It’s normal to feel bloated after a large meal, but if you constantly feel bloated (even after a salad or snack) it’s a sign that something isn’t right in your gut.
Nearly 1 in 7 adults experience bloating, but the majority of people don’t seek treatment. Instead, many try to manage their symptoms with over-the-counter medications or avoid entire food groups because they aren’t sure what causes their bloating.
While this can mask the symptoms for a short period of time, it’s important to listen to your body when there’s a sign that something is off. Finding the cause of your bloating rather than sticking a band-aid over the symptoms will help improve your health and quality of life in the long term.
Amy Brenner, MD & Associates is here to help patients identify why they feel bloated and offer treatments to solve the problem. Our team of physicians, nurse practitioners, and wellness coaches work together to create customized care plans to address the cause of your discomfort.
Many patients come into our office with the same question—”why am I always bloated”? In this blog, we will discuss the most common causes of bloating, the specialized tests we run to find these causes, and the treatments that can help.
Let’s start with the basics—bloating 101.
What is bloating?
We all know what bloating feels like, but what exactly is happening in the digestive system to make us feel like our stomach is so full all the time? Most commonly, the answer is trapped gas in the digestive tract. This gas causes your intestines to expand, resulting in a bloated and tight feeling.
Air in your digestive tract is normal, but most of it should occur in your large intestines. This is because when gas builds up in our large intestines, we can pass it and relieve the pressure. However, when gas gets trapped in our small intestines, there is no place for the air to escape.
So what’s causing this gas to build up in your small intestines? The answer lies in the ecosystem of your digestive tract—your microbiome.
The gut microbiome
The digestive system has many responsibilities in the body. From breaking down food to absorbing nutrients and regulating the immune system, a healthy digestive tract is essential for a healthy body.
There are millions of microorganisms in your digestive system. This includes bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses; together, they make up your “gut microbiome.” A healthy individual has a balanced mix of microorganisms in their microbiome, which keeps everything running smoothly.
However, when the delicate balance of microorganisms gets thrown off, it can wreak havoc on your digestive system. This can lead to bloating, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain, and other GI problems. But as if that’s not bad enough, an imbalanced gut microbiome can affect way more than just your digestive system.
The responsibilities of your gut
The gut plays a key role in nearly all bodily functions—regulating hormones, mood, energy levels, and more. Recent studies show a strong connection between gut microorganisms (or microbes) and estrogen levels.
When your microbiome is balanced, your body produces the amount of estrogen you need. But when your microbiome is out of whack, it throws off your estrogen production.
Estrogen plays an essential role in the body. Everything from fat regulation to heart health and female reproductive function depends on estrogen. As a result, there can be serious ramifications when your estrogen levels are off. Decreased estrogen levels can trigger obesity, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and other chronic health conditions.
How do you know if your microbiome is off?
Because your gut affects so much more than your GI system, sometimes it can be difficult to know when the problem is in your gut. Patients frequently visit our office with symptoms that, on the surface, appear completely unrelated to gut health.
A few common indicators that can suggest your microbiome is imbalanced include:
- Feeling like you are always bloated
- Constipation, gas, stomach pain
- Acid reflux and heartburn
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty losing weight
- Mood changes
- Food intolerances
- Brain fog
Everyone’s microbiome is unique, and symptoms can appear in a lot of different ways. Whether you’re having gastrointestinal symptoms or just feeling fatigued, it’s important to check on the health of your gut. Because symptoms vary from person to person, diagnostic testing is usually required to get to the bottom of what’s happening in your gut.
If you’ve been asking, “why am I always bloated?” and can’t find the answer, it’s time to talk about stool testing. This will help us see exactly what’s happening in your microbiome.
GI Map stool testing
Stool testing can be a great way to find the cause of your bloating. At Amy Brenner MD & Associates, we use GI Map testing in Cincinnati to find the answers others may have missed. This is a quick, easy test that you can do in the comfort of your home.
The results will give us valuable information about the four pillars of gut health: infection, inflammation, insufficiency, and imbalance. The major items we look for include:
- The presence of pathogens
Pathogens are the microorganisms that shouldn’t be in your gut. This includes yeast, candida, parasites, viruses, and bacteria (specifically H. pylori), which can cause gastric ulcers and heartburn.
2. Your balance of good bacteria
Not all bacteria is bad! Some bacteria is very important to our overall health, but the right balance is critical. GI Map testing will tell us if you have an overgrowth of bacteria, which can increase your risk for autoimmune disease and inflammatory diseases.
A common reason we see this imbalance of good bacteria is due to a condition known as Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth, or SIBO. SIBO increases the amount of gas trapped in your small intestines, which commonly causes patients to question “why am I always bloated?”
Learn more about SIBO in the HealthiHer podcast, where Dr. Brenner talks with gut health expert, Jessica Dayton, about what SIBO is, why it causes bloating, and what you can do about it.
3. Your digestive health
We will look at your pancreatic enzymes to determine the overall health of your digestive system. These results show us if you are digesting food and absorbing nutrients appropriately.
4. Inflammatory markers
Your results will show if there are signs of inflammation in your intestines. These inflammatory markers can be associated with diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s.
5. Your immune health
We have an immune barrier within our GI tract, and GI Map testing will show us the health of this barrier. If your immune barrier is not functioning properly, you may have a condition called “leaky gut.” This has significant implications for autoimmune disease and could be the cause of your bloating.
This is an enzyme that helps the body bring together toxins and eliminate them. Beta-glucuronidase also has implications in our hormonal health. By treating beta-glucuronidase, it can help women with PMS, bloating, mood disorders, and other menstrual problems.
The six items listed above are only a small amount of the information we gather from GI Map testing. We are also looking for more serious indications of GI conditions, which would warrant a referral to a GI specialist. This includes any of the following indications:
- Blood in the stool (especially if blood is mixed in the stool or mucus also present)
- Black stools (this can indicate bleeding from the upper GI tract)
- GI symptoms associated with unintentional weight loss or night sweats
- Severe abdominal pain (doubled over in pain, this requires immediate evaluation, usually at an emergency department)
- Vomiting (not able to keep any food or liquid down, or if there is blood in the vomitus)
Once we identify the cause of your bloating, we will know which bloating treatment in Cincinnati is right for you. Each treatment is individualized to your needs, based on the information we collect during your consultation and assessments. Your treatment plan might include the following:
- Diet modifications
By treating the source of your bloating, we can help you to live a healthier and happier life.
Visit Dr. Amy Brenner MD and Associates to find answers to the question so many people are asking—”why am I always bloated?”
Whether you’re experiencing GI symptoms or having symptoms unrelated to digestion, your problems could lie in your gut. Our gut health experts in Cincinnati are here to help you find a treatment that can help.
Patients visit us from all over the country for expert, transformative wellness services. We offer a friendly environment and provide the highest quality treatments and wellness plans to help you feel your best. If you’re ready to finally find out why you’re always bloated, get started by using our virtual consultation tool or by scheduling an appointment online.