Dr Ginni Mansberg from Embarrassing Bodies Down Under gives you the lowdown on bloating.
When patients come to see me about bloating, they're usually really worried about some serious problem like Coeliac Disease or Inflammatory Bowels or Bowel Cancer. I'm not saying that those things never happen, they do, but they're rare. The most common causes of bloating are constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
When I've got a patient whose bloated, I'll usually do an abdominal examination. Often what I'll find is a cement brick sitting in the nether regions of their tummy, not a nice loose bowel but a seriously backed up constipated bowel.
Constipation isn't necessarily what you think. It doesn't mean that you haven't gone to the toilet for a week, that would be absolutely horrifying to be sure. It means that you haven't done a decent log for a little while. So let me tell you, a couple of little pebbles in the toilet does not make a decent poo. A whole heap of pebbles stuck together in some sort of corn on the cob formation again is not a decent poo. We need a log, we need a log every couple of days to qualify you for a normal pooer. If you don't do that that's probably the reason that you're bloated. So if you haven't done a decent log, chances are you have quite a traffic jam downstairs and if that's happening, treating the constipation will certainly get a big load off.
It can be a bit counter intuitive but at this point I want you to stop fibre altogether. We actually don't want to add more traffic into the traffic jam. Just go for a light diet, sorts of things you'd have after a gastric bug. So your pasta, your white bread, your rice, maybe some cooked chicken or some cooked veggies but definitely not salad and fruit and you basically do that until you have lift off. And believe me you will know what lift off is when it happens.
Not everybody whose bloated and farting has constipation, although in my experience that's the vast majority. There's a number of people who have a condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome which now is the number one cause of trips to the Gastro Enterologist in Australia. Irritable bowel, we don't know what causes it but we call it a diagnosis for exclusion. That means we can't test for it, it's just the diagnosis that we give you when we ruled everything out. You tend to get constipation, alternating with diarrhoea and then variable symptoms, abdominal pain, maybe some flatulence, maybe some nausea. If you think that you have that, chat to your GP about it. There are specific diets we can offer you. There are probiotics and of course you might need some investigations just to rule out something nastier.
The bottom line is if you've got lots of gas, look at your poo patterns first. If there are lots of little pebbles, chances are constipation is to blame. But if it's going on, if you think constipation isn't what's going on, if you're bleeding from the back passage, or if you're feeling generally unwell, you really need to go and get it checked out by a GP.