bloating.
“Fill up on magnesium-rich green leafy veg, beans, and lentils, or take a supplement and you can also use try bathing in Epsom salts – your body can absorb the magnesium in the salts through your skin,” she advised.
As Dr Brewer highlighted, overindulgence is a common trigger of bloating.
How does Dr Brewer counter this? “I take a tablespoonful of silicons acid gel before bed-time to help guard against indigestion symptoms such as heartburn keeping me awake at night.”
She added: “It is also helpful for night-time reflux which can occur when reclined, especially after drinking alcohol which can relax the sphincter muscles at the entrance to the stomach.
“Allowing some of the acidic contents to leak back into the throat whilst asleep, and without you realising until a tell-tale sore throat may give it away in the morning.”
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