abdominal bloating

Many people experience abdominal swelling and bloating, cramping, excess gas, fatigue, constipation, diarrhoea or sometimes both. Often they blame gluten for their troubles. Many may have even tried a gluten-free diet to get rid of their symptoms to experience little to no improvement. That is because gluten may not be the cause of those problems.

Recently, I had a client experiencing abdominal swelling and bloating, abdominal discomfort, cramps, excess gas, fatigue, chronic constipation and many other symptoms for over 20 years. She has tried GPs, gastroenterologists and other specialists but none helped her. She tried gluten-free diets, paleo, intermittent fasting, using different supplements, peppermint oil and many other diets with little to no avail.

We started working together to help her tackle her health and all the symptoms she was experiencing. In just a couple of days, she started seeing the difference. In 3 weeks she was completely symptom-free. The culprit… fructans in food. In her case, it was mainly due to onion, garlic, watermelon, bananas, prunes and cashews. All the food she ate on a daily bases.

When a person is experiencing a myriad of symptoms such as abdominal swelling and bloating due to fructose in foods we call that fructose malabsorption. It leads to gas and bloating because a large amount of fructose builds up in the large intestines and ferments. It is estimated that approximately 24% of people with IBS react to fructans.

What are fructans?

Fructans are carbohydrates found in many fruits, grains, vegetables and legumes. Gluten and fructan-containing grains are wheat, barley, spelt and rye.

Fruits that contain fructans are watermelon, banana, prunes, persimmon, plums, pomegranate, dates and raisins.
Vegetables containing fructans are onions, garlic, fennel, snow peas, shallots, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. We also have cashews, pistachios, kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans and split peas that contain fructans.

So how can one find out what foods they are reacting to? Firstly I would suggest finding a practitioner specializing in digestive disorders that can guide and support you. Ordering tests such as hydrogen breath tests may be helpful, but sometimes unnecessary. An elimination and reintroduction diet can also be a great tool in determining the cause of all those troubles.

So now that I have explained a possible cause of abdominal swelling and bloating, discomfort, excess flatulence, and many other digestive symptoms let’s look at what can be done.

I suggest that my clients follow a specific diet for a certain period (usually the FODMAP diet). After that, it is time to determine if they can have some of those foods in specific quantities. Finding substitutes for foods they react to is helpful in bringing flavour back to food. I find that garlic-infused oils, the green part of chives or leeks in cooking, Asafoetida Powder (which can be found in Asian shops), and small amounts of garlic scape powder are safe to use. Lastly, I suggest being mindful of fodmap stacking which I will explain in another article.

If you are reading this post I can assume that you have been experiencing some digestive problems…maybe they are abdominal swelling and bloating, changes in your stool, excess flatulence or event fatigue I could be of help. If you are ready to receive guidance, support and assistance please click here to book an Initial nutritional session.

blankMirela Simic, Nutritionist and PT