Bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea
Bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea can be uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing. Read on to find out how probiotics, the herb citrus peel and changes to your diet and lifestyle can help.
Bloating, flatulence and indigestion
Many of us have experienced bloating (in which the abdomen becomes distended and taut), flatulence (intestinal gas), indigestion (digestive discomfort) or diarrhoea (loose, watery stools).
While flatulence is a normal part of digestion, some people may experience excessive amounts of passing wind (more than the average of 15 times per day), with symptoms that include smelly or loud flatus (‘farts’), as well as abdominal bloating and discomfort.1
Most of us have experienced indigestion at some point in our lives, and are familiar with its characteristic symptom of a burning sensation that occurs after eating and often feels as though it is rising up the neck and throat. Other symptoms may include burping, bloating and flatulence.2
Disturbances to normal toilet habits are common, ranging from the infrequent, hard stools associated with constipation through to the frequent, loose, watery stools of diarrhoea.
What causes bloating, flatulence, indigestion and diarrhoea?
What you eat can influence flatulence. For example, foods like baked beans, eggs and onions are notorious for being associated with increased gas production and foul-smelling flatulence, which are caused by the high levels of sulfur they contain.
In some people, eating high fibre foods or meals that are rich or spicy can also increase gas production. For others, bowel symptoms may be triggered by food sensitivities including gluten and lactose intolerance (in which low levels of the enzyme lactase prevent the effective digestion of dairy products).1
Indigestion is often triggered by eating too much food or eating too fast. It’s especially common after the consumption of fatty, spicy or rich foods, alcohol, chocolate or coffee. The symptoms may also be brought on by lying down, bending over or lifting something heavy shortly after eating.2
Other causes of indigestion can include physical pressure on the digestive organs (as may occur in people who are overweight).
In addition, bowel function is often impacted by the functioning of the organs in the upper gastrointestinal tract (such as the stomach and liver).
Contaminated food is another common cause of diarrhoea and can result in both loose, watery stools and abdominal bloating.4
Diarrhoea can also result from alterations to the balance of friendly bacteria in the bowel.5,6
Complementary therapies for bloating and flatulence
Citrus peel traditionally relieves bloating and indigestion in Chinese medicine
Found in Fusion Liver Tonic, citrus peel is a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) relieve symptoms of indigestion such as abdominal bloating, excessive burping and nausea. Citrus peel is also traditionally taken in TCM to support natural liver detoxification processes and stimulate the flow of stagnant Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), a form of vital energy.
Probiotics ease flatulence and bowel discomfort
Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, support the health of the digestive system and gut flora, plus:
- Relieve flatulence, abdominal bloating and bowel discomfort
- Maintain the health of the friendly gut flora during antibiotic use and help restore it afterwards
One specific strain, Bifidbacterium animalis ssp. lactis HN019, helps relieve constipation by improving bowel transit time (the length of time it takes for food to travel from the mouth to the anus).
Diet and lifestyle recommendations for bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and bowel problems
- Avoid eating large, heavy or fatty meals, which are common triggers of digestive difficulties such as flatulence, bloating, loose stools and indigestion. Some people also experience problems after consuming spicy foods like curries and/or artificially sweetened food or drinks
- From the perspective of TCM, if you’re experiencing digestive issues it’s best to avoid dairy foods, sweets, and cooling foods such as raw vegetables, citrus fruits and their juices, and iced drinks. Instead, choose light, warm foods and drink chamomile or peppermint tea to help calm your digestive system
- Eating too fast or while you’re feeling stressed can put pressure on your digestive system, so instead take the time to relax and enjoy your food, chewing it thoroughly before swallowing it
- If sulfur-containing foods such as legumes, cabbage, onions and eggs give you lots of flatulence, limit your intake to small amounts, increasing the quantity as your body adapts to tolerate them
- If your indigestion or reflux is triggered or worsened when you lie flat, try elevating the head of your bed by a few inches so that the effects of gravity help to encourage the food you’re digesting to move downwards through the body
- Being overweight increases the likelihood that you’ll experience indigestion, so if appropriate, manage your weight by adopting a healthy diet and increasing your activity levels (but avoid exercising straight after eating, which may trigger indigestion)
- Anything that puts pressure on your digestive organs can also trigger indigestion symptoms, so where possible, avoid eating while wearing constrictive clothing and don’t engage in tasks that involve bending over or lifting heavy items after meals
- If you’re experiencing diarrhoea, increase your fluid consumption to help reduce your risk of dehydration, but avoid alcohol, soft drinks, caffeine and juice. Sometimes it is advisable to use an electrolyte replacement formula, check with your health professional
- If diarrhoea persists for more than 12 hours in children under 3 years, 24 hours in children 3-6 years or 48 hours in children over 6 years or adults, seek medical advice
Always read the label and follow the directions for use.
- Victoria State Government. Last updated August 2014 and accessed February 2021 from betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/flatulence
- Victoria State Government. Last updated March 2012 and accessed February 2021 from betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/indigestion
- Hechtman L. Clinical naturopathic medicine. Chatswood: Elsevier Australia, 2012.
- Victoria State Government. Last updated July 2013 and accessed February 2021 from betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/travellers-diarrhoea
- Victoria State Government. Last updated February 2015 and accessed February 2021 from betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/ diarrhoea
- Arboleya S, et al. Frontiers in microbiology 2016;7:1204.