Vitamins To Help Bloating

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Overview

Bloating is a condition in which an individual’s stomach feels tight, painful or full. It is a very common symptom often reported by most patients who have irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal disorders, and it is also experienced by around 25% of the general population. In this article, we will discuss the causes of bloating, what you can do to prevent it, and how vitamins may come in helpful to combat abdominal discomfort.

About Bloating

What Causes Bloating

The production of endogenous gas by the intestines is one cause that contributes to the raised abdominal volume shown in a bloated state. Carbohydrates which are indigestible and poorly absorbed by the intestines can go through a fermentation process in which luminal gas can be produced and controlled by the resident population of gut bacteria. In addition to that, the malabsorption of specific sugars like fructose can generate many gases like hydrogen which causes a bloated abdomen. 

Furthermore, the motorised gastrointestinal process of digestion can mimic the concept of bloating when the colon is impacted by the faeces, the associated motility can also affect how gases are controlled. In addition, imaging techniques indicate that the reflex reactions of abdominal muscles are different in people who experience regular bloating, showing a more relaxed diaphragm and contracted obliques. there are many reasons why such anatomical differences are displayed, an important reason is due to the sensitivity to the gas distention experienced.1 

Visceral hypersensitivity is a term used to explain when a patient’s pain threshold for organs is generally due to associated gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS; disturbance to the brain and gut axis can cause bloating and gassiness in people. Furthermore, episodes of constipation contribute to bloating, because of blocked up faeces in the colon the tissues expand increasing their volume. 

Lastly, another major explanation for bloating is related to hormone levels. Around 75% of women who are menstruating report abdominal bloating throughout their menstrual cycles. The fluctuating hormone levels contribute to such abdominal distress, as they can affect digestive backup, storing fluids and gas. The hormone oestrogen directly causes retention of water, it also alongside progesterone can change intestinal motility durations which triggers the generation of intestinal gas.2

Symptoms 

The main symptom of bloating is the sensation of augmented pressure build-up in the abdomen but without major increases in abdominal size. Around 1 in 2 patients who exhibit bloating would also show signs of distention, which is when the abdomen is abnormally swollen outward. Often many patients with irritable bowel syndrome would show bloating as their primary symptom, however, a problem is that it is hard to pinpoint the bloating itself as the discomforting feeling is relatively very subjective and vague. The severity of bloating can range between mild and severe discomfort, as it depends on the multifactorial contributing processes that trigger it as well as the pain tolerance of the patient.1 If the bloating appeared due to the ingestion of something or due to hormone fluctuations then they usually ease within a few hours or sometimes days.2

Vitamins To Help Bloating

There is a range of vitamins and supplements suggested to improve bloating, some of the most common are detailed below.

Probiotics

Taking probiotic supplements help rebalance the bacteria in an individual’s gut, leading to more efficient digestion of consumed food and some are able to absorb the excess gas within the intestines.2

Vitamin D

The main function of vitamin D in the body is to modulate calcium absorption for bone formation, its deficiency is related to gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease. Previous studies have insinuated that the vitamin is also involved in regulating the gut microbiome and there is evidence of relieving gastrointestinal inflammation, so it can help reduce chronic bloating.3 However, a high concentration of vitamin D in the body can adversely cause digestive difficulties which then directly cause further gas and bloating.

Fibre

Dietary fibre is one of the most important types of carbohydrates needed for our bodies because fibre cannot be digested, it passes along our colon increasing the mass of the stool as well as softening it. Fibre should not be suddenly introduced to the diet, rather it should be a gradual intake, as before it starts promoting healthy digestion it may cause a bit more gas.2 Fibre can be found in many types of food, of which that have the highest fibre content are: wheat, chickpeas, beans, berries, chia seeds and avocados.

Vitamin B6

Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B6, is essential to form antibodies, help digest proteins and regulate blood glucose levels. Autoimmune diseases related to the digestive system can reduce the absorption of vitamin B6, leading to many dysfunctions around the body. If the bloating is caused by fluid retention, vitamin B6 can be supplemented to relieve symptoms. The deficiency of Vitamin B6 induces the kidneys to pump out more sodium, causing the accumulation of water throughout the body including the stomach region. Vitamin B6 can be found in poultry, fish, whole grains, and oral supplements.

Thiamine 

It is also known as vitamin B1, assists the body in conserving good intestinal muscle tone, which stops episodes of constipation and stimulates the metabolism of carbohydrates. Good food sources to include in your daily diet: breakfast cereals, beans, fish, grains and yoghurt.

Vitamin B12

Low amounts of vitamin B12 have been correlated with inflammation in the stomach which interrupts the function of healthy gut bacteria, leading to indigestion and bloating. Good food sources for vitamin B12 include dairy, seafood and meat.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A participates in various cellular processes within the body, including immunity, vision, gene expression, embryonic development and growth. Retinoid, a source of vitamin A from fish and meat, maintains normal intestinal mucosal function. Disturbance of the mucosal level may alter the biochemical reactions happening in the gut which could lead to bloating.3 Therefore, it is important to have a good intake of vitamin A in a person’s lifestyle. Good sources of vitamin A in food are leafy greens, beef liver, dairy, cod liver oil and salmon, additionally, oral supplements are available to take for deficiencies.

Foods That Help Bloating

Alongside vitamins and supplements, certain food and drink can be used to alleviate the symptoms of bloating. For example

Ginger 

Ginger has many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions that help with experiencing indigestion in patients, several studies show that it significantly reduces symptoms associated with irritable bowel disease.

Peppermint 

The mechanism of peppermint in the body involves relaxing the intestinal muscles, this ensures that stool and gas pass down the colon more efficiently. It is most beneficial in patients who have motility disorders in their gut.2 Peppermint can be ingested in multiple ways, the most common involves drinking peppermint tea, using an essential oil, or the form of an oil capsule.

Fermented Foods

Organic fermented food products aid to improve the microbiome within the gastrointestinal tract to promote healthy digestive processes. Therefore, increasing them in your diet would help prevent digestive issues that lead to bloating later on.

Other Ways To Reduce Bloating

Exercise Regularly 

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine supports healthy bowel movements and also prevents water retention. Therefore, it would reduce the incidences of bloating while simultaneously ensuring no further weight is gained near the abdominal region.

Control Stress

Bloating is also caused by psychological triggers experienced by people under stress, and so controlling stress can lead to reduced bloating and physical discomfort in many people. There is no specific method to control stress, as there are varying degrees to the level of stress and the root cause, but there are professionals trained to aid individuals with such psychological problems. Cognitive behaviour therapy can help reduce anxiety in day-to-day events, which in turn allows for more cognitive comfort. Thus, in many irritable bowel syndrome studies, patients have shown a reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms overall. So no direct causation can be deducted but a correlated relationship can be inferred. The same can be said for hypnotherapy, which was reported to moderate bloating in patients over time, allowing for smoother gastrointestinal motility.1

Eat At Regular Times 

Ingesting food in a relatively quick manner introduces air into the gastrointestinal tract making it more susceptible to storing it and causing bloating. So, it is important to take your time in order to properly digest the food without large amounts of air being also consumed. Visiting a dietician may also benefit a person to understand the types of food they should and should not be eating at specific times, aiding in the healing of their digestive system.2

Foods That Can Cause Bloating

Dried Fruit

The sugars present in dried fruits are very concentrated, some of which are hard to digest and get fermented which then produces unwanted gas. Also, due to their concentration, they may influence water retention causing non-gaseous bloating.

Salt

Unhealthy food that is usually bad for your gut is processed, and so is low in fibre but very high in salt. Excess salt in the body leads to body water retention, slowing down the digestive process, and eventually leading to bloating.2 Therefore, people who experience regular bloating should stick to a low-salt diet.

Fatty Foods 

Fat takes longer to get digested when compared to protein or carbohydrates, so with longer periods of digestion more gas can get trapped or produced via fermentation in the small intestines.

Fizzy Drinks

Carbonated drinks contain a large amount of gas that contributes to the abdominal build-up in bloating, this is because of the carbon dioxide within the drinks. Therefore, people with bloating should replace fizzy drinks in their diet with lots of water and clean healthy juices that support a healthier digestive progression.

Alcohol

Drinking lots of alcohol could cause inflammation and irritation to the lining of the stomach, this is known as gastritis which leads to abdominal bloating, the inflammation can be acute or chronic depending on the consumption of alcohol within a person’s lifestyle.

Dairy 

With age people’s tolerance to dairy decreases, this intolerance disturbs the digestion of lactose in dairy, which leads to diarrhoea and bloating immediately post ingestion of dairy.

When To See A Doctor

As bloating is very commonly displayed all around the world it is very rarely dangerous and most of the time resolves quickly. However, it is very important to contact your physician if the bloating in the abdomen: starts to get progressively worse, lasts for longer than a full week or manifests alongside other symptoms of an illness.2

Summary 

Bloating is a very uncomfortable gastrointestinal problem which is experienced by most people worldwide, it is commonly reported as an effect of irritable bowel syndrome but there are many causes for it. Other main causes of bloating involve indigestion of carbohydrates, fermentation within the intestines and muscular reflexes. There are many ways of treating the underlying cause that leads to bloating, but the use of specific nutritional supplements like fibre, probiotics, and vitamins A, B and D can help support healthy digestion alongside a healthy lifestyle.

References

  1. Foley A, Burgell R, Barrett JS, Gibson PR. Management Strategies for Abdominal Bloating and Distension. Gastroenterology & hepatology [Internet]. 2014;10(9):561–71. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4991532/
  2. Bloated Stomach: Causes, Tips to Reduce & When to be Concerned [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21740-bloated-stomach
  3. Pham VT, Dold S, Rehman A, Bird JK, Steinert RE. Vitamins, the gut microbiome and gastrointestinal health in humans. Nutrition Research. 2021 Oct;95.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Faisal Badri

BSc in Applied Medical Science, Biomedical Sciences, General, University College London

Faisal is a biomedical student with a strong interest in clinical science treatments who is currently the president of the Emirati Society.

He is an experienced Strategy intern and Scientific and Medical Writing Intern.

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