Types of Bloating and What they mean
We’ve all experienced bloating at one time or another, but the term bloating can be pretty vague, and not all types of bloating are the same.
For some people, bloating is a feeling of being overly full or ‘stuffed’ after a big meal (like having a brick in your stomach that never digests). For others, it can be extreme pressure in the abdomen as if you have a full-on beach ball trapped inside - the worst!
Either way, bloating is far from pleasant, and if you're like my clients, you are desperate to banish it once and for all.
In today's blog, I'll be explaining the different types of bloating and what they can actually tell you about why you're getting bloated in the first place (aka, your root cause).
Let's get into it!
The first question I ask every single client with bloating is "Where does your bloating actually happen?"
This is because the location of bloating tells us a lot about why it’s happening.
Here are 4 common areas that I often see bloating:
#1) Upper left abdomen: The upper left abdomen is where your stomach is located. If you experience bloating in this area, you are likely dealing with a digestive insufficiency; Specifically, low stomach acid (super common, btw). When stomach acid is low, food will actually ferment in your stomach from sitting around for so long. This fermentation produces a lot of gas, which then triggers bloating. In these cases, working on increasing stomach acid can be helpful, including raw apple cider vinegar shots or digestive bitter supplements. You can read more on low stomach acid here.
#2) Upper right abdomen: Bloating in the upper right abdomen (especially when accompanied by pain, aches or discomfort) can indicate an issue with fat digestion, or more specifically, an issue with the liver and/or gall bladder. These two organs are responsible for producing, storing and releasing bile, which is needed for healthy fat digestion. When these organs are “sluggish”, bile flow is slowed, and fats will give us issues. This type of bloating can also be accompanied by nausea and/or queasiness when eating a fatty meal. My favourite supports for this type of bloating are bitter foods, beets and digestive bitter formulas, as these help to promote bile flow.
#3) Upper or middle abdomen: The upper-middle abdomen (around the belly button area or just above) is where the small intestine is located. Bloating in this area is typically associated with bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, also know as SIBO or a pancreatic insufficiency (low digestive enzyme output). If you suspect SIBO, you'll definitely want to investigate this further with a practitioner. Read more on SIBO here.
#4) Lower abdomen: Is your bloating happening below your belly button? Maybe around your hips on either side? This is where your colon is, and it typically indicates some type of Dysbiosis – especially if the bloating is quite delayed. Dysbiosis is an imbalance of Gut bacteria (too many bad, not enough good). It looks different in each case, but is often caused by things such as Candida (yeast) overgrowth, Gut infections (parasites, bacteria), depleted probiotic levels and more. In Gut Rehab, we use functional testing to figure this out.
What about the timing of your bloating?
This matters, too! How soon you get bloated after eating can give us a lot of clues as to why it's happening.
Bloating that occurs immediately after eating can often be associated with digestive insufficiencies (low stomach acid, low digestive enzyme output aka pancreatic insufficiency), or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), especially if it's happening higher up in your abdomen.
Bloating that is delayed (i.e. comes on hours after eating, or gets progressively worse throughout the day) is more-so associated with imbalances in the colon, like yeast, large intestinal bacterial overgrowth, insufficient healthy flora, or even leaky gut.
Can Food Sensitivities cause Bloating?
Yes! Food sensitivities can absolutely contribute to abdominal discomfort and bloating. But here's the thing - Food sensitivities are not true allergies or intolerances! They are happening because of an underlying imbalance in your gut.
Specifically, if you have a gut infection, a sluggish digestive system or intestinal permeability (leaky gut), undigested food particles and toxins will be able to travel into your blood stream and elicit and immune response. THIS is what causes the bloating - not the food, specifically.
What does that mean? Well, it means that by healing your gut, your food sensitivities will go away (Yep, you heard me right!).
The thing with bloating is that although there are different types of bloating and many different root causes, my experience in clinic is that bloating is usually not “just one thing”. In fact, I often see a combination of digestive insufficiency, gut infections and low bacterial flora all in one.
This is why one-size-fits-all approaches just don’t work!
In Gut Rehab, we use Functional Stool Testing alongside detailed symptom analyses to really get to the bottom of why you’re bloating is happening. This information allows me to create completely customized protocols so that you see lasting results (no “one size fits all” or short-cuts in gut rehab!).