battling the bloat
Thursday, 26th March 2015
my experience with bloating and tips on dealing with it once and for all!
I feel as though bloating has become such a common thing these days. So many of us experience and struggle with bloating on a regular basis, it only makes sense that we would want to know how other people have dealt with it, in the hope of finally finding some relief ourselves! Hopefully by writing this post I can help some of you out there, who are struggling with the horrible burden that is bloating.
It's safe to say that I have been battling with bloating for a few years now. Bloating was always so sporadic for me, one day I'd be feeling fit and lean and the next I'd feel like a balloon about to burst! However there never seemed to be any rhyme or reason to my bloating and so I simply dealt with it when it came along and otherwise didn't think too much of it.
But oh boy, did that change!
One night in late September last year at about 8pm, just after dinner, I suddenly started to experience an excruciating stabbing pain in my stomach. It quite literally felt like someone had stabbed a long stick into my belly button. As I'm someone who often deals with pain in my body on an almost daily basis, at first I thought nothing of it and simply sat on the couch and tried to distract myself with some T.V. But the pain did not go away, or even subside in the slightest. Finally after 4 hours of agony with an extremely bloated belly and tears streaming down my face I decided it was time to do something about it. We called the doctor on call, and after explaining my symptoms, he suggested I be seen by a doctor straight away. (At this point I may have also made the mistake of googling my symptoms and had convinced myself I had appendicitis - making me rather anxious!) And so at midnight, mum drove me to the emergency room.
I was admitted almost immediately, as I wasn't the only one concerned about the possibility of my appendix about to explode. After 2 X-rays, a blood test and a urine samples they decided that I did not have appendicitis, however they also couldn't confirm what I did have. At 4 am I was finally allowed to go home, with a diagnosis of possible issues with my colon/ digestive system and was told to simply keep an eye on my symptoms.
I was absolutely exhausted after the whole ordeal and slept in until late that next day.. At which point I took this photo.
I was so shocked to look in the mirror and see possibly the flattest stomach I have ever had in my life, to the point where it was almost con-caved (picture does not do it justice). I felt quite frail and I could feel my hipbones sticking out at the front. When only a few hours before I had looked a few months pregnant (not even kidding I was asked like 8 times at the hospital). But the real shocking moment was that 15 hours later I took these photos.. (keep in mind I haven't eaten anything yet due to no appetite - so not a food baby)
I am is still blown away by how much quickly my body could fluctuate! I look as though I have gained10kg overnight! It was in that moment that I knew there was something wrong with my stomach and I decided to get to the bottom of it!
I went back to the doctor a few days later as I was still experiencing a bit of the same stabbing pain and I was incredibly uncomfortable. It was decided that since I didn't know what was causing my digestion issues (extremely uncomfortable bloating, pain, no appetite) I should eliminate the foods most likely to cause such symptoms from my diet. And so I began the FODMAP diet (Google can explain this better than I can).
For a whole month I avoided anything with high amounts of fructans, galactans, polyols, fructose or lactose.. And I was even more missable than before. I felt so confused about what I was eating because I was so used to a diet full of fruits and vegetables.. And suddenly I wasn't allowed to eat that way any more? I would stress at night about what I was going to eat for breakfast the next morning and one day I even walked into the kitchen and cried because I just didn't know what I could eat!
On top of all of this.. I wasn't feeling any better. By this point, the best way I can describe how I felt.. Was defeated. I felt as though my stomach had just given up and turned it self off. I had no natural digestion and was on a daily dose of sugar laxative, my skin was the worst it has ever been and I was on an incredibly restrictive diet that wasn't improving my situation. I also had little to no appetite and so in turn had zero energy. I would crash by about 1pm each day and be physically unable to do much more than sit on the couch for the rest of the day. At one point Mum made the passing comment that 'it must be hard being a motivational health blogger when you're not even feeling your regular healthy self' and I burst into tears.. Well no, to be honest.. I completely broke down. I was doing all the right things, eating healthy, exercising, giving my body rest when it needed, and yet still I felt so sick? It wasn't fair and the worst part was I didn't know why this was happening to me!
This went on for months, some days were better than others and some days were down right horrible, but I just kept trying to find a solution. Eventually I found a few little tricks that helped keep my bloating at bay, I ditched the FODMAP diet and started to get back into the lifestyle that I knew had worked so well for me in the past. (eating habits and information found in E-BOOK here). Until one day I woke up with a flat stomach and realised I hadn't consciously considered my bloating or digestion in weeks. It seemed to have resolved itself.
Now even though I never really got to the bottom of it or found out what caused my digestive system to completely stop working.. I do have my theories. I'm the sort of person that when I stress, rather than realising I'm stressed.. I just shut down, my skin breaks out, I avoid my problems and completely struggle to function. My body does the same. If it doesn't like something, it protects itself by shutting it off. For this reason, I have a hip flexor that refuses to communicate with the rest of my body and often have to stretch my leg muscles on a neural level because my nervous system decides block off certain muscles when it doesn't like something. I believe that that's exactly what my stomach decided to do. I must have gone through an extremely stressful period in my life and the way my body decided to communicate that to me, was by shutting down my digestive system. It didn't like what was going on and so it just up and quit on me.
The one good thing that has come from all of this, is that I now have a massive appreciation for a healthy and functioning body! And I have also learnt a few things along the way that help to keep bloating at bay.
1) drink lots of water!
Sometimes bloating can just be your body retaining water because its worried it's not getting enough or might not get anymore
2) trial and error
try eliminating things such as fructose, gluten and lactose and gradually reintroducing them one at a time to see if they are playing a role in irritating your stomach. For example after following the FODMAP diet, I am now aware that apples and dates aren't really my friends.
3) keep a diary
I was making notes every single day of how I felt morning and night, what I was eating, doing during the day, writing down anything I could think of to try and draw some connection as to why I was bloating
4) avoid fake sugars
The rule of thumb for me was to avoid anything ending in 'ol' - things like sorbitol and xylitol are the main ingredients in low calorie sweeteners and are linked to bloating and upset stomachs.
5) don't eat too much salt
A diet high in sodium can cause your body to retain water.
6) eat more yoghurt
The natural bacteria is so good for your gut health and helps to restore balance to your digestive system. Probiotics are also great (I take one every single day), as are fermented foods if you can handle them.
7) drink more tea
It helps that I'm already a big tea drinker but since my bout with bloating, I will have a massive mug of peppermint tea every night before bed, without fail.
This is simply my story and my experience with bloating. Unfortunately bloating can be a symptom for so many underlying problems, so please do not just assume you're bloating for the same reasons I was. For example; my mum had quite similar symptoms last year, she went to the doc and found out she had endometriosis and had to have a cyst removed from her ovaries! My point is that bloating can we harmless and handled at home but it can also be a sign of something more serious! If your bloating doesn't go away after a week or so please consult a professional.
* cover image - 'mb_bloativation' drawn by Michael Loder