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Solving the riddle of bloating

The three most effective ways to reduce bloating are eliminating food intolerances, gluten-free or modern wheat-free diets, and supplementing digestive enzymes and probiotics. Let’s examine the evidence.

Bloating, IBS and Food Intolerances

Several studies have shown that people with IBS have higher levels of food-specific IgG antibodies in their blood – much more than in “healthy” subjects. Knowing that IBS sufferers have significantly raised levels of IgG antibodies to specific foods, researchers at the University of South Manchester (1) tested 150 IBS sufferers with a YorkTest food specific IgG antibody test and then gave their doctors either the real or fake results. Only those following a diet eliminating their food intolerances had relief from IBS symptoms of bloating and abdominal pain. What’s more, those who stuck to it the most strictly had the best results. Level of compliance, on the other hand, didn’t make a difference in those on the sham diets.

Gluten and Modern vs Ancient Wheat

The most common food linked to bloating is wheat. The increasing prevalence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is raising questions regarding what people are reacting to and why. A recent Dutch survey of 785 people self-reporting gluten sensitivity found that only two, on testing, had coeliac disease. Symptoms reported included bloating (74%), abdominal discomfort (49%) and flatulence (47%).

A recent trial tested the effects of a gluten-free or placebo diet (giving gluten containing or gluten-free bread) for four weeks on 60 IBS sufferers. There was a strong reduction in bloating and abdominal pain in those on the gluten-free versus placebo diet, and a return of symptoms on reintroducing gluten.

Professor Francesco Sofi, at the University of Florence, had a hunch that it might not be wheat per se, but gluten and other proteins have been changed in modern wheat compared to that of ancient wheat that is driving bloating and IBS. To test this theory he gave IBS sufferers foods (bread, pasta, biscuits) made from either modern wheat or ancient organic Kamut® ‘khorosan’ wheat for six weeks, randomly assigned. This is the same wheat that was eaten thousands of years ago.

During the modern-wheat weeks they had no improvement. However, when they were unknowingly eating Kamut, everything got better. They reported significantly less bloating, abdominal pain, irregularity and tiredness. Remarkably, every single person in the study reported benefit. Also, blood markers of inflammation all reduced by a third.

Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics

Every day the body produces a staggering 9 litres of digestive juices containing enzymes. The most common offending foods for wind are beans, lentils and other pulses, which require alpha-galactosidase for their digestion; and greens, especially cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), which require amyloglucosidase (also called glucoamylase). Certain others generate more gas, including turnips, leeks, onions and garlic. Some people produce insufficient amounts of the enzyme, alpha-galactosidase, or amyloglucosidase, the enzyme that digest greens.

It is not easy, or perhaps necessary, to test if a person is a poor producer of digestive enzymes. The simplest ‘test’ is just to give a person a comprehensive digestive enzyme supplement containing all the above enzymes, plus lactase, amylase, protease and lipase, being the key digestive enzymes.

A product containing both probiotics and inulin was found to help IBS patients. It boosted the numbers of the beneficial bifidobacteria. Symptoms, such as pain and bloating, improved. People with IBS are most often reported to have a low level of bifidobacteria. A study in Finland found that those who reported abdominal pain had five times lower levels of bifidobacteria than those who didn’t have these symptoms. While probiotics have been shown to help IBS in children, adult studies are not consistently positive. Generally, the best results with probiotics are reported in multi strain supplements providing both Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.

Also read the Report Solutions for Constipation, Bloating and IBS in your Library.