Stomach bloating is characterised by too much gas filling up the gastrointestinal tract (GI). The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. When gas is not expelled, it has nowhere to go but outwards. This is the part most people are familiar with – the stretched, puffy tummy.
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Bloating can be caused by all manner of health issues, some more readily fixable than others.
According to the NHS, common causes include:
- Excess farting
- Swallowing air (from talking while eating etc)
- Food intolerance
- Coeliac disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
As the health body points out, the first port of call is usually to eliminate gassy foods from your diet.
Some of the worst culprits are beans, onions and broccoli.
If your symptoms do not let up, a more sophisticated intervention may be required.
One approach that has yielded encouraging results is taking licorice-scented anise supplements.
Anise, also called aniseed or Pimpinella anisum, is a plant that hails from the same family as carrots, celery and parsley.
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It boasts antispasmodic properties, which has made it a popular treatment for bloating.
Antispasmodics are medications that relieve, prevent, or lower the incidence of muscle spasms, especially those of smooth muscle such as in the bowel wall.
A clinical trial of 120 patients found that anise was beneficial for reducing bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, gastro-oesophageal reflux, and other symptoms.
Benefits were also reported for reducing depression.
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The link to depression is not coincidental.
People living with IBS, a disorder characterised by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhoea, frequently suffer from anxiety and depression, which can worsen symptoms, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
“That’s because the colon is in part controlled by the nervous system, which responds to stress,” explains the ADAA.
If your bloating still persists, it could be a sign of a food intolerance.
According to the NHS, food intolerance can lead to bloating when:
- Your bowel does not empty properly
- The food causes gas to be trapped
Too much gas is produced as a reaction to the food
“The most common foods to cause problems are wheat or gluten and dairy products,” says the health body.
As the health site points out, the best approach if you have a food intolerance is to eat less of the problem food or cut it out completely.
It is also worth keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks, noting everything that you eat and drink and when bloating troubles you most, it says.
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