Image: Mahalie Stackpole
Bloating Despite a Perfect Diet?
The most commonly cited causes of bloating are dietary factors. More specifically, it’s well-established that foods containing gluten, dairy, or FODMAPs (certain carbohydrates) can cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal pain in individuals with food sensitivities or conditions such as Celiac disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or Crohn’s and colitis.
Because the association between food and gastrointestinal distress has already been explored, let’s explore lesser-known factors behind bloating.
3 Possible Reasons You’re Bloated
1. Antibiotic Overuse
Although antibiotics serve an important role in modern medicine’s ability to fight bacterial infections, antibiotics have been overprescribed in recent years. Although mostly effective, they have been found to have various side effects.
In the meantime, the prevalence of health conditions like hay fever, asthma, allergies, and eczema (acne) have been on a steady rise since 1990. In the book Good Germs Bad Germs, science author Jessica Snyder Sachs supports the increasingly established “hygiene hypothesis”, which is a theory stating that the modern sterile environment and antibiotic overuse may be the culprit behind increasingly these prevalent health conditions.
This makes sense, given that antibiotic treatments kill both “good” and “bad” bacteria in one fell swoop. Also, imbalances in gut microbial flora are known to cause symptoms like gas, bloating, and weight gain.
What does this mean? The research all points to an inconvenient conclusion:
Antibiotic use, which is intended to protect users from dangerous infectious diseases, are causing unhealthy changes in gut bacteria, which then weakens the immune system and causes symptoms of gastrointestinal upset like bloating.
2. Hormone Imbalance (yes, even in men)
According to doctors specializing in treating endocrine imbalances, “mild bloating is often the result of lifestyle factors, such as stress and diet.”
But, they argue, “when [bloating] is chronic, it could be caused by an underlying hormone imbalance.”
Furthermore, “this is why many women experience bloating as a symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)…as a result of water retention, intestinal gas, decreased bile production or a combination of the three.”
Conclusion? High estradiol (estrogen) leads to bloating for women. However, this doesn’t just affect women. For men, high estradiol levels may also cause bloating. Estrogen dominance is a common condition because we can accumulate estrogen-like compounds from common substances like herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones in dairy products, and even soy.
Additionally, thyroid hormone imbalances are associated with bloating for both men and women, due to fluid retention and the relationship between thyroid function and the gut. Specifically, an underactive thyroid is likely to cause bloating, along with weight gain and fatigue.
Imbalances in estrogen, thyroid, and other hormones may unexpectedly lead to bloating for both men and women with otherwise healthy diets and lifestyles.
3. Environmental Sensitivities in Water-Damaged Buildings
Illness from mold developed in water damaged buildings is a deceptively common issue, given that 1 in 4 buildings are classified as water damaged, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Organization (OSHA).
Doctors have written books like Surviving Mold and Mold Warriors, and research has been done on exterminating mold and other toxins from water damaged buildings. Yet, the significance of mold for public health has seemingly gone without notice in the medical and wellness communities until recently.
Symptoms of mold infection has even affected celebrities like Suzanne Somers, who reported bloating, candida infection, and abdominal cramping from an episode at home.
In an interview with Somers, specialist Dr. Sponaugle explains that there are “three out of four [individuals] who naturally produce antibodies to mold toxins can live and work in water-damaged buildings without suffering significant demise in their health. But patients who carry the HLA gene have no antibodies to deactivate and remove mold toxins. They develop excessive accumulation of these harmful toxins.”
Although living or working in a water damaged building is not the first thing most would consider as a culprit of gastrointestinal issues, it is one factor to consider when determining the cause of bloating when other dietary factors have been eliminated.
Learn More About Your Health
If you want to learn about how your hormones and environment affect your body, the following tests may shed light on potential causes of bloating:
- Estradiol (estrogen), a hormone that may lead to bloating when levels are too high
- Thyroid hormones T3 and T4, that may lead to bloating when levels are too low
- TSH, the pituitary hormone that signals the thyroid to produce T3 and T4. Commonly used as a screening test for diagnosing thyroid conditions
- A comprehensive metabolic panel, which includes biomarkers for basic micronutrients like calcium and vitamin D, liver and kidney, inflammation, and heart health
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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.