Do you often have that sensation that you need to visit the loo, or your stomach contains more than it should? First, it starts out as some minor abdominal discomfort that you can shake off. Then it becomes something that makes you squirm uncontrollably. There are times when it becomes so significant that you have to seek medical help.
For those who do not understand, this is called stomach bloating. It is a condition where your abdomen feels uncomfortably full. The key word here is discomfort. It is different from eating or drinking to your fill. The sensation is similar to being stuffed with a balloon and not being able to get rid of it.
In this article, we will examine everything you need to know about a bloated stomach. This includes the possible causes, how to prevent, manage or treat it and when it becomes serious enough to see a doctor.
What causes a bloated stomach at night?
For some reason, belly bloating seems to often happen at night or late in the evening. Well, there is scientific reasoning explaining how this works. Do you also remember dieticians and doctors advising you not to eat at certain periods of the day? Well, that also plays a role. First off, let’s examine how the human body works.
There is a phenomenon called the Circadian Rhythm. This is the biological clock of the body, and it determines how the body functions during the day and at night. Some of these bodily actions include:
- Blood pressure
- Alertness, etc
As seen above, the circadian rhythm determines when and how your body craves food. This feature is very crucial to digestion. For more clarity, let’s examine how digestion takes place.
Whenever you are craving, thinking or perceiving the smell of food, your body begins to prepare for it. While the internal reactions may not be obvious, you will notice that saliva begins to pool in your mouth. Your digestive system is also secreting gastric juices that are crucial for digestion.
Your mouth breaks down this food into smaller particles, and it is transferred to your stomach. Once there, the secreted gastric juices begin to act on it and ensure that the nutrients contained in the food can be easily absorbed into your blood.
In addition to breaking down food particles, these gastric juices kind of sterilise the food you swallow. They contain digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, pepsin and lipase. The hydrochloric acid kills off any microorganism or unhealthy bacteria that can infect your food. The entire mixture is passed through the small intestine, which absorbs the important nutrients into your bloodstream and transfers the rest i into your large intestine. Here, gut microbes work to break down and absorb the remaining nutrients.
With a better understanding of how your body processes food, we can ascertain some possible reasons why this condition occurs at night. One of such is eating late at night. As mentioned above, your body has dedicated periods to eat. It is during these times that your body craves food in accordance with the circadian rhythm. If your body does not crave food, your digestive system will not secrete gastric juices.
Should you eat anything within this period, there are two possibilities. One of such is that the acids in your stomach will not kill off any harmful microorganisms within that food. Another scenario is that the food you eat will not be processed into absorbable components as there are no digestive enzymes. This could lead to constipation.
Another reason is eating too fast. Perhaps you were in a hurry to leave for work, school or an appointment and decided to quickly eat something. You end up not chewing your food properly, and your digestive system has to do some extra work. There is also a possibility that you consumed “tougher carbohydrates” that the gastric juices and gut microbes struggle to break down. It can also be that you ate something you are intolerant of.
Any of these cases above could lead to having a bloated stomach. They certainly delay the digestion of food. This can lead to constipation or the formation of intestinal gas. While it is a terrible idea to eat late, you can make it worse by overeating certain foods excessively. This includes fizzy drinks, processed foods, ice cream and anything else that contains sugar. The reason is that the digestive enzymes and gut microbes will be unable to process these foods quickly enough.
The restriction of bowel movement causes the build-up of gas within the stomach. Besides that, the foods mentioned above cause the buildup of intestinal gas within your stomach. This is why you fart more after eating them. Now, imagine them going bad in your stomach. Hence, the abdominal discomfort of you feeling inflated at night.
Management and treatment for bloated stomach at night
If it is an occasional occurrence, a bloated stomach often relieves itself. The body has been designed efficiently enough to regulate itself. Studies show that mild or moderate cases of bloated stomach eases within 24 hours. However, there are measures you can take to manage this situation when it occurs at night.
You can use antacids like Simethicone if the symptoms persist. This product breaks the built-up into smaller bubbles,hereby making expulsion easier. Supplements containing magnesium are also beneficial laxatives. They help to relax your intestinal muscles. Meanwhile, you can also drink enough water at night if you feel bloated. This can help if your belly bloat is caused by constipation.
There are many other lifestyle-based approaches to treating a bloated stomach. However, these are the most effective if you want to quickly relieve yourself at night. Meanwhile, you should not overuse or abuse supplements. Some of them can result in overreliance.
How can I prevent a bloated stomach at night?
One very certain way to prevent having a bloated stomach at night is by understanding how your body works. This is not just in relation to the Circadian Rhythm. Be more international about understanding your body. This can help to ascertain how it reacts to different meals and at different times.
Contrary to what people think, the process that results in a bloated stomach does not begin at night, It actually begins hours before the symptoms kick in. Therefore, you have to note what you eat or drink and when you eat or drink it. If you notice that you get bloated at night after eating certain foods, reduce your intake of such meals or completely avoid them if possible.
Away from the specifics, there are general ways to prevent having a bloated stomach at night. One of them is to avoid eating late at night. As described in the causes, your body does not properly digest food when you eat at certain times of the night. If you have to eat, ensure that it is a light snacklike fruit or a healthy snack that contains lots of fibre.
Avoid eating processed foods, carbonated drinks, ice cream and the like at night. Considering that another reason your belly bloats is constipation, you should drink enough water in between meals. Do remember to drink water after guzzling down large chunks of food. One tiny factor that is very important is to properly chew your food and eat slowly.
Similar to food, avoid drinking alcohol or smoking - especially at night. Studies have shown that these habits cause bloated stomachs.
How common is a bloated stomach at night?
According to research, between 71% to 90% have experienced stomach bloating. This is particularly common if they suffer from indigestion because they eat late at night. It is even more common if you immediately go to bed after eating. These individuals added that they only felt minor discomforts that lasted between a few hours to a day.
On the other hand, about 10% of respondents added that they suffered from this condition more frequently. Around 90% of these respondents who fell in this category were diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
When to see a doctor?
As mentioned earlier, there should be actions preempting the occurrence of a bloated stomach. This includes eating too fast, too much or late at night. The symptoms that should follow include feeling overstuffed or having mild discomfort.
If you feel pains in your guts while your stomach is bloated, you may need to see a doctor. You should also consult a trained medical practitioner if your stomach gets bloated frequently, regardless of what you eat and drink. These are not normal, and there may be a significant underlying cause. The doctor can quickly identify what the problem is and recommend treatments or how you can properly manage it.
Our bodies react to whatever we do, and eat. Bodily reactions tell us if we are doing the right thing or living a healthy lifestyle. Having a bloated stomach is how your guts tells you that you need to make important changes. Having excessive gas at night may just be a sign that you have an underlying problem that is affecting your digestion process.
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