Why Do I Feel "Bloated" All the Time?

>> Tuesday, June 4, 2013

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The feeling of being "bloated" is one of many symptoms that really bother and worry women. It is hard to know if it is caused from water retention, changes from an upcoming menstrual cycle or even constipation. It is common for women to feel distended and gassy (and have difficulty with bowel movements) due to the hormone changes that come with our cycles. Usually these changes are temporary and are relieved once our cycle begins. But sometimes, these symptoms continue and become an everyday problem.

Many women have difficulty with constipation. This can start at a very young age and is often related to the hormone changes we experience with our cycles, menopause or childbirth. Most of us are aware of our own bowel habits and also know when it has been too long since our last bowel movement. We tend to be able to notice changes in consistency of our stools, from normal soft stool to loose diarrhea or hard pellets that are difficult to pass. Most of us will go on the hunt for a good laxative or use the family remedy to alleviate this, but it can become a worry when it becomes repetitive and we feel bloated all the time.

Everyone is a little different, so it's not a good idea to compare yourself to others. Constipation refers to a decrease in the frequency of bowel movements or difficulty in passing stools. The stool of a constipated person is typically hard because it contains less water than normal. Constipation is not a disease but can be a symptom of disease. Some women have one to three bowel movements a day, while others may have only one to three a week. Having regular bowel movements can help with weight loss (or it could be that a better diet helps improve frequency of bowel movements, which in turn helps with weight loss). Please be assured that constipation and holding feces in our bowel for a longer period of time does not poison our system. Poisons or waste do not reabsorb back into our body.

Constipation can be the result of a poor diet, poor bowel habits, hormone changes or problems in elimination of stool - most often a combination of all of these. We women face an especially challenging problem in that vaginal childbirth can cause ripping and tearing of perineal tissues that can extend to or weaken our anal sphincter and posterior vaginal wall. This can affect our ability to push out and, in fact, some women have to place their thumb or finger into their vagina and press down toward their anus to help eliminate their bowel movements. This is a common mechanical problem unique to women. Some of this can be helped with surgery and certainly I have done many of these during my career.

Eating foods rich in animal fats, dairy products, meats, eggs and refined sugar (but very low in fiber, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) can cause constipation. Not drinking enough water can also lead to hard dry stools, as fluid is absorbed in the intestine. People who don't drink enough water may not pass enough water into the colon to keep their stools soft. Caffeine and alcohol induce increased urination of water, which leads to relative dehydration. Because there is less water to be absorbed into the intestine, it can make the stool hard. Diuretics also make us urinate more, causing dehydration and causing constipation. So do antacids like Mylanta, Tums and overuse of laxatives. Traveling is a big deal for some people, and it can disrupt the normal routines and bring on constipation.

Constipation can make us feel awful, and I think this is why we think it is poisoning our bodies. More than just bloating and feeling uncomfortable, it can also cause severe cramping (which women may confuse with menstrual cramps) nausea and vomiting, headaches, loss of appetite, and bad breath.

The best way to stay regular is to develop regular bowel habits, go when you have the urge, add fiber to your diet, drink plenty of water, get regular exercise and avoiding taking medications that interfere with bodily functions.

I hope this helps you on your journey to better health and feeling better with more energy.

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