Bloating is one of the most common gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and a frequent complaint in people of all ages. Bloating is not a sickness in itself but a health condition which is the outcome of some other illness. People who have digestive issues often suffer from bloating.
In this article we will learn about bloating including bloating causes and some effective Ayurvedic remedies to combat bloating naturally. Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover.
What Is Bloating? The Ayurvedic Approach to Bloating Bloating Causes Modern Research On Bloating Causes Ayurvedic Management Of Bloating (Adhmana) + Bloating Remedies When To See A Doctor
What Is Bloating?
Bloating can be described as the feeling there is an inflated balloon in the abdomen. It is a commonly reported symptom and is sometimes associated with distention in the abdominal girth marked by a visible increase in the width of the area between your hips and chest.
Both bloating and distention cause discomfort and have a negative impact on one’s quality of life. A survey conducted in the U.S. suggested that more than 65% of patients with bloating rated their symptom as moderate to severe, while 54% of patients complained of decreased daily activity due to bloating. 43% of patients took medication for bloating or needed medication.1
Bloating is often accompanied with pain, excessive gas (flatulence), frequent burping or belching, abdominal rumbling or gurgles.
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The Ayurvedic Approach to Bloating
In Ayurveda, there are four clinical conditions which closely resemble each other. They are bloating or flatulence with distention (Adhmana), distention of the abdomen due to obstruction to passage of urine and stools (Anaha), gurgling in the abdomen with pain (Atopa), movement of Vata in an upward direction (Udavarta).
Bloating with distention (Adhmana) is purely a Vata disorder.2 Vata can get aggravated due to many factors. Improper food habits, stress, sleep disturbances, not following a proper daily or seasonal regime and forcible suppression of natural urges can all aggravate Vata dosha. The aggravated Vata causes vitiation of gas and feces (dushya) which results in bloating (Adhmana).
According to the Ayurvedic sage Charaka, when there is aggravation of Vata in the rectum, it causes retention of stool, urine and gas resulting in colic pain, flatulence and bloating.3 He further adds that if there is occlusion of Vata by urine, this also results in bloating or distention of the urinary bladder.4 In addition to this, if Apana Vata (type of Vata) is occluded by Vyana Vata (type of Vata) then also there will be the condition of bloating with distention (Adhmana).5
Charaka also says that one who suppresses the urge of defecation or the urge of passing gas, suffers from bloating and distention of the abdomen.6 According to Sushruta, bloating is a condition in which there is distention of the abdomen accompanied with a gurgling sound and pain.7
According to another Ayurvedic classic, the Harita Samhita, Saman Vata (a type of vata) is responsible for the normal function of the stomach and intestine and governs the metabolic fire (Agni). Vitiation of Samana Vata causes disturbance in the function of the stomach and intestine which leads to impaired digestion, bloating and gas formation.8
READ MORE: Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know
Modern Research On Bloating Causes
Research concludes that the following causes contribute to the condition called bloating.
Gas is the most common cause of bloating. Gas builds up in the digestive tract when undigested food gets broken down or when you swallow more air, especially while eating or drinking too fast, chewing gum, smoking, eating fatty foods, having foods that create gas in the intestinal tract (such beans, vegetables, and other high fiber foods) and lactose intolerance.
Medical conditions such as hormonal changes (especially for women), heartburn, food intolerance, weight gain, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, giardiasis (intestinal parasite infection), mental health factors such as stress, anxiety and depression may all be causes of bloating.
Intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) may also contribute to bloating.
These medical conditions cause factors that contribute to gas and bloating. Some causative factors include overgrowth or deficiency of bacteria within the GI tract, gas accumulation, altered gut motility, impaired gas transit, abnormal abdominal reflexes, visceral hypersensitivity (feeling of bloating in even normal body changes), food and carbohydrate malabsorption and constipation.
Bloating can also be a symptom of several serious health conditions. Ascites (pathologic fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity), cancer (e.g., ovarian cancer), liver disease, kidney failure, congestive heart failure, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, pancreatic insufficiency (when the pancreas cannot produce enough digestive enzymes), perforation of the GI tract with escape of gas, normal GI tract bacteria and other contents in the abdominal cavity can all produce gas.
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Ayurvedic Management Of Bloating (Adhmana) + Bloating Remedies
Treatment modalities for bloating in Ayurveda include fomentation (swedana), massage (abhyanga), suppositories (varti), enema and intake of substances that ignite the metabolic fire (deepana), promote digestion (pachana) and are carminative (vata-anulomana).9,10
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Ayurveda also offers some simple yet effective remedies which help to keep digestion at a normal pace and prevent different types of digestive problems including bloating causes. Ayurvedic dietary guidelines (ahara vidhi vidhan)11 prove to be very helpful in preventing most digestive problems. You can try these easy, natural Ayurvedic remedies which may help the tummy feel flat and calm again.
Eat freshly prepared food which is warm (usna), unctuous (snigdha) and in proper quantity (matravat).
These qualities provoke the factors or enzymes in the abdomen responsible for proper digestion. With this type of food, meals are digested quickly. When you have a proper quantity of food it is easily processed down towards the rectum and does not impair the power of digestion. According to the Asthanga Hridaya, the proper quantity of food means that one should take half the stomach with solid food, 25% water and the remaining 25% should be left empty.12 This is one way to prevent the formation of gas.
Do not eat more food until the previous meal was completely digested (Jirne-ashniyat).
If food is eaten after the digestion of the previous meal’s food, the doshas remain in their proper places and the metabolic fire (agni) is provoked. This leads to a good appetite and the pores of the channels of circulation remain open. Additionally there is a normal downward passage of Vata dosha and the urges for passing gas, urine and stool manifest as they properly should. The essence of the food does not vitiate the dhatus of the body, but on the other hand it promotes longevity. So it’s best to take food after complete digestion of your previous meal’s food.
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Eat around the same time each day.
The digestive system does well when it can expect its meals at a certain hour. Your digestive system is prepared and ready for action at that very time daily.
Eat when you’re hungry.
Avoid munching often, though hunger is a natural urge that should not be suppressed. Once a daily routine of eating is set at the same time, one starts to feel hungry when it’s meal time and won’t crave snacks.
Avoid eating foods that have contradictory potencies (Virya-avirudham-ashniyat).
Foods with contradictory potencies (virya) should be avoided. One example is food that is cold eaten with food that is hot at the same time.
Eat in a proper place well equipped with all the accessories (estadeshe and estaupakaranavanta).
By doing so one does not get afflicted with factors which result in emotional strain.
Eat mindfully and never in a hurry (natidrutam-ashniyat) nor too slowly (nati-vilambitam).
Both these situations hamper the digestion process. Always chew food thoroughly and eat at a moderate pace. Digestion starts in the mouth. Chewing food properly makes it easier for the rest of the system to process it well.
Eat with concentration (Ajalpam-ahasanam-tanmana-bhunjit).
One should not talk or laugh or be unmindful while taking food.
Eat after analyzing one’s needs (Atmanamabhisamikshya bhunjeet samyak).
Diet should be taken according to one’s body type (prakruti), digestive fire (agni) and bala (strength). It should be taken according to self-energy and nutrient requirements.
Have cooked vegetables mostly.
Raw vegetables are difficult to digest and can cause bloating.
Avoid gas producing (vatavardhaka) foods.
Avoid beans, cabbage, peas, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, high fat food, fried foods and fermented foods as they are most likely to cause bloating. One should carefully observe how the body reacts to dairy and flour products and if you feel bloated after taking them, then try to cut down on them.
Add Ayurvedic spices to your food.
Blend food with spices and ghee to increase the metabolic fire (Agnivardhaka), ease the digestion of food and prevent gas formation. Some of the common spices which counteract gas forming tendency of food are cumin seeds, carom (ajwain), fennel seeds, ginger, asafoetida, coriander and black pepper among others.
Chew a piece of ginger with rock salt 15-20 minutes before having your meal. Fennel seeds, carom (ajwain) or cumin seeds you can have after meals.
Chewing a piece of ginger along with rock salt before meals promotes a strong appetite while fennel seeds, carom (ajwain) or cumin seeds after meals aids in proper digestion of the food and thereby prevents bloating.
Avoid drinking water right before and right after meals.
Drinking water before a meal dilutes the metabolic fire (agni), which hinders digestion and leads to weakness. Drinking water right after a meal affects both the quality of food and digestion. Sipping water during a meal is ideal. It helps to moisten the food, breaks down food particles into smaller pieces, and assists in digestion, absorption and tissue (dhatu) building.13
The following yogasanas (yoga poses) are sure ways to soothe a bloated belly but they should be practiced either in the morning or in the evening on an empty stomach. The best time to practice these asanas is early in the morning.
Apanasana (Knees To Chest Pose)
This posture helps to move toxins downward, through and out of the body and so helps in conditions of bloating..
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
Standing forward folds help in relieving a bloated belly.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Child’s pose helps one to slow down and relax. The body releases stress and tension, letting the belly rest.
Pawanmuktasana (Wind-Releasing Pose)
This is a reclined posture that is suitable for everyone. It provides a subtle massage of the internal organs, which will let any excess air (bloating) slowly drift out of the body.
When To See A Doctor
In most situations, bloating does not require any medical attention. But if bloating persists for a continuous 2-3 weeks accompanied with severe or prolonged abdominal pain, blood in the stools or dark, tarry looking stools, high fevers, diarrhea, heartburn, vomiting and unexplained weight loss, seek the advice of a physician.