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My little bloating story
Many years back while I was still in university, I used to get very bad bloating issues. Even though I was hungry, I knew that I would feel bloated after I eat, so I only ate very little at a time. Food, which was once a friend suddenly become a foe. They made me feel so bloated, both physically and mentally. I stopped all double shot black coffee for a start and made simple changes in my diet. I know how bad bloating can make you feel and hope this article will help you feel better.
Here, you will learn about
What is bloating
Symptoms of bloating
Causes of bloating
Bloating in TCM term
Best and Worse food for bloating
Acupuncture self care points to beat bloating
So let’s get started, shall we?
What is bloating?
Bloating is any abnormal gas that is stuck around your abdomen, causing it to swell, and make you look like you are pregnant or have a beer belly. Usually you will feel fullness and tightness around the stomach area. This can be accompanied with pain, nausea and growling. A bloated stomach is certainly uncomfortable or even embarrassing when it comes along with gas or if you need to run to the bathroom all the time.
Symptoms of bloating
Luckily most of the time, stomach bloating isn’t anything to be alarmed about. It can usually be cleared up by making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle but it is not always the case. Be sure to check for other symptoms and consult a doctor if it gets worse.
When you’re feeling bloated, check for other symptoms, including:
Constipation or diarrhea (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Vomiting or nausea
Blood in your urine or stool
Unintentional weight loss
Trouble going to the bathroom
Pain around your lymph nodes, including in your groin, throat or armpits
Irregular periods, polycystic ovary syndrome and ovarian cysts
Sharp (or any kind of pain) in the stomach area (which may radiate to the ribs)
Pain in the chest with shortness of breath, palpitation
Heartburn, acid reflux, difficulty swallowing
Why do I get bloated so easily?
5 Possible Causes of Bloating
Food allergies or sensitivities
Let’s go through them one by one.
1) Digestive disorders
Most cases of stomach bloating are due to improper diet. The reason why there is excess gas in your stomach is because the bacteria in the colon produce these gas as a by-product of soluble fiber digestion. There are 2 types of fiber : Soluble and Insoluble fibers. Soluble fibers include fruits and vegetables, wheat, bran,oats. These are made naturally by plants and is prebiotic (food for the bacteria in our gut) and readily fermented into gas in our colon. Whereas the insoluble fibers just absorbs water in the intestines and increase the bulk in our poop.
2) Fluid retention
Ever felt that your clothes and rings become tighter or felt “heavy” around your ankles? Well, that may just be a sign of fluid retention. Sometimes bodily fluids can be stored around the body, including near the stomach which causes excess bloating and temporary weight gain. In very serious cases, fluid can get stored in the abdomen (called ascites). Ascites is due to infection, liver disease or cancer (rare). These symptoms might not be very obvious in the beginning. Liver disease symptoms include jaundice (yellowish skin, yellow tint in the white part of the eye).
It’s a very common problem nowadays. Sometimes when I travel to new places, I feel nervous (consciously or subconsciously) and often get “constipated”. I call this the “Travel constipation” and it’s nothing to worry about because I know it will go back to normal after the trip.
But if you have infrequent bowel movements, hard stools, or strain during the movements for more than 3 days, this can come with serious cases of bloating. It’s so stressful physically and mentally. I have seen some patients where it even affected their social life because it has caused so much stress. Since most cases of constipation are temporary, simple lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and increasing one’s intake of fiber, can go a long way toward alleviating constipation.
Some cases of constipation will continue to worsen and will require unconventional methods to release the poop and reduce the amount of stomach bloating. If you have blood in the stool, intense pain in the abdomen, rectal pain, and unexplained weight loss, you must report to your doctor.
To read more about constipation, read my previous post here.
4) Food allergies
Food allergies, sensitives or (lactose) intolerances are common causes for gas and bloating. The common culprits include dairy products, gluten-containing foods (most bread, pasta, rolls, cereals, etc.). Other food allergies like shellfish, nuts, eggs, prawns (but not lobster for my brother *rolleyes*) can also cause bloating. It’s usually easy to pinpoint which food is causing it since the symptoms are usually more noticeable.
However sometimes it can be difficult when it comes to allergy to and certain kinds of carbohydrates called FODMAPs.
Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel
Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain
Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule.
Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single-sugar molecule.
Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however don’t lead to intoxication!)
You can try elimination diet and try the FODMAPs grocery list below.
5) Hormonal changes
Girls’ talk time. Some women get PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) which is known to cause a bloated abdomen and digestive issues. Why do we girls feel bloated… every single month? Because during the early days of a woman’s cycle (follicular stage), estrogen level rises causing the uterine lining to thicken and retains more fluid in the body.As the name suggest, it is a syndrome – it is a disorder, meaning that it is not-in-order. Something must be wrong somewhere but don’t panic! We lose old, stagnant blood every month so that our incredible bodies can replace it with fresh, clean blood to nourish our organs. Ladies, it’s renewal time!
What is bloating in TCM?
In TCM, it’s called Pi Man 痞满. It is when your stomach area is distended, not painful and soft when pressed. You might feel that the stomach is tight and slight hard but it’s not hard like there is a something inside.
Stomach’s relationship with Spleen
Together, these 2 buddies team up to control the transportation and transformation of food.
Stomach is Yang. Spleen is Yin. Stomach Qi does down, Spleen Qi goes up.
Stomach likes wetness and dislikes dryness; Spleen likes dryness and dislikes wetness.
If Stomach too dry, Stomach Qi cannot descend and food cannot be moved down to Small Intestine.
If Spleen too damp, Spleen Qi cannot ascend and fluids and food cannot be transformed.
Both of them have the best teamwork to execute operation “Transform & Transport”. Stomach transforms the food and drink we ingest. After Stomach finishes its”rotting and ripening” process of fermentation, the Spleen extracts the essence from the food and transport the nutrients to the whole body.
Operation Transform & Transport is compromised when you do the following:
Eat too much cold food/beverage such as salads, ice water and ice cream
Eat too much greasy oily food (an occasional truffle fries can be forgiven)
Eat with distraction (a lot of us are guilty of using social media while eating)
Eat and move straight away (as in going back to physical work right after eating)
Eat too much (system overload)
Eat too fast
Overworking, over thinking all the time
This causes rebellious Qi (yes, this is a proper term that we use in TCM) in the body, which causes bloating, burping, hiccuping and other problems.
Bloating is a sign that Stomach & Spleen is being rebellious!
In TCM, we diagnose via pattern differentiation (different people have different symptoms due to their body type). Even though you are bloated but it can be due to several different reasons.
TCM: 6 types of bloating patterns
Feels worse after food, pungent taste when you burp.
Treat with Bao He Wan
Heaviness in the body, don’t feel thirsty, dizziness, stuffiness in the chest.
Treat with Er Chen Ping Wei Tang
Damp Heat accumulation
Dry mouth but don’t feel like drinking, bitter taste in mouth, lack of appetite, nausea.
Treat with Xie Xin Tang
Disharmony between Liver and Spleen
Irritable, get angry easily, sigh often, sour/bitter taste in mouth.
Treat with Yue Ju Wan
Weak Stomach & Spleen
Feels better when warmth is applied to stomach, lack of appetite, often have diarrhoea, low voice. Treat with Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang
Stomach Yin Deficiency
Hungry but no appetite, stomach often makes growling sounds,dry mouth, dry throat, constipation. Treat with Yi Wei Tang.
Now, your Stomach and Spleen need some tonifying and TLC (tender-loving-care)!
Best and Worse food for bloating
Miso – My favourite one is the popular Japanese Hatcho miso! It is made from salt and soybean only. Vegan and no additives. In Singapore, you can buy at Emporium Shokuhin supermarket at Marina Square at about SGD12.
Natto – Japanese fermented soybeans.
Yakult – Or any other probiotics drink like Kefir.
Yogurt – Make sure they include live or active cultures. Sugar free is more important than fat free.
Kimchi,Sauerkraut – Fermented vegetables
Probiotics supplement – Increase your dosage gradually as sudden increase may cause bloating. Personally, I take this Califonia Gold Nutrition from iHerb. You can buy from here.
Hot cooked food – Steamed, grill, stir-fry, stew, as long as it’s cooked. Stomach likes warmth.
Ginger tea – Grate a tablespoon of fresh ginger, squeeze out the juice, add honey and hot water.
Spices – Black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg,, chili pepper, mustard seed
Digestive food – Pineapple, papaya, kiwi contain pectin, a digestive enzyme that helps with indigestion. Hawthorn is also good. You can buy dried ones at TCM herbal shop such as Eu Yan Sang or Hock Hua Tonic in Singapore.
Cold food (eating 1 small serving a day is ok)
– Cold vege: cucumber, melon, fresh mushroom, bamboo shoot, radish, kelp, seaweed, celery, tofu, bitter melon, eggplant, tomato, bean sprouts
– Cold fruits: pear, watermelon, kiwi, banana, pomegranate, apricot, persimmon, lemon, strawberry, pineapple
Cold drinks – Green bean soup, chrysanthemum tea, beer, “liang-teh”.
Carbonated drinks – Although I feel that having a small cup will help to burp out the gas.
Any acidic drinks – Lemon water, coffee, tea (especially on an empty stomach)
Hard to digest food – For example brown rice is high in nutrient but the shell is hard and difficult to digest. Either cook longer or have it as porridge or the time being.
Sugar and artificial sweetener
Salty food – Watch that gravy, sauces and dips!
Dairy -Yogurt and cheese is ok unless you’re lactose intolerant.
Refined grains – White bread,sweet bread, biscuits, cookies,etc.
Soy products – Miso is ok because fermentation increase probiotics which is good.
Cruciferous vegetables – Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, garlic.
Beans, legumes – They are gas producers. Make sure you soak overnight to 48 hours before cooking.
TCM herbs that can beat bloating
Nutmeg can help to beat bloating.
Mix the powered nutmeg with your ginger tea after a greasy meal
(like pork belly stew or fried dishes).
Hawthorn is also an another good herb to beat indigestion & bloating!
Soak 5 pieces of dried hawthorn in hot water and sip it throughout the day.
TCM Acupuncture points
These points are some of the common points used.
Try to massage them 1-3 minutes everyday as the acupuncture effect is cumulative
and doesn’t work if you just do it once.
These stomach points form a diamond shape and hence it’s also known as the ” Harmonsing Diamond”.
CV 12 Zhong Wan
Known as the “Centre Venter” or “Middle Tummy” as I call it, is a great acupoint for everything related to digestion. It helps with conditions such as bloating, gas, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation. Also, as a front-mu (gathering) point of the Spleen, it is a great point if you know someone who has digestive issues because of emotional stress, this is a great point.
Find it: On the midline of the abdomen, 4 cun above the umbilicus and midway between the umbilicus and the sternocostal angle. Roughly 1 palm space above the umbilicus.
CV 6 Qi Hai
Know as the “Sea of Qi”, it’s a power button that nourishes the body. This point strengthens the function of digestion, menstruation, and fertility.It is also fantastic for post surgery treatments, post natal or chemotherapy.For problems due to cold (not the flu cold but cold factors such as from taking too much cold food/drinks) physicians will often supplement the treatment of with moxa.
Find it: On the midline of the abdomen, 1.5 cun below the umbilicus. Roughly 2 finger spaces below the umbilicus.
ST 25 Tian Shu
Known as the “Heaven Pivot” and the front Mu (collecting) point of Large Intestine. Pivot refers to the way it harmonises the two spaces (above and below the bellybutton) and between the Stomach and the Large Intestine. Great point for all intestinal issues such as bloating,constipation, diarrhea,stomach pain, masses/accumulations of any type.
Find it: 2 cun lateral to the center of the umbilicus. Roughly 3 finger spaces beside the umbilicus.
Hope this helped and thank you for reading, as always!
If you have any experience or better remedies for bloating or indigestion, share with us in the comments below 🙂