“I feel really bloated.”
I would estimate that this phrase comes out of the average girl’s mouth at least once a week. From the dreaded PMS bloat to chowing down on a big meal (or foods your body doesn’t agree with), there are myriad reasons our bellies swell up like balloons. And if it seems like the men in your life don’t understand the struggle of the bloat, you’re not imagining it. It’s scientifically proven that women have longer intestines than men, to accommodate for child bearing. The longer length creates extra twists and turns, which leads to more bloating and constipation.
But it’s not our long colons alone that make us bloated. If you’ve already ruled out all the usual culprits (food intolerances, that time of the month) here are 5 other surprising reasons you may be bloated.
1. You chew gum
When you chew gum you tend to swallow a lot of excess air. Couple that with the fact that most sugar-free gums contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol and sorbitol which ferment in the gut and you’ve got yourself an express ticket to bloat town. The same thing can happen with sugar-free mints — take it from someone who inexplicably feels ‘full’ after eating one mint!
2. You eat too quickly
Speaking of gulping air, this can also happen when you eat too quickly or on the go. It also puts more stress on your digestive system when you eat quickly, which can lead to bloating and stomach pain. So, if you’re guilty of wolfing down your sandwich at your desk, it may be worth taking a proper lunch break, so you can eat with no distractions.
3. You’re stressed
Stress and bloating go hand in hand, thanks to the powerful mind-gut connection. When you’re anxious, it can wreak havoc on your stomach acid and the balance of good and bacteria in the gut. So, if you’ve ever experienced sudden bloating or abdominal discomfort before a big meeting or job interview, that’s probably why!
4. You eat fruit with other food
While packing a salad and apple for lunch may seem like the virtuous option, it could be what’s making you bloated. You see, fruit digests very quickly — so if you eat it with other food, it digests at the same rate. This can lead to serious bloating and discomfort! If you rely on a piece of fruit as your mid-morning snack, don’t stress: you should be fine if you have it at least two hours before lunch.
5. It’s something more serious
In very rare cases, bloating can actually be a symptom of a more serious condition. In fact, in ‘silent’ diseases like stomach, bowel or ovarian cancer, it’s often the only symptom. If your bloating is prolonged, severe or doesn’t seem to be linked to any other causes, it’s worth chatting to your GP to rule out anything serious.