Stomach bloating describes what happens when too much gas fills up the gastrointestinal tract. Commonly reported symptoms include a stretchy, puffy sensation in the tummy and painful abdominal cramps. Popular wisdom says a person should eliminate gassy culprits from their diet to ease their expanding waistline. Recent evidence suggests a certain antibiotic may help to banish the bloat too.
In a study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers discovered that rifaximin, an antibiotic used to treat diarrhoea, is an effective treatment for abdominal bloating and flatulence, including in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients.
In this randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial, researchers at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon treated 124 patients with rifaximin therapy and found that it was effective at relieving the symptoms of bloating and excess gaseousness by way of reducing the amount of hydrogen gas produced in the large intestine.
And because rifaximin is non-absorbable, there are no side effects, making it suitable for chronic use
Research has shown that these symptoms are common and often more disturbing to IBS patients, as well as being harder to treat, than the commonly associated diarrhoea and constipation.
Fortunately, among the patients with IBS in the trial, a favourable response was also noted, which lasted even through the post-treatment phase of the study.
The finding also challenges some of the conventional wisdom surrounding antibiotics.
Common side effects of taking antibiotics tend to affect the digestive system, triggering bloating, said the NHS.
According to Dr Oz, people should also cut down on sodium to stave off the risk of bloating.
Sodium causes the body to retain fluid, which can lead to bloating.
He advised instead: “Before you reach for the saltshaker, consider swapping your snacks for a healthier option.
“Rather than munching on a bag of potato chips, stick to fresh fruit and veggies.
“Avoid buying frozen dinners and processed foods, as they are often overloaded with salt.”
If a person’s bloating is due to constipation, the NHS recommended a fibre-rich diet, drinking lots of fluids and taking regular exercise to beat the bloat.
“Even a 20 to 30 minute brisk walk four times a week can improve your bowel function,” the health body said.
It is also worth keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks to spot the worst offenders.
The main offenders are wheat or gluten and dairy products, noted the NHS.
The best approach if you have a food intolerance is to eat less of the culprit food or cut it out completely, advised the health body.
“But don’t get rid of food groups long-term without advice from your GP,” it warned.