A peach colored balloon in front of a peach background.
Bloating is often described as a swollen or tight sensation in the abdomen, much like a balloon filled with air.

What Causes IBS Bloating?

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a widespread problem. It causes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms that can negatively impact a person’s daily life.
Today, we will look in detail at one of the most common IBS symptoms – bloating. Here’s all you need to know about what causes IBS bloating and how to manage it.

What is IBS?

IBS is a functional digestive disorder. This means that, unlike many other digestive issues, it does not cause inflammation or damage to the intestines. Therefore, it can be difficult to diagnose.

However, it is an extremely common condition. Estimates suggest that as many as 11% of the global population suffer from some form of IBS.

What Causes IBS?

Many experts believe that IBS is the result of miscommunication between the brain and the digestive system. This causes the muscular contractions that force food along the intestines to become irregular. When the intestines contract too much, food passes through too quickly, leading to diarrhea. When they do not contract enough, the digestive process slows down, causing constipation.

Some people with IBS suffer from frequent diarrhea while others experience constipation. However, some people experience a mixture of the two symptoms at different times. Therefore, IBS can be unpredictable and challenging to treat.

Common Symptoms

In addition to constipation and diarrhea, IBS can cause a variety of other symptoms. These include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Trapped gas
  • Bloating

Bloating is one of the most common IBS symptoms, affecting 80% to 90% of people with the condition. Let’s look at IBS bloating in a little more detail.

How IBS Causes Bloating

In the past, many people assumed that IBS bloating was the result of excess gas production in the intestines. However, it now seems more likely that IBS sufferers produce a normal amount of gas, they just have difficulty expelling it.

Bloating is especially common in people who are prone to constipation. If the bowels are not contracting often enough, gas can become trapped inside causing bloating and discomfort.

Some other factors that may contribute to bloating in people with or without IBS include:

  • Swallowing air (from talking while eating or chewing gum)
  • Drinking carbonated drinks
  • Food intolerances, especially to wheat or dairy
  • Celiac disease
  • An imbalance in the levels of bacteria living in the gut
  • Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

If you suffer from bloating on a regular basis, it may be helpful to keep a journal for a few weeks. Make a note of what you have eaten/drank and how your symptoms respond. Over time, you may see a pattern emerging that suggests a particular food is triggering your bloating. You can then try eliminating it from your diet.

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Effects of Bloating

Bloating can have many negative effects on a person’s everyday life. Firstly, it can be extremely uncomfortable, or even painful, in some cases.

Secondly, people suffering from bloating may feel self-conscious about their appearance. Some people explain that they can see their abdomen swelling rapidly after eating a meal. This might lead them to avoid wearing certain clothing or even eating as much as they need to.

If a person does not eat enough due to a fear of bloating, they may suffer from lack of energy and reduced physical function. In severe cases, IBS symptoms could contribute to mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.

Natural Remedies for IBS Bloating

Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce IBS bloating, both naturally and with medication. One of the most effective ways to reduce bloating is by making changes to your eating habits. For example:

  • If you suffer from bloating and diarrhea, reduce your intake of fiber.
  • If you suffer from bloating and constipation, increase your fiber intake and drink more water.
  • Exercise regularly to improve bowel function.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Reduce your intake of fatty foods, especially saturated fats.
  • Cut out foods that are known to cause bloating (beans, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.).
  • Eat small meals at regular intervals throughout the day.
  • Eat your meals while sitting in a comfortable, upright position.
  • Do not eat and talk at the same time.

If these changes do not get your bloating under control, you could try using a treatment, such as peppermint. Peppermint has antispasmodic properties and is one of the most famous natural remedies for IBS bloating. It is available as oil-filled capsules or an herbal tea.

Another herbal remedy that may help with gas and bloating is fennel seeds. You can either add them to recipes, brew them as a tea, or simply chew on a small spoonful after meals.

Probiotics are another natural remedy that may help with IBS bloating. They work by restoring a healthy balance to the bacteria in the gut. Unfortunately, they do not help everyone but some people have experienced good results. Try probiotics for at least a month to find out whether they work for you.

Medical Treatments for IBS Bloating

If you do not have any success with natural remedies, there are a variety of medical treatments that might help.

One option that is available over the counter is simethicone. It works by encouraging small gas bubbles in the gut to form bigger bubbles that are easier to expel.
There are also several antispasmodic medications that may improve bowel function to reduce bloating and other IBS symptoms. They include:

  • Mebeverine (Colofac)
  • Dicyclomine (Bentyl)
  • Hyoscine (Buscopan)

However, some of these drugs can make issues like constipation worse, so people with IBS should use them with caution. We recommend consulting your physician before trying these medications or any other treatment for IBS bloating.