Bloating and abdominal distension are common American complaints. That’s because there are many different causes of bloating and similar digestive issues. Some of them are relatively benign, such as eating too much or too fast. In other cases, bloating and abdominal discomfort can be a sign of something more serious.
1. Digestion and Bloating 101
Digestion is the process that changes food into energy. Despite being necessary, it isn’t always a smooth or easy process. Eating too much or too fast, for example, can cause abdominal distension, commonly known as bloating. There are also dietary causes, as certain foods that make the digestive tract work harder. Some foods, like beans and other legumes, are known to cause gas, which in turn can cause abdominal distension.
The digestive tract is a complex system that involves multiple organs, including the stomach and intestines. Other organs and bodily systems can impact digestion as well.
The digestive system is also affected by hormones, the immune system, blood flow and more. In fact, scientists are only now discovering how an extensive system of microbes aids digestion. Study after study is showing just how important gut flora is to keeping everything in working order. When this extensive system starts malfunctioning, bloating is often one of the first symptoms.
Getting to the Bottom of Bloat: Underlying Causes
Food can be the immediate cause of bloating, gas and pain, but that often points to another underlying cause. Some common causes include:
- Food sensitivities, such as to dairy or gluten
- Increased permeability of the intestine, commonly known as leaky gut
- Infections like H. pylori
- Inbalance of microbes in the gut flora
Lifestyle factors can also be implicated. Smoking, for example, can contribute to bloating and gas.
2. The Holistic Approach
Oftentimes, the best way to fix something is to look at the big picture and see how everything connects. Let’s examine how diet, vitamins, exercise, and bloating are all interconnected.
Diet Makes a Difference
Given that bloating and gas are related to digestion, it shouldn’t be a surprise that making some changes to eating habits can relieve these symptoms. Some simple changes can make a big difference:
- Take the time to enjoy a meal. Slowing down limits how much air is swallowed, which reduces bloating and gas.
- Avoiding carbonated beverages, since they increase the amount of air in the stomach.
- Reducing salt intake can reduce bloating. Excess sodium can cause water retention.
- Adding high-fiber foods slowly. These foods are harder to break down, so they can contribute to bloating and gas.
- Avoiding any foods that trigger sensitivities, like dairy products or gluten, which can cause constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
By contrast, some foods and supplements aid digestion:
- Manuka honey has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been tested in rats to help with digestive conditions, such as ulcers.
- Foods like sweet potatoes and apples have fiber that can help keep the digestive tract moving.
- Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh are rich in probiotics, which can balance gut flora and lead to improvements in digestion and healing of a leaky gut.
- Some scientists have posited the pH of drinking water could impact gut flora and the balance of microbes in the digestive tract.
- An antifungal diet may help control yeast, which is thought to be a possible trigger for IBS symptoms. Fruits low in sugar, gluten-free grains, and other foods are recommended. Herbs and spices like dill, cinnamon, and turmeric may also help.
Straight from New Zealand, this delicious, naturally-sourced, non-GMO superfood is great for everyday use. Mix this with warm water, lemon, and cayenne pepper to form a great tasting natural elixir that will work wonders for not only your gut, but also your skin and more!
Vitamins and Minerals
A healthy diet also includes a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Some supplements, like iron, can cause constipation. Others might reduce bloating. Potassium, in particular, helps balance sodium in the body. Bananas are a great choice to help with bloating for this reason.
Herbs and Essential Oils
Digestive aids are common in all societies, and many have ancient roots. Ginger, for example, has long been touted as a cure for all kinds of tummy troubles. As it turns out, science backs this up. Compounds called gingerols help reduce inflammation in the gut.
Other herbal digestive aids include:
A 2016 study found that herbal supplements containing fennel and curcumin essential oils had a positive effect on irritable bowel symptoms.
Digestion takes a good deal of energy. It also requires plenty of oxygen so blood flow is redirected to the organs and muscles of the digestive tract.
Regular physical activity can help reduce bloating and other digestive ailments. Going for a walk, for example, can stimulate the bowel muscles and aid in digestion as well. Exercise can also release extra sodium, reducing water retention.
Exercise can also help relieve gas and bloating that’s already started. Yoga poses like twists, squats and seated forward folds can help position the abdominal muscles in a way that encourages the release of excess gas.
3. The Other Leafy Green
Cannabinoids bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors, and research has demonstrated there are plenty of these receptors in the gut. CB2 receptors, in particular, are linked to the immune system, which may explain the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD and THC. They mimic endocannabinoids, which regulate immune processes that can contribute to inflammation in the digestive system.
There appears to be cross-talk between the endocannabinoid systems and the microbiota in the gut. Probiotics can increase the expression of CB2 receptors in the small intestine, giving CBD’s healing effects an added boost. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD and other cannabinoids could help heal a leaky gut.
Cannabis has also been shown to work on the digestive tract in other ways. The activation of CB1 receptors, for example, can inhibit the secretion of acids. Activation of CB1 receptors also plays a key role in managing intestinal motility. CBD is an agonist for CB1 receptors, which means it can prevent overstimulation. By contrast, cannabinoids also seem to activate the VR1 receptor, which increases intestinal motility. Essentially, cannabinoids could help people keep bowel movements on a more regular schedule.
A Good Gut Feeling with CBD and Cannabis
Some people are interested in using cannabis and CBD to help them maintain good gut health. Others may be curious to see if it can help them manage the symptoms of a condition like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.
CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it’s a good choice for daytime use or for people who need to be alert and aware to do things like operating a vehicle.
CBD oil fast-tacks its way into the digestive system, meaning faster relief from bloating and other tummy troubles. This tincture delivers an even more holistic solution by adding peppermint essential oil to the mix.
For those who need their CBD oil on the go, these all-natural capsules from Papa & Barkley are a great solution. Take them along to the office, a restaurant or a dinner party, and enjoy whole body relief and peace of mind.
THC increases the inflammation-fighting and pain-relieving power of some products. For people with conditions like IBD, a cannabis product may be the right solution.
This easy-sipping drink offers a powerful digestive aid. It blends a relaxing Indica with lemon and ginger, both renowned digestive remedies on their own. It’s a great way to cap off a long day. Just be sure to schedule some R&R time afterward.
Who says medicine needs to be bitter? These mini cookies make adding both cannabis and some more fiber to a diet easy. Small portions make them the perfect way to end a meal while also keeping tummy troubles at bay.
Trust Your Gut and Speak with a Doctor
For most people, bloating isn’t all that serious, and it can often be corrected with a few small steps. In some cases, though, bloating could indicate something more serious. If symptoms persist, it may be time to speak with a doctor.
Medical marijuana experts are on standby in several states, which makes it easy to get the right advice. Get in touch and learn more about how cannabis could aid in digestion, health, and overall wellness.