Before you reach for that antacid to stop your heartburn, or Gas-X to alleviate your gas and bloating, pause for a second… because you could actually be making matters worse.
How could something that stops your discomfort so quickly end up making matters worse?
Well, many common remedies for these types of digestive issues don’t address the root cause of the problem, they just temporarily relieve the symptoms. One example is when we take medications like antacids, they reduce the concentration of hydrochloric acid in our stomachs, which can change the entire environment of the gut.
The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms known as the “gut microbiota.” When their environment is thrown off balance by powerful drugs, it can cause complications further down the line.
Gas and bloating are some of the most common digestive issues people have today. Between 10 and 30 percent of Americans struggle with these uncomfortable symptom – that’s 97 million people!1
If you struggle with digestion issues, you are not alone.
How do you truly address gas, bloating, and other digestive issues without long-term consequences of using various over-the-counter medications? Is it the foods you are eating contributing to the problem? What can be done to address the root cause, rather than mask the symptoms?
The answer is in restoring balance to the gut microbiome.
Rebalancing the Gut Microbiome for Gas and Bloating Relief
Bloating happens when gas builds up in your digestive system – this can be uncomfortable or even downright painful. Using laxatives allows temporary relief from bloating by causing a bowel movement. But this doesn’t mean that the bloating won’t return the next time you reach for gas causing food.
Sometimes people are able to figure out which foods are causing their bloating and avoid them, but for others it is more tricky. Determining which foods cause your tummy troubles is a tedious process. Not to mention, just because you identify a food or two that induces bloating doesn’t mean you’ve corrected the underlying problem.
This is because gas and bloating can occur when there is gut dysbiosis. Dysbiosis means that the ecosystem of microbes living in your gut has become imbalanced or dysfunctional. When dysbiosis occurs and the environment of the gut changes, levels of microbial byproducts such as methane and hydrogen can ramp up. It is possible that the increase in these gases are the true source of your discomfort.
Mischievous Methane Producers
Methane in particular causes problems because it can slow your digestive system down. Reducing the motility of the whole system, which can lead to constipation, abdominal cramping, and inflammation.2
You see, there may be ancient bacterial relatives called archaea living in your gut. Some archaea are methanogens, meaning they are capable of producing methane in the gut if they are present and active.3 While having some archaea inhabiting your intestinal tract may be a good thing, depend on the rest of your microbial ecosystem.
Sometimes bacteria, including archaea, can creep up from the large intestine to the small intestine where it doesn’t belong. This may contribute to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which can contribute to uncomfortable bloating and gas.4
Until recently SIBO was a misunderstood condition, leaving many who suffered without solutions. Today, the primary treatment for SIBO is an antibiotic called rifaximin, which targets the bacteria in the small intestine.5 While sometimes we have to take antibiotics, they can disrupt the balance of the gut’s ecosystem further and can potentially cause new GI issues.
After taking a round of antibiotics, it is so important to work on restoring balance to your gut as best as possible – it needs your help! Since antibiotics cause drastic changes to the gut microbiome, future treatments could look at new ways to treat underlying gastrointestinal issues without antibiotics. Restoring balance to the gut provides a new avenue for exploration.
*DISCLAIMER: The information in our articles are for educational purposes only and are not meant to replace medical advice. Viome does not diagnose or treat SIBO or other gastrointestinal conditions.
Why Probiotics Aren’t Always Good for Gas and Bloating
Digestive issues are often successfully treated with over-the-counter supplements like probiotics. Probiotics have a good reputation as an alternative to harsh pharmaceuticals and other drugs for issues like gas and bloating. For some people though, symptoms do not get better, sometimes they get worse with probiotics.
Everyone is unique and the underlying cause for gas and bloating may be different for everyone, warranting a more specific intervention. Using probiotics without understanding what’s going on in the gut can be like blindfolding yourself and reaching for any ol’ supplement on the counter.
Probiotics are created with many different bacterial strains that have a specific role in the microbiome. Without any insight into your unique gut, your response will tell you if your probiotics are helping or hurting. Some people have even reported that probiotics actually contribute to their bloating, which can be very disheartening.6
While there is evidence that improving microbiome balance can be achieved through the use of probiotics, sometimes using probiotic supplements for gas and bloating may not be the best answer.
To find lasting relief, determining the underlying cause and targeting the root of the problem is the answer. We need to find out what’s going on in our individual gut microbiomes so we can take the next steps to better our gut health – and hopefully find relief for our troublesome tummies.
True Digestive Relief Begins with a Balanced Gut Microbiome
If you want true relief to digestive issues, work on restoring balance to the gut microbiome.
Since everyone’s gut microbiome is unique to them, it’s up to you to find out exactly what works best for you – but here are a few tips that are a good idea for just about everyone. These will point you in the right direction.
1. Reduce stress in your life – Ongoing stress can negatively affect your gut microbiome, and vice versa. When it comes to reducing your stress levels, adding techniques like meditation and yoga are great but working on improving your gut health is just as important.
2. Eat less sugar – Sugar feeds many of the harmful bacteria, they absolutely love it. When you eat less sugar, you’re starving the harmful guys and giving them less energy to cause you trouble.
3. Take a gut microbiome test to check your gut– Taking a gut microbiome test like Viome helps you discover the foods that are best for your gut microbiome. Viome is a great health and wellness tool for finding your ideal diet.
4. Exercise (but not too much!) – Exercise is beneficial to your gut microbiome, but not if you’re working out too much. Overexertion is like stress in the body and can contribute to microbial imbalance.
There you have it! We hope this helps you find the cause of your gut troubles and start you on the journey to true digestive relief.