What Causes Bloating? All about Gluten, Soy, and Dairy, and the Modern Diet!
So let’s start with a scenario: you wake up in the morning and your stomach feels glorious and flat, maybe you stand in front of the mirror and admire it, but as the day progresses that flat stomach disappears, and instead starts to extend outwards below the belly button, and by the end of the day you’re feeling really uncomfortable and feeling a lot worse about your body than you did that morning. Does this sound familiar? It’s extremely common, but not many people seem to know what causes it, or how to avoid it! So I wanted to make this video to clear some things up, give a little scientific info on what’s causing it, and to hopefully help you guys avoid the problem and feel much better physically and mentally!
Bloating usually indicates gas or inflammation within the gut - often of the small intestine. Now there are many different things that can cause bloating - from hormones, to stress, or chronic disease. But for today I’m going to talk about the most common cause for most people - food and food intolerances. Yes, I’m sure the first thing many of you are thinking is “I don’t have any food intolerances”, but intolerances can be both major and minor. Food intolerances mean that your body cannot break down certain food molecules. When large, unbroken molecules hit the small intestine, gas, bloating, and a dysfunctional immune response are the result - and lo and behold, you have your bloated belly!
It’s important to note that the modern diet has changed drastically in the past several decades, and it has not been enough time for our genetics to adapt. Our bodies are better adapted to the Palaeolithic diet, which was made up mostly of plants, protein and fat. Today however, the western diet consists of a high intake of carbohydrates, sugar, corn syrup, trans fats, preservatives, additives, dyes, and fake foods. The vast difference between what our bodies are designed to eat and what we actually eat is a major contributing factor to the astronomical rates of obesity, gastrointestinal complaints, and chronic disease that occur today.
Basically, we are missing some major types of foods that are good for our gut, and are consuming too much of the foods that are bad for our gut.
The major things that are missing are fibre, and omega-3 fatty acids (or specifically, a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids).
Fibre is important because it slows emptying of the stomach and increases feelings of satiety and satisfaction. Fibre acts as a broom, sweeping the intestines and cleaning them out. It promotes regular bowel function and reduces the risk of all major gastrointestinal diseases. Going back to that Palaeolithic diet our bodies are designed for - the average American consumes only 10-20% of what Palaeolithic people would have consumed in a day.
The balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is important because the average person today doesn’t consume enough ANTI-inflammatory omega-3 acids (such as that from fatty fish and fish oils), and too much PRO-inflammatory omega-6 acids (such as from seed and soybean oils found in virtually all processed snack foods such as crackers and chips, salad dressings, condiments, and even some oil-packed whole foods such as tuna, sardines, and sun-dried tomatoes). Palaeolithic people’s omega 3 and omega 6 consumption ratio was close to one-to-one. Today, Americans consume sixteen to forty times the amount of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats to anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.
Anti-inflammatory fatty acids specifically can help reduce inflammation of the digestive system. The food group with the highest concentration of the best anti-inflammatory fats - EPA and DHA - is fatty cold-water ocean fish, like salmon, mackerel, and herring. The only vegetarian sources of EPA and DHA are a few edible algae, such as spirulina and chlorella.
EPA and DHA are a part of our cellular membranes - including the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract - and they play roles in receptor activity and also in appropriate cellular signalling and communication. They also act as lubricants for the digestive system. So not only do they aid in the movement of food through the intestines, but they also help make the trip easier. This improves the ease of bowel movements.
And as for the wrong stuff that we eat too often - well that includes gluten, soy, and dairy.
Gluten is the protein molecule that is found in wheat, barley, rye, and some other grains. Most protein molecules are straight and shaped like a pencil. Gluten, on the other hand, is spiraled and thus does not break down easily. When large, unbroken molecules hit the small intestine, gas, bloating, and a dysfunctional immune response are the result.
Something important to note is that gluten is a much different molecule than it was even forty to fifty years ago, and it has a greater impact on our health now than it did then. In an attempt to make them more protein-dense and nutritive, gluten-containing grains have been bred over the last several decades, to have ever-increasing protein content. An unforeseen consequence of this breeding is a change in the structure of the gluten molecule from its original state - making it harder to break down. Wheat contains the mega-starch amylopectin A, which is extremely inflammatory, and also causes large spikes in blood sugar, contributing to insulin resistance and obesity.
It is somewhat common to have gluten sensitivity (which is separate to coeliac disease). Gluten sensitivity means that an immune response is elicited with gluten exposure, resulting in a variety of symptoms that span from head to toe, such as headaches and migraines, and emotional changes like anxiety and irritability. A variety of skin conditions, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis can be improved with gluten elimination.
Soy can be found in many packaged or processed foods, often as soy protein, soybean oil, and soy lecithin. Soy contains protease and trypsin inhibitors, which are enzymes that split up protein molecules. So, when you eat soy, you are shutting down protein digestion. Soy also has a number of carbohydrates (called oligosaccharides) that are not recognised by the human GI tract. Ignored, they remain unbroken and create gas and bloating as they reach the small intestine. They provoke the immune system, generating an inflammatory response and antibody production, which primes the system for leaky gut, food sensitivities, and molecular mimicry. Consumption of soy also reduces the absorption of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
It should also be pointed out that the soy you’ll find in western processed foods is different to the soy eaten by the asian population. The asian population eats fermented soy. The fermentation process breaks down indigestible carbohydrates and dissolves the protease and trypsin inhibitors.
And finally - dairy. Lactose is the sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance - which is a deficiency in the enzyme lactase - is extremely common. If the lactose molecule is not disassembled in the stomach and remains large and intact, it creates gas, bloating, pain, and indigestion by the time it hits the small intestine. Casein, a protein found in milk and milk products, can also cause a similar problem to some. By now, it should be clear that this pattern is common to all large unbroken protein and carbohydrate molecules.
So, if you experience bloating - watch for symptom patterns. Make a mental note of what you eat and how you feel afterwards. Trial removing gluten, soy and dairy - even if you THINK you can tolerate them well. Some other foods that may cause bloating and so may benefit from cutting out include beans and legumes, vegetables in the nightshade family (like white potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and capsicum), refined white sugar and sweeteners, and alcohol. After at least a month you can try introducing those foods back into your diet gradually, and gauging how you feel. If you still experience bloating, try to avoid them for a while longer, or if the symptoms really bother you, maybe you’d feel best to eliminate them for good.
If, when cutting out those foods, you are STILL experiencing bloating after a month or two, then I recommend purchasing this book and reading through it, as it lists many more possible problem foods, and goes into much more detail about what I talked about in this video, and goes in-depth about the entire digestive process, several digestive diseases, and also contains an entire a gut-restoration program with a diet included!