What Causes A Bloated Stomach and How to Get Rid of It for Good
According to Dr. Eric Regier, about 96% of cases of a bloated stomach are due to SIBO.
SIBO is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. There should be a very small amount of bacteria and the small intestine, and a large amount in the large intestine. Due to the reasons we’ll cover below, an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can occur.
Symptoms of SIBO include: bloated stomach, gas, abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea.
What Causes SIBO?
1) Dysfunction of Migrating Motor Complex
This is the function that sweeps the small bowel, and dysfunction is due to, usually, food poisoning, but can also be due to hypothyroidism, c difficile, Lyme bacteria, opioid use, antibiotic use, or giardia.
In cases of food poisoning, the toxins produced by the poisonous bacteria damage the nerves that facilitate the migrating motor complex. The body can then create an antibody against this toxin. But unfortunately, at the same time, it will produce an antibody against a protein that helps keep the tight junctions of the intestine tight. When this protein is attacked, you can end of with chronic leaky gut.
2) Anatomical Blockages
These are often due to surgical adhesions, endometrial adhesions, fistulas, or diverticula.
3) Low stomach acid levels
Acid kills bacteria. Unfortunately, stress, hypothyroidism and use of acid-blocking medications can all hinder this process.
4) Ileocecal Valve Malfunction
If this valve between the small and large intestine is absent or not working, bacteria from the large bowel can backflow into the small intestine. The valve can be irritated by ‘stimulating’ foods like coffee, tea, soda, spicy food, sugar, chocolate, processed foods and popcorn.
According to Dr. David Williams, Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the form of lactic acid yeast wafers can help for diarrhea symptoms related to SIBO.
According to Dr. Craig Maxwell, Magnesium Chelate and a good probiotic can help.
Also local massage for a few minutes on your right lower abdomen about 15 degrees and down from your hip bone can help.
SIBO Has a Cousin…
SIBO has a cousin called SIFO (I’m not making this stuff up!) which stand for Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth. SIFO is similar to SIBO except it’s defined by an overgrowth of fungus in the small intestine.
Some additional symptoms related to include: belching, nausea, confused thinking, headaches, fatigue and joint pain.
If your SIBO symptoms are not going away with treatment, SIFO could be the culprit, and an anti-fungal approach with a functional practitioner may be needed.
Diet for a bloated STomach
When you eat foods, the bacteria in your small intestine may be ‘fed’ as well, and the byproduct of their feasting can be gas.
The bacteria that has overgrown in your gut varies from person to person. Therefore the foods that irritate SIBO vary as well.
While you go through treatment, it’s important to find the foods that won’t aggravate your symptoms, and the amounts.For example, you may tolerate eating a few grapes, but not a whole bowl of grapes.
The diet I most recommend experimenting with is the low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.
That’s a mouthful! Basically FODMAPs are foods that contain indigestible starches, and the bacteria in your body will ‘ferment’ them to break them down. The byproduct of that fermentation is gas.
If you want to avoid the gas, you can avoid the high FODMAP foods that irritate your certain bacteria, and instead choose low FODMAP foods.
Two great resources I’ve found for FODMAP information are:
Monash University - The researchers at this Canadian university developed and trademarked The Low FODMAP diet.
Kate Scarlata - Kate is a registered dietitian nutritionist and author who has developed some handy checklists and useful guides for avoiding high FODMAP foods.
Protocols for SIBO Symptoms and Bloating Remedies
The treatment of a bloated stomach (SIBO) can be a slow and winding road due to the different causes of SIBO and the different bacteria that may be involved. But if you don’t want to live with the digestive symptoms you’re currently experiencing, it’s best to start somewhere!
In my opinion, you’ll get the best results when working with a functional medicine coach. A provider can run a SIBO breath test, a stool test, and any other tests that may be needed in your case. She can get specialty supplements that may be difficult to get otherwise. And lastly, dealing with a chronic condition that may be slow to respond is emotionally draining, and having a coach to talk to can keep you moving forward.
Let’s look at a few supplements that can help with a bloated stomach / SIBO:
Oregano Oil- Oregano oil is the potent essential oil of the oregano plant. It can help for both SIBO and SIFO. It is often combined with other antimicrobial and anti-fungals like thyme oil and grapefruit seed extract.
This is a ‘hot oil’ so you’ll need to dilute it in a carrier oil if used on your skin or take in a capsule internally. We carry a blend of thyme, oregano and other supportive essential oils in capsule form in GX Assist in our doTERRA shop.
Atrantil- Atrantil is a mix of whole peppermint and extracts from the Quebracho and Conker Tree.
Together, these ingredients help to:
Relax intestinal cramping
Soak up hydrogen gas
Stop production of methane bacteria
Disable / kill troublemaking archaebacteria.
You can purchase this product on our shop.
Ginger- If you’ve managed to rid yourself of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, you need to keep it clear now! Ginger can help stimulate the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC) we learned about earlier. I like this Chewable Ginger by Natural Factors. We also carry ginger oil (it’s so yummy) in our doTERRA shop.
Other substances that stimulate the MMC are: 5-HTP (OTC supplement) and LDN (low dose naltrexone- by prescription only).
Binders- While using good binders won’t cure your SIBO, it will sure help relieve it! Binders like activated charcoal and others (see my blogs on binders) can absorb the gas within its porous structure.
Probiotics- Not all bloating is due to SIBO. Bloating can also come from a sudden change in diet, like adding vegetables suddenly or eating beans for the first time in months. Since I now rarely eat gluten-free pasta and pizza, I find that I react strongly to it and become bloated.
I think the site PaleoLeap.com sums it up well, “Either you’re eating a type of fiber that you don’t have enough of the right gut flora to digest, or you’re eating a type that they like too well, so you get overgrowth problems. For example, this study found that flatulence was “associated with instability of the microbial ecosystem:” the gut flora of patients with bad gas actually responded differently to their food, potentially causing the problem.”
This is why adding a good probiotic is helpful. Some probiotics will actually feed the bacteria in the small intestine and cause bloating. But spore-based probiotics will not. The probiotic that is our hands down favorite is MegaSporeBiotic.
This is a recent testimonial from a new MegaSporeBiotic user who had bloating for 20 years:
“I've had IBS for over 20 years and NOTHING has helped until NOW.
RESULTS: BLOATING, gone! I no longer have explosive diarrhea in the morning but have normal, well-formed stools that sink in the toilet, 2 to 3 times per day!!! AMAZING PRODUCT!!!!”
Antibiotics and Prescription Antifungals- If you’re not having success after using herbal treatments, prescriptive options are available as well through your doctor.
Though there can be a little trial and error on the road to healing your gut, the results are well worth it! Running to the bathroom, being too bloated to exercise or even move...this is not what life is about!
My Favorite Bloating REmedies
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Do you have questions? Do you have tips for dealing with a bloated stomach or bloating remedies? Comment below!
Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, is trained in functional health coaching and has worked with thousands of women over her career since 2004. She is the founder of Women’s Wellness Collaborative llc and HormoneDetoxShop.com.