When it comes to the organ we consider “responsible” for the body, Dr. Paul Ratte says we have it all wrong. “You have heard of the concept of the second brain. You have brains in your gut, and I often wonder if that’s not the first brain,” says the naturopathic physician and assistant professor at Northwestern Health Sciences University. “There’s a lot of information that’s exchanged in the gastrointestinal tract, and we take it completely for granted.”
Translation: If we actually took the time to listen to our guts, it might tell us why we get so pumped up all the time.
According to a survey by the American Journal of Gastroenterologybloating was one of the most commonly reported symptoms among the 60% of respondents who experienced gastrointestinal discomfort over the course of a week.
The idea that more than half of Americans are regularly bloated would have anyone rushing for a box of Beano, but if you want to banish bloating for good, you have to dig a little deeper. “Bloating means we end up with more air in the digestive tract. Where does this tune come from? said Rat. “I’m trying to figure out what’s causing the problem. You can treat the symptom, but the bloating is there for a reason.
A byproduct of Western civilization
Why is your habit of eating burgers and fries on Friday night not going well with your stomach? Your body probably isn’t processing fatty and greasy foods properly because, surprise!, it’s not supposed to. The cramps, constipation and bloating you feel after swallowing a Big Mac? It’s a “disease of Western civilization,” as Ratte calls it, the result of the standard American diet.
So when Ratte’s patients complain of bloating, his first stop on the way to a diagnosis is the digestive system. The stomach, small intestine, and large intestine are crucial for the breakdown, absorption, and elimination of the food we eat, and when these organs don’t function properly, “we call it digestive or pancreatic failure.” , explains Ratte. “It just means you don’t have enough digestive enzymes to break down food, and if you don’t break it down properly, it can start to putrefy in the body.” (No wonder our farts stink.)
Another trapped gas culprit has to do with our gut microbiome, where thousands of species of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses make their home. When this mecca of microorganisms is out of balance, there are too many bacteria in the intestinal tract, a condition known as SIBO – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. “Bloating is often the result of bacteria over-fermenting,” says Ratte. “Methane is one of the byproducts of that, and methane creates gas that we pass or get stuck in that intestinal tract, especially if the intestinal tract isn’t moving very well.”
If you’re tempted to view these conditions as minor inconveniences, think again: pancreatic insufficiency and SIBO have been linked to more serious conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac and obesity. the bottom of, well, what does (or doesn’t) come out of your bottom.
UNDER: Beat bloat
Figuring out your particular brand of bloat could be a process of elimination, no pun intended. “If you have bloating, the question is, when is it? How many times is that? Is it related to what you eat? Is there a trend you’ve noticed? says Ratte, offering these tips for getting rid of bloating and preventing it from happening again.
- Keep a food and stool diary. “Most people are semi-conscious eaters. We are usual; we don’t even pay attention until we start having symptoms,” says Ratte, who asks all of his patients to start logging their meals and trips to the bathroom. “I am a poo doctor. I want to know how often, what it looks like, what color it is and what it smells like, because those are clues.
- Chew your food. Americans notoriously eat too much too fast, due to our constantly on-the-go lifestyle. “We swallow our food whole,” says Ratte. “When you eat a piece of meat and you don’t chew it properly, do you know how much extra work it takes for your digestive system to break down?”
- Experiment with your diet. If fried and fatty foods aren’t enough for you anymore, play around with your diet (with your doctor’s approval). Increase your fiber intake; eliminate common irritants like dairy, soy, and gluten; and try a low sugar (FODMAP) diet, especially if you think you have SIBO.
- Consider digestive support. To help keep things going, your doctor might suggest supplements that help the digestive system, such as digestive enzymes, peppermint oil, ginger, and probiotics.
In most cases, the bloating goes away after a few hours or a few days at most, but if your stomach distension is persistent, you don’t have regular bowel movements (at least once a day, ideally more) or the bloating come with symptoms like bleeding stools, vomiting, or unexplained weight loss, it’s time to schedule an appointment with the Poop Doctor, as Ratte refers to himself. “It’s a bit like being a food detective. If you think about your symptoms, you can understand the problem,” he says. “You’re going to get constant feedback [from your body] as long as you pay attention to it.
Located in Bloomington, Northwestern University of Health Sciences is a premier integrative health institution that prepares the next generation of health professionals to deliver and advance health care, offering 11 areas of study. His clinics and TruNorth Wellness Center are open to the public to promote better and healthier lives for all. The Bloomington Clinic specializes in care for the whole family, offering chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine, nutrition and cupping. Swere Clinic offers comprehensive care for complex pain conditions and trauma. The biomechanics laboratory and the human performance centerr support proper movement and recovery through gait analysis, rehabilitation, strength and conditioning.
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