Digestion: Why Am I Still So Bloated?

By Dr. Jillian Teta

Note: Bloating can be caused by a number of issues, and Dr. Teta is addressing the most common one here, but of course, you should always consult with your Doctor if you're experiencing severe, persistent bloating. In addition, many of you asked why Dr. Teta didn't mention food sensitivity and allergy issues in the article below, so we wanted to attach a previous article where she did address those issues. You can find it here.


bloated-woman-torso-450x338It is the rare lady who has never experienced bloating in her life—indeed they are few and far between in the landscape. Bloating remains one of the top issues that women young and old alike struggle with. It’s common. It’s uncomfortable. We want it to go away, like now. We can’t always figure out why we’re bloated.

Truth is, if you compiled the reasons for why bloating happens, it would grow several dozen items strong. There is a dizzying array of causes, including the types of foods you eat, salt intake, stress, hormones and so forth.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard some variations of the following lament:

"Jillian, I don’t know what to do! My diet is clean, I don’t eat any of the foods that can cause bloat, I exercise regularly but not too hard and I sleep well. I am bloated ALL the time! My stomach starts off OK in the morning but slowly expands all day until I look pregnant. And this is probably TMI but I have the most disgusting gas too. Please help!"

The hard truth is this: you can be eating the most perfect, clean, hypoallergenic diet and still be bloated regularly.

I’m going to add insult to injury here and say that you can be eating the most perfect diet for you, but you may not be optimally extracting your nutrients from it. What?

Here’s the thing. Once you chew up your food and it ends up in your belly, your body still has to break it down. I use the term “digestive fire” to describe the body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes, acids and bile that break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats into their teensy-weensy building blocks of sugars, amino acids and fatty acids. These teeny-tiny particles are ultimately what get absorbed into the body.

So, if you are not producing enough digestive fire (enzymes, acid, bile) to break down your food, guess what happens? Large, unbroken food compounds exit the stomach—where they may have begun to ferment, by the way—and then hit the small intestine. Let me tell you something about the small intestine. It likes it’s food particles small. I’m talking busted up. When these unbroken compounds hit the small intestine, a mini revolt happens. Gas, bloating, indigestion and cramping can be the result. Chronic problems like constipation, skin conditions, brittle hair and nails can be pinned to this as well.

Our systems were not designed to handle these bigger, less chopped-up food molecules. So we don’t absorb our awesome organic grilled chicken salad with balsamic on the side as well. We miss out on the full range of that excellent nutritional density.

These large, unbroken food molecules travel downstream and eventually end up in the large intestine. The large intestine houses your friendly bacteria - all one hundred trillion of them. When these guys get a hold of partially digested food, they do their best bacterial job. They ferment, and ferment, and work overtime to help you out. Yet, the consequence of all of this fermenting is more gas and more bloating.

And that is just for one meal. That is why often, gas, bloating and distension will get worse as the day progresses. It’s maldigestion compounding maldigestion. And maldigestion begets malabsorption, which leaves you not as nourished as you could be in addition to feeling like a rapidly expanding beach ball. Sigh.

GGS co-founder Molly Galbraith having some serious bloat issues.GGS Co-Founder Molly Galbraith having some serious bloating.

Luckily, there is a simple and elegant solution for low digestive fire and decreased digestive capacity.

The body can be supported with the use of supplemental enzymes taken with meals. I recommend finding a plant-based digestive enzyme formula containing pepsin, protease, amylase and lipase at a minimum and taking one or two of these babies with meals.

With this added support, your body will break down food molecules more efficiently. It will, in fact, be reminded to make these crucial digestive factors, essentially being jump started. You’ll notice gas, bloating and distension decrease, better trips to the bathroom, and maybe even more energy and clearer skin.

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About the author:  Dr. Jillian Teta

Dr. Jillian Teta is a medically trained naturopathic doctor and the author of, “Natural Solutions for Digestive Health.” She practices at the Naturopathic Health Clinic of North Carolina where her focus is digestive health. You can follow her blog at jillianteta.com. You can also keep up with Jillian on Twitter, Instagram (@JillianTeta), and YouTube.

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