How to get rid of bloating: Digestive enzymes shown to reduce tummy swelling

How to get rid of bloating: Digestive enzymes shown to reduce tummy swelling


Easy Ways to Live Well: Steph McGovern discusses bloating

Bloating is a common complaint whereby wind clogs up your gastrointestinal tract (GI) – a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. With nowhere to go, the wind accumulates in your tummy, causing it to stretch. Received wisdom says to cut out gassy culprits to alleviate bloating, but this may not work.

Evidence suggests adding supplements to your diet may help to relieve bloating symptoms.

One study published in the Archives of Public Health found supplementing with digestive enzymes to be effective.

Digestive enzymes are proteins released into the digestive system, mainly by the pancreas and small intestine.

By the end of the study, which was performed on 62 volunteers suffering from common digestive problems, digestive enzymes produced ‘significant improvements’.

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What’s more, a study published in Current Drug Metabolism found that digestive enzymes may help manage digestive disorders, including lactose intolerance.

This is significant because food intolerances, such as a lactose intolerance, are a common cause of bloating.

According to Holland and Barrett, digestive enzymes are available either as single or mixed enzymes.

They can be:

  • Bromelain from pineapples or papain from papayas
  • Extracted from plants like fungi and yeast
  • Pancreatic enzymes taken from animals.

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“Check the label to see which enzymes are included and their source, particularly if you’re vegetarian or vegan,” advises Holland and Barrett.

“Also check which food they break down inside the body – if you have lactose intolerance, for example, look for lactase.”

How do I know if my bloating is caused by a food intolerance?

According to the NHS, food intolerance can lead to bloating when:

  • Your bowel does not empty properly
  • The food causes gas to be trapped
  • Too much gas is produced as a reaction to the food.

“The most common foods to cause problems are wheat or gluten and dairy products,” explains the health body.

In fact, you should be wary of wheat-based products, such as bread, according to Isabel Skypala PhD, specialist allergy dietitian at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.

“Probably a third of patients in my allergy clinic complain of digestive symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pain after eating bread,” said Skypala.

As she explained, allergy is unlikely to be the culprit, but bread-related symptoms are real, and wheat could be to blame.

“Some people find certain foods are simply hard to digest, and wheat appears to be one of those.”

How to combat a food intolerance

Cutting out bread and other foods containing wheat should not harm your health, if you do it properly.

As the NHS explains, wheat is one of our staple foods, and lots of wheat products, such as breakfast cereals, are fortified with vitamins and minerals.

In the past, there was a danger of running short of essential nutrients like B vitamins and iron if you cut out wheat.

But, as the NHS explains, there’s now a good range of widely available wheat-free alternatives that will not compromise a balanced diet.

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