Bloating is uncomfortable, unpleasant and it can even be painful.
You don’t feel good in your clothes, you might struggle to eat your favourite foods, and being physically active is definitely not appealing.
But do you ever get particularly grumpy when you’re bloated? Irritable, snarky, quick to anger?
Don’t worry, it’s really common. You’re feeling groated (both grumpy and bloated) – and there’s a simple explanation for why it happens.
Abdominal bloating is the feeling of fullness, tightness or distension in the stomach area.
It can be caused by eating a particularly big meal, sensitivity to certain foods, and there are some health conditions that can trigger persistent or recurring bloating.
It’s really important to talk to your doctor if you notice any changes to your digestive health, your GP will be able to rule out any more serious conditions that could be causing your bloating.
Most of the time, the causes of bloating are pretty harmless, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make you feel uncomfortable, lethargic and annoyed.
So why do we get groated? It turns out our brains and our guts are much more closely connected than you might have realised.
‘There is an actual connection between your intestinal functions and the emotional centres in your brain, known as the gut brain axis (GBA),’ explains nutrition expert Tom Jenane.
‘Comprising several neurohumoral components, there are an increasing amount of studies showing the communication between the brain and the gut and how bloating could be causing a negative emotional effect.
‘Many of us struggle with bloating, but there are a number of ways we can tackle this. It involves working out the reason for bloating for you personally and finding the ideal solution.
‘Bloating can be caused by an excess amount of gas being produced in the gastrointestinal tract, or any movements in the digestive system that cause a disruption.’
Nutritionist Resource member Sonal Shah, says there is a really specific reason why bloating can make you grumpy.
‘One reason why abdominal discomfort can lead to irritability is that the liver has more toxins to deal with from the colon, which can negatively impact the brain, leaving one feeling tired with a brain fog that impacts our ability to think clearly,’ she explains.
‘The fullness also leads to a lethargic feeling in our mental state.
‘We know that the gut and the brain are in constant communication and 80% of the brain’s neurotransmitter serotonin – responsible for a good mood – is manufactured in the gut.
‘The bacteria in our gut also influences the communication between the brain and the gut. When the gut is full of healthy bacteria, it has the potential to regulate mood and positive feelings.’
Tom Jenane, nutrition expert
So our stomachs are incredibly powerful and do so much more than just deal with the food that we eat. This integral connection between the brain and the belly seems to be at the heart of this unpleasant phenomena.
To banish the brain fog, lethargy and irritability – we have to tackle the bloating first.
‘It is important to establish the cause of the bloating in conjunction with your GP,’ says Dr Petra Simic of Bupa UK.
‘Bear in mind that the cause could be quite complex and difficult to pinpoint, so it can take some time to identify and may need a multi-faceted approach. Your GP may be able to recommend some medications that may help to ease bloating.
‘Some people find that it can be useful to cut down on fizzy drinks and foods that are known to cause excess wind, like beans; onions and greens like broccoli, cabbage, spouts and cauliflower. Other people find increasing fibre and water in their diet helps.
‘Additionally, making the effort to avoid swallowing too much air can be helpful. Small changes to your habits, like sitting down to eat and chewing with your mouth closed can lead to a reduction of excess air in the gut.
‘There’s an especially sensitive relationship between the brain, stomach and intestines; emotions, both positive and negative, can trigger symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract. Likewise, this relationship can work both ways, so changes to the gut can send negative signals to the brain, affecting your mood.
‘The brain and gut are so intimately linked that stomach or intestinal troubles, like bloating due to the discomfort associated with it can actually be the cause a negative shift in mood.’
It’s important to know what’s normal for you. If you’re feeling more bloated than usual, or regularly having bad reactions to certain foods – talk to your doctor, establish the cause, and take the necessary steps to improve your symptoms.
That might mean changing your diet, trying new medication, or something as simple as chewing your food more slowly and taking smaller mouthfuls.
What’s important is knowing that you’re not alone. Bloating can make everyone feel irritable, upset and just generally off-kilter. Feeling groated is incredibly common.
Remember the link between your brain and your stomach – you can’t fix one without fixing the other.
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