We all are familiar with the discomfort of a bloated stomach. Your pants are hard to zip up, you're feeling gassy, and the last thing you want to do is slip into anything that isn't elastic-waistband material. It's more common than you think. Bloating is a fairly common problem, and a survey conducted in recent years revealed that up to 74% of Americans experience some sort of abdominal discomfort regularly. This even applies to the healthiest of people.
Those feelings of sudden weight gain and a protruding belly aren't reserved for those who are out of shape. Some of the fittest ladies on the internet have showcased their bloated bellies — making it seem much more prevalent. Even Instagram fitness star Lucy Baker showed us that she too suffers from the occasional food baby. So what gives — why do women seem to have to do deal with daily bloat more often than not?
Are you finding yourself feeling like Winnie the Pooh after a large meal, yet your man's stomach never seems to bulge? You aren't alone. It turns out that women do get plagued by stomach bloat more often than men, and there is a laundry list of reasons why. Thankfully, a renowned gastroenterologist has decided to break it down for all of us ladies out there.
A Gastroenterologist Has Revealed Some Shocking Information
Dr. Robynne Chutkan is a gastroenterologist that has focused on the digestive issues that women continuously encounter. She is the founder of the Digestive Centre for Women in Washington D.C., and she's extensively studied the reason behind why women seem to constantly bloat. The reason starts with a woman's biology.
Women experience abdominal bloating more often than men because their digestive tract is far more complicated. A woman's colon is around 10 centimeters longer than a man's. This extra length allows a woman to carry a child safely throughout pregnancy, and it comes down to retaining fluid.
A woman's body is filled with excess fluid during the nine months of pregnancy, and this is vital to the development of the fetus. "Because you have to keep the amniotic fluid replete, and the circulation and blood volume increases during pregnancy," Chutkan stated. This extra circulation comes at a price when it comes to your digestive health.
A longer digestive tract can lead to more discomfort. "That extra length in the colon [creates] this redundancy, these sorts of extra twists and turns, and that’s why women are so much more bloated and constipated than their male counterparts," Chutkan said. Even the shape of the woman's pelvis is different, leading to the colon to share space with the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
Men's bodies produce more testosterone, causing their abdominal walls to be significantly stronger than a woman's. The ever-changing levels of estrogen and progesterone add to a woman's digestive issues can lead to regular bloating. "Many women find they are bloated before their period, and this is due to an increased level of progesterone," Chutkan stated. A woman's period can lead to a lot of digestive discomforts, even weeks prior to its arrival.
Premenstrual syndrome — which flares up 5-11 days before your period begins — can come with an array of aggravating digestive symptoms. Bloating is a common sign that your period is on its way, and it's a sign we all women have come to dread. Even though it may be part of your monthly flow, there are things you can do to combat this PMS bloat.
Salt can further irritate your digestive tract and dehydrate you, causing that monthly bloating to intensify. Drink more water and cut back on your salt intake to prevent excessive PMS bloating. Exercise and proper sleep also help to keep your stomach flat! Other everyday diet choices may also be sabotaging your belly.
Irritable bowel syndrome — or IBS — is a disorder of the intestines that is characterized by gas, diarrhea, and bloating. Wondering why your foam latte leaves you running to the restroom? Your IBS may be acting up due to your diet.
Dairy, alcohol, and fried foods can further aggravate a woman's digestive tract. If your stomach seems to bloat everytime you eat something, it may be time to visit a doctor. Discussing your symptoms will help you make the dietary changes that work for you and your stomach.
Taking a long look at your lifestyle and dietary choices can make a big difference when it comes to your digestive health. "It's really about the 80 percent rule. Most of us are “toxing” 80 percent of the time and detoxing 20 percent of the time. And we should really think about flipping that—we should think about detoxing 80 percent of the time," Chutkan stated. Start feeding your body proper fuel and you will keep your stomach happy and regular.
Although it may seem like our digestive tracts are programmed for failure, taking care of your intestines can make a huge difference. Women may have to do a little more work to keep their digestive systems regular, but simple, everyday changes can keep you feeling great and looking slim. All it takes is a little trial and error.
With the wide array of food allergies and intolerances, you have to approach food on an individual basis to see what works for you. "I usually tell people to do a six-week elimination trial; if you don’t notice a difference there’s no reason to avoid it," Chutkan admitted. Find what your body needs and your stomach bloating will be stopped in its tracks.