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Stomach bloating: How often are you bloated? The frequency that can signal cancer

Easy Ways to Live Well: Steph McGovern discusses bloating

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Stomach bloating is a common ailment in the UK that typically involves the stomach distending. The complaint is usually attributed to eating gassy foods, which cause a build-up of wind in the gastrointestinal tract. However, persistent bloating also has serious causes.

Arguably the most worrisome cause is ovarian cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in women.

“While it is normal to feel bloated, especially around your monthly cycle, consistent bloating that lasts every day for up to three weeks is not,” explains academic health body Rush University System.

The health body continues: “Persistently feeling bloated and full is one of the most common early signs of ovarian cancer.

“And bloating accompanied by abdominal distension (visible swelling in your stomach) could be a red flag that there is a problem.”

Of course, most people who experience bloating will not have ovarian cancer.

If your tummy often feels bloated, it could be due to:

  • Excess farting
  • Constipation
  • Swallowing air (from talking while eating etc)
  • Food intolerance
  • Coeliac disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.

According to the NHS, cutting down on foods known to cause wind and bloating may help to alleviate bloating.

Gassy culprits include beans, onions, broccoli and cabbage.

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“But make sure you still eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day,” advises the health body.

Slowing down when eating and drinking can also reduce bloating.

“Taking your time can help you swallow less air,” explains the Mayo Clinic.

“Try to make meals relaxed occasions; eating when you’re stressed or on the run increases the air you swallow.”

Other tips include:

  • Avoid carbonated drinks and beer. They release carbon dioxide gas
  • Skip the gum and hard sweets. When you chew gum or suck on hard sweets, you swallow more often than normal. Part of what you’re swallowing is air
  • Don’t smoke. When you inhale smoke, you also inhale and swallow air
  • Check your dentures. Poorly fitting dentures can cause you to swallow excess air when you eat and drink.
  • Get moving. It may help to take a short walk after eating
  • Treat heartburn. For occasional, mild heartburn, over-the-counter antacids or other remedies may be helpful. GERD may require prescription-strength medication or other treatments.

If your bloating persists, it may signal a food intolerance.

Food intolerance can lead to bloating when:

  • Your bowel does not empty properly
  • The food causes gas to be trapped
  • Too much gas is produced as a reaction to the food.

According to the NHS, the most common foods to cause problems are wheat or gluten and dairy products.

“The best approach if you have a food intolerance is to eat less of the problem food or cut it out completely.”

According to the health body, it is worth keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks, noting everything that you eat and drink and when bloating troubles you most.

“But do not get rid of food groups long-term without advice from your GP.”

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