Bloated Stomach and IBS

Why is my stomach bloated?

Sharon Digestion

If you’ve ever eaten dinner – you know, not too much and all the good things, then gone for a shower and realised you look like you’re five months pregnant, you’ll know the frustration of bloated stomach after eating.

Or maybe you get up in the morning admiring your nice flat-looking abdomen, only to realise that you feel like an overweight panda some hours later – what is this bloated stomach, and why is getting worse?

IBS is usually the explanation for your bloated stomach

Once you have done the important step of going to your GP and ruling out any other disease, you are usually left wondering just what is going on. The last option to explain your bloating and other symptoms such as nausea, constipation or diarrhoea, belly pain and nausea, is usually Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.

The problem with syndromes in Western medicine is that they aren’t that easy to diagnose as they are made up of a collection of signs and symptoms. Syndromes are difficult to treat in Western medicine, as there isn’t a one-pill-fits-all approach that works. This means there isn’t a simple test that can be run to determine the cause of your bloating that corresponds with a pill.

Never the less, some visits to your GP to look into some testing are vitally important to your health.

The Rome III diagnostic criteria are generally used to diagnose IBS, however your GP may also consider the following symptoms, in the absence of other disease:

  • diarrhoea, constipation, or both
  • bloating
  • pain or discomfort that is relieved by passing wind or going to the toilet
  • worse around menstruation (if you’re a lady) or during times of stress

Once your doctor makes a diagnosis of IBS, there are many things that they may recommend to manage your symptoms during a ‘flare up’. These include:

  • anti-diarrhoeal medicines
  • painkillers
  • constipation treatments
  • medication to stop stomach acid (like Nexium)
  • antispasmodics (to ease cramping)
  • antidepressants (which are used to treat pain and depression)

Your GP rocks if...

If you have a particularly on-point GP, they will also suggest lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet. Gold stars if your GP investigates the source of your stress with you or discusses anxiety and depression.

In the end, you will only manage the flare-ups with this approach, and depending on the trigger they will continue as regular as clockwork. But could you do better?

You bet.

But, you can probably do much better with acupuncture and Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine has had some particularly good “gold standard research” results in this area, including some double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, and a decent meta-analysis – fancy words for round-up of all the current research on the topic. But first, it is good to understand why Chinese medicine can help to relieve bloating for good where Western medicine doesn’t do so well.

Chinese medicine is all about the pattern rather than a specific symptom or disease. A pattern is what we would loosely equate to a syndrome in Western medicine. So straight away, Chinese medicine has an advantage of understanding such varied groups of symptoms that might include bloating. There is more to the picture than pooing problems, bloating and the need to pass wind. So much more!

If we consider bloating, for example, I commonly see seven different “patterns” in my clinic. Each one has bloating as a symptom, along with pooing problems. But then they get quite varied. One pattern includes sighing, a constant lump in the throat, along with a worsening of symptoms and tender breasts coming up to menstruation. Bloating and period go hand in hand.

Other patterns focus on where the pain and discomfort is – one pattern has a prevalence of pain and bloating in the stomach - above the belly button, another with pain or discomfort below the belly button. Still another pattern includes the signs of cold hands and/or feet plus fluid retention in addition to bloating, diarrhoea and fatigue. Another also includes reflux or heartburn.

How does Chinese medicine help bloating?

The reason Chinese medicine goes into such detail is to make sure that the treatment is tailor-made to the patient and their particular presentation. It is more than just bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort, and changes in your pooing habits.

Given the Chinese medicine pattern diagnosis is so specific, the treatment is targeted and generally successful in substantially reducing THE BLOAT. The treatment is designed to get to the root cause of bloated bellies and fix that up, which means the problem generally goes away.

Wondering what a treatment programme looks like in my clinic? Let me share!

Step 1 – The Pattern

The most important thing is diagnosing the Chinese medicine pattern. I do this by asking a lot of questions! Each answer helps me fill up one bucket or the next so I can build a picture of what is going on with your digestion and figure out your Chinese medicine pattern. This will give a pretty good explanation for your bloated stomach

Step 2 – The Programme

Based on the length of time you have been experiencing your bloat + other symptoms, I’ll recommend a treatment plan. Your plan will include acupuncture, herbs and nutritional advice, maybe supplements too. The plan is designed to sort your digestion issues so you don’t have to resort to pharmaceuticals to manage things for the rest of your life.

Step 3 – The Review

I build reviews into your treatment plan, so at pre-determined intervals we will review your plan to check how your bloating is going. You will continue herbs weekly, regular acupuncture sessions, and I will drip feed you extra lifestyle and dietary information on resolving your issue as we go along.

Step 4 – Going Forward

At the end of your treatment plan we will discuss your self-care plan going forward to make sure you don’t end up in the same bloated boat that came in with. If you came in for help with your bloated belly, the chances are you will end up back in the same place if you don’t change your eating habits and lifestyle choices. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered and you won’t be left wondering how to manage things after we have resolved your issue.

Are you ready to beat the bloat?

Bowel issues are nothing to dismiss and should be considered by your GP as a matter of urgency if you have experienced changes to your pooing habits, or you are suffering from reflux or heartburn. Western medicine is amazing at addressing urgent and serious health concerns.

But if your testing all comes back OK, there is very little that Western medicine has to offer you other than managing your symptoms. You see, bloating, pain and digestive issues are not independent of your mindset, your environment and the food you eat – so a pill isn’t going to cut it - it takes a more holistic approach to resolve your digestive woes.

This is where Chinese medicine shines! There is so much in food, acupuncture and Chinese herbs that can help you resolve your bloating problems in a relatively short space of time…and for good. I would love to share the goodness of Chinese medicine with you and help you on your journey to resolve the bloat, and I’m here when you’re ready.

On the other hand, if you're just not ready to get started yet, that's ok - let's stay in touch. Either go ahead and like my FaceBook page to keep up with what's going on, or sign up below to receive regular monthly news from me 🙂 also with your sign-up is a free workbook on a couple of breathing techniques to reduce anxiety.