Bloating, an uncomfortable sensation of fullness and distension in the abdomen, is a common ailment experienced by many. Perhaps you feel bloated after eating very little; or in the morning your stomach appears flat, however by the end of the day, your stomach is enlarged or distended. Your belly will feel full and sometimes stiff or tight, making it difficult to feel comfortable no matter how you are sitting or moving.
Bloating can ultimately impact your posture and movement, causing additional health conerns further down the line. In this article, we will go more in detail on the health implications of bloating, as well as the approach from the lens of Functional Patterns when dealing with bloating. Addressing bloating isn't just about immediate relief; to resolve persistent bloating, this process involves considering how you interact with the world around you, such as your eating habits, how you address stress, and other pertinent behaviors that contribute to your state of health.
Bloating and the Long-Term Consequences to Consider
Think of your stomach as a balloon, in which it can expand as it receives input of air, and retracts with the output of air. When air enters, this increases the pressure inside the balloon - Too much air, and the balloon will burst. Luckily, our bodies are built to handle the forces of pressure, but there are consequences to letting that pressure build up over time as a result of constantly filling up and deflating. When bloated, our gut is pushing against other organs and our muscles, the tissues that hold our structure together. When the stomach region bloats, it pushes everything else to make way: And then when it retracts, not everything that was moved to create room will instantly cinch back into place. This is the detriment of bloating, even though our stomachs will retract or regulate, the surrounding systems will be changed. After a while of continuously inflating from being bloated, your body will maladapt and the tissues won’t be able to restore their positions. Below is a breakdown of how bloating will ultimately affect your abdominal muscles:
- Reduced Muscle Engagement: Bloating can cause discomfort, making it challenging to engage the abdominal muscles fully. The sensation of fullness or distension might deter individuals from actively contracting or engaging their abdominal muscles.
- Postural Changes: Bloating can influence posture. The abdomen might protrude or feel tender, altering the natural posture and potentially affecting the engagement of core muscles. Poor posture due to bloating might also lead to weakened engagement of abdominal muscles.
- Discomfort during Exercise: When experiencing bloating, certain exercises that typically engage the core might feel uncomfortable or even exacerbate the bloating sensation. This discomfort can discourage individuals from engaging their abdominal muscles effectively during exercise.
- Impact on Breathing: Severe bloating might interfere with deep breathing and diaphragmatic movement. Proper breathing techniques often involve engaging the abdominal muscles, but bloating can restrict this engagement due to discomfort or tightness in the abdomen.
Before and after results of a client dealing with bloating and lower back pain by HBS Practitioner Jon
Getting to the Root Causes of Bloating
If you have been dealing with feeling bloated after eating for a while or even most of your life, chances are you feel like you’ve tried everything and are fed up with trying things that don’t work. From pharmaceutical medications and holistic remedies, to abdominal massages and spiritual healing services, there is so much out there that promises to help with digestive issues, claiming bloating is caused by stress or high histamine foods, etc.
The question we ask at Functional Patterns is: Why can’t the body cope with the stress, and digest our nutrients without resulting in bloating? Why wouldn’t the body be able to adapt to high histamine foods if you are otherwise making choices that would support a high functioning gut? And this line of questioning keeps going and going until eventually what we come back to is that the body works as a system, and you cannot get caught up on the symptom as an isolated experience. There’s a high chance that bloating isn’t the only symptom, and if you go deeper into observing your health from an objective standpoint, you will see more going on.
While inflammation, hormonal changes and microbiota imbalances can be seen as the root cause for feeling bloating after eating, we actually see these as more symptoms. As you get deeper, all the way to the cellular level, we can start to see that bloating and all the other symptoms experienced are actually the cells misbehaving, or cellular dysfunction.
The best way to take control of your internal environment is to start making decisions in everyday life which will allow you to gain control of your health and wellbeing. What that can look like is setting up more rigid boundaries with food, relationships, work load, and prioritizing participation in activities that give you more rest and peace so that you can effectively overcome the challenges and pitfalls of life.
Before and after results with a client dealing with bloating by HBS practitioner Angelika
Addressing the Behavior behind Bloating
Even if you are just starting out with addressing persistent bloating, there are some helpful tips to consider. Feeling bloated from eating doesn’t have to be a life-long ailment, but quick fixes such as supplements or medications aren’t sustainable solutions. There are adjustments to be considered around our behaviors, our decision-making paths, leading up to bloating. Below are some helpful tips to start out with:
- Identify trigger foods: Eliminate foods that you know cause adverse side-effects. If you are not sure, you may need to eliminate certain foods by following the FODMAP diet, and reintroduce foods one at a time to determine their effect.
- Eat less: Smaller meals, or less snacking between meals, allows your body to digest food. If you consume too much or constantly eat throughout the day, you are triggering your gut to hold off on digestion.
- Fasting before bedtime: Withhold from eating at least 2-3 hours prior to sleep to allow digestion and obtain better sleep quality.
Establishing a Calm Focus
- Spending adequate time in the sun and/or in nature: Getting morning or afternoon sun, or being outside in a safe and peaceful environment, can help regulate your cortisol levels, alleviating stress and balancing your hormones so your body can rest and digest.
- Be selective about what situations you spend your energy on: Learn how to prioritize what needs your attention, and what you can delegate to others. Taking on more work than you should when there are others that can help can give you unnecessary stress.
- Focus creating an environment in which you can function best: Healing your body from persistent bloating doesn’t mean you just follow the tips above to the T. You must modify your environment so that you can even make the changes necessary to help yourself. If you are stressed by a messy room, annoyed by your neighbors, unfocused when you’re around your kids, consider how you can take control of these scenarios first before you try to change your diet, resting habits, or other lifestyle decisions.
Training the Body based on the FP First Four
- Planks: Planks are a static exercise in which you can work on core engagement while holding a neutral spine, translating to how you would want the core to feel and work when standing up.
- Contralateral Step Presses: After establishing what the core should feel like when activated, now you can start trying to implement this core engagement while moving the body contralaterally, mimicking how we walk and run.
- Ball Slams: To further test your core engagement, you want to see if you are able to target your abdomen while going through various ranges of motion such as a ball slam. If there isn’t much core, you restart this process back to the plank.
Before and after results with a client struggling with bloating and weight loss by HBS practitioner Mini
Before and after results with a client struggling with bloating by HBS Practitioner Alicia
For additional information on addressing bloating from a multifaceted approach, take a look at the following Functional Patterns articles:
Bloating is a symptom, not a condition. When addressing bloating, we take a multi-facted approach by looking at behaviors, including how to address our relationships around food, rest, and movement. Consistency and patience are key when implementing these changes, as individual responses may vary. It's essential to identify specific triggers and adopt new behaviors that suit your body's needs for long-term relief from bloating.