Bloating is an extremely common issue that can be linked to a variety of underlying causes, from IBS to food poisoning. In recent years though, probiotics have emerged as a supposed to solution to ease this tricky symptom, however are these claims to be believed? Can certain strains of bacteria really help to counteract bloating and, if so, which probiotic products can you trust? Today I investigate probiotics a little bit closer and the role they really play when it comes to bloating!
What causes bloating?
Bloating, as I’ve mentioned, can be connected with a variety of underlying causes. What you eat, what you drink and the state of your digestive system can all play a role but today, I’m going to focus on one trigger that doesn’t often get recognised – dysbiosis.
What is dysbiosis? Well, simply put it refers to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. Believe it or not, your gut, or digestive tract, is home to thousands upon thousands of different strains of bacteria. These bacteria can work to support your digestive and immune systems, so having the right balance of friendly bacteria to unfriendly bacteria are pretty important!
Unfortunately, problems like a poor diet or even stress can cause the unfriendly population of bacteria to grow and dysbiosis occurs when your unfriendly population of bacteria overwhelms the collection of friendly bacteria in your gut. This can cause a number of issues, such as constipation, diarrhoea and yes, bloating!
You see, all bacteria in your gut survive through a process known as fermentation, which involves the bacteria converting sugars into gasses. Unfriendly bacteria though, have a particular taste for refined sugars and carbohydrates and convert these into more noxious gasses which can easily cause bloating. It also doesn’t help that, if you’re constipated, you’re not getting rid of waste products as efficiently, meaning you can feel more bloating as these waste products ferment in your system – not nice!
How exactly do certain strains of bacteria help?
Okay, so unfriendly bacteria can contribute to symptoms like bloating. If that’s the case then how come certain strains of bacteria appear to help? Well, let’s look at the obvious first – if your gut is lacking in friendly bacteria, one solution might be to try and restore the levels of friendly bacteria in the hope that this helps to rebalance your gut environment.
Of course, it isn’t quite this simple and not all probiotic strains of bacteria are created equal. That’s why it’s best to focus on the strains of bacteria that are really good at helping to support your gut, which is where Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium come into the picture. Studies have found that these two different strains of bacteria can help to ease symptoms of bloating in patients with certain bowel disorders.
It’s thought that these strains might be particularly effective for a number of different reasons. Firstly, let’s look at Lactobacillus acidophilus. This bacterium is important as it can help to produce lactic acid, which can act as a fuel source for your muscles. It’s also been shown that Lactobacillus acidophilus, in some cases, can help to prevent or reduce cases of diarrhoea as well as prevent vaginal infections.
Bifidobacterium, on the other hand, can help when it comes to an outbreak of helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria that can sometimes attack the lining of the stomach, and may even work to support your immune system and reduce certain IBS symptoms.
However, as great as these two strains of bacteria can be, it’s important to bear in mind that much of the research surrounding them often produces mixed results. While opting for a probiotic that contains these strains can be a good way to combat bloating, it’s definitely not the only step you should take, as I will go on to discuss!
What else can you do to combat bloating?
If your answer to bloating is to simply take a probiotic supplement then you may be disappointed with the results and for good reason! Merely adding more friendly strains of bacteria to your gut is unlikely to help if you have a poor gut environment as these probiotic strains won’t survive for very long.
Before you consider a probiotic supplement, you need to take steps to improve your gut environment. Prebiotics are a good place to start as these help to provide a more optimal environment for your friendly bacteria to thrive in. Here at Jan de Vries, we often recommend A.Vogel’s Molkosan Prebiotic, which contains L+ lactic acid – the ideal food for friendly bacteria! It’s also completely free from lactose and gluten, and is instead derived from organic milk.
Once you’ve got a prebiotic sorted, you can take a look at your diet. As I mentioned earlier, what you eat really matters when it comes to bloating. Refined sugars, for example, will only feed the unfriendly bacteria in your gut so cutting back your intake is probably a good idea. Even supposedly health foods though, such as cruciferous vegetables and legumes, can sometimes cause bloating so it might be worth keeping a food diary to see if you can spot any familiar suspects!
Finally, keeping your bowels moving is extremely important as constipation is a real trigger for bloating. Try to make sure that you’re drinking plenty of fluids – it’s probably the last thing you feel like doing if you’re bloating, but drinking plenty of water can help to keep your bowels moving. If constipation is becoming an issue for you, you could try a remedy such as A.Vogel’s Linoforce, which contains a combination of linseeds, senna and frangula bark to help encourage bowel movement.
Which probiotic supplement is best?
Once you’ve got your gut environment under control, that’s the time to look towards a probiotic supplement. However, probiotics are so widespread these days that you’re spoilt for choice! It can be tricky to know where to turn to so allow me to provide my own suggestion – Optibacs! Unlike most high-street probiotics, Optibacs have years of research backing up their claims and offer an impressive array of probiotics for every want and need, whether you’re trying to avoid travellers tummy or taking a course of antibiotics!
If you’re suffering from bloating though, I’d highly recommend Optibac’s Probiotics One Week Flat. This is a short-term course of high-quality probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. It works quickly to relieve symptoms of bloating and even contains prebiotic properties! Optibacs probiotics are also gluten-free so they shouldn’t upset your stomach if you suffer from any sensitivities or intolerances. For best results simply mix one sachet with an inch of water and take with your breakfast each morning.