46% of people regularly suffer from symptoms of poor gut health and digestion, with 11% experiencing extreme symptoms.
Age is a contributing factor, as the number of people suffering from bloating rises markedly among those in their 30s and is highest among those in their 40s.
With 545.7 million views for #bloatingtips on TikTok, people continue to search and share quick fixes to improve digestive health and reduce bloating or constipation.
However, some solutions shared by users have little or no scientific evidence to back them up, and often only apply to certain people.
Shona Wilkinson, the lead nutritionist at science-backed supplements brand, DR.VEGAN, says
“Many of us can admit to regularly turning to the internet for advice on health problems. However, it is important to remember that a lot of content shared online- particularly across social media- isn’t scientifically proven and may not apply to you.
“Everyone’s body functions are different; therefore, it is important to understand why you are suffering from bloating and poor gut health.
“It is true there is a strong focus on diet, nutrition, and gut health which are linked to anxiety and stress. 67% of people say their bloating worsens when they’re stressed.
“Gut health is central to the production of serotonin, also known as your ‘happy hormone’. Which is why understanding the actual reasons why you may be experiencing poor gut health is important for maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle.”
Shona shares 10 gut health myths circulating the internet and provides scientific-backed solutions for optimizing your gut health.
#Myth 1- Certain foods can ‘eliminate’ bloating
Generally, no foods can ‘eliminate bloating’. Whilst many people think drinking green tea every day will completely cure bloating, unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Introducing certain food and drinks into your diet can indeed help reduce bloating.
These include probiotic yogurts, ginger, papaya, oats, green tea, avocados, and bananas, which all have nutrients that help promote healthy digestion and further gut health.
#Myth 2- Drink lots of fluids with meals
Staying hydrated is extremely important, and for an effective metabolism, a normal human body requires about two liters of water a day.
However, drinking too much water can cause high levels of water retention. This can make you feel more bloated, causing you to feel heavier than usual.
A recent ‘30 day gallon challenge’ that went viral on TikTok challenged people to drink a gallon (4.5 liters) of water every day for 30 days.
Consuming just 3-4 liters of water in a short period can lead to hyperhydration- also known as water intoxication.
Your stomach needs the acid within it to break down your food and the more you drink during a meal, the more likely you are to flush away the acid, reducing the effectiveness of your stomach in breaking down your food before it passes into the small intestine.
Whilst staying hydrated is important, try to drink as much as you can away from your meals, and as little as you can whilst you’re eating.
#Myth 3- Avoid apples for bloating
Many people claim to believe Apples cause bloating, due to their contents of sorbitol which can cause gastrointestinal symptoms.
However, Apples contain ‘pectin’, a substance that holds water and helps to move food along the gut. Pectin generally supports regular bowel movements and a reduction in bloating.
Apples (especially the core) also contain probiotics that benefit your gut, and the fiber of apples feeds the probiotics in your gut- helping to promote the reduction of bloating.
If you want maximum benefit from the probiotics, they are best eaten raw, and if you can try to eat as much of the core as possible- even better,
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – or so the saying goes!
#Myth 4- Drink coffee
Whilst coffee is part of many people’s morning to help kickstart their day, it is also best known to help promote bowel movement, almost acting as a natural laxative.
However, unfortunately, the acid in coffee can irritate your stomach, causing swelling in the belly which can lead to bloating and discomfort.
Both coffee and milk are found to be among the top 14 food and drinks to trigger bloating, according to DR.VEGAN research.
Therefore, if you do find yourself experiencing gut problems after your morning coffee, it may be worth skipping it.
Caffeine can also cause restlessness and difficulty sleeping, particularly when consumed later in the day.
Therefore, it is worth looking at some alternatives to caffeine such as walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds which all have omega-3 fats that are needed for brain function and feelings of alertness.
#Myth 5- Bloating is only caused by diet
There is a strong focus on diet when it comes to gut health however it is not solely responsible for bloating, and in many cases, it can often overlook other potential contributing factors.
A lack of physical movement can be one of the main causes of the build-up of excess gas. By incorporating mild to moderate exercise into your everyday routine, any gas that is causing pain and discomfort will be released much easier.
If exercise isn’t an option, simply lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest, as this will help relieve any tension and built-up gas whilst helping you breathe easier and deal with any stress.
#Myth 6- More fiber the better
Fibre is important in maintaining a healthy gut, and it is recommended we eat 25 grams per day. Any bloating after a high fiber means is a good sign, indicating your microbes are well-fed and doing their job.
However, many people make the mistake of digesting too much fiber, which can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating, and cramping.
Therefore, it is best to keep your intake below the recommended amount. For those who don’t tend to eat a lot of fiber anyway, it is best to increase the fiber in your diet gradually over a few weeks.
Doing this allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.
Also, to promote the digestion of fiber, drink plenty of water as this softens your stool, helping it pass through much easier.
#Myth 7- Celery juice can ‘cure’ bloating
There are several claims that celery juice detoxifies and cures digestive issues and bloating.
Whilst celery is high in vitamin K, which can help your body regulate fluid balance and sodium levels, celery is mainly just water.
Therefore, if taken in large amounts, it can work against you waning to debloat, causing more water retention.
Concentrated celery juice is likely to trigger people with IBS, as it is high in FODMAPs- a group of carbohydrates whose presence in the diet can contribute to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Also, juicing removes all the fiber which can help promote digestion. It is much better to opt for whole foods instead of juices or smoothies, as your body will generally digest whole foods much more efficiently.
#Myth 8- Opting for Intermittent Fasting
Whilst for some people intermittent fasting can help them lose weight and improve digestion, for others it can cause more bloating.
The standard intermittent fasting plans involve fasting for 12 hours, then eating for 12.
Whilst you are unlikely to feel bloated during the fasting period, when it does come to eating, your body can react negatively.
Generally, if you don’t fast correctly and drink plenty of fluids, it can slow down your digestion and take you longer to properly excrete food following a fast, causing you to end up bloated from constipation.
#Myth 9- Taking supplements with added additives
Unfortunately, many supplements sold on the high street and online contain nasty added ingredients– including Magnesium Stearate, Talc, Titanium Dioxide (a carcinogen),
Additives are normally used to improve the supplement’s texture (making them smoother), give them a certain color, or prevent ingredients from sticking together during manufacturing.
Those who consume protein powder daily may notice they experience flatulence. This is because many protein powders are added with thickeners and gums- normally labeled as xanthan gum.
These thickeners which are manufactured from soy or corn can cause constipation, bloating, and gas.
Therefore, it is important to not only look at the nutritional label- which won’t always show everything your supplement contains- and do look at the ‘ingredients’ which is next to the nutritional table.
It is a legal requirement for the ingredients list to contain all the ingredients in your supplements, including any nasty additives.
#Myth 10- Avoiding only fizzy drinks
Fizzy drinks do cause bloating, this is a fact. However, many people don’t also realize that sipping any liquid through a straw will also cause excess gas.
This is because when you drink from a straw it captures air. This air then gets trapped in your stomach, small bowel, and your colon, increasing gas and bloating.
Therefore, if you want to reduce bloating, it is recommended you skip all carbonated drinks and avoid drinking from a straw.
DR. VEGAN is the world’s fastest-growing ethical nutrition and science-backed supplement brand.
Shona Wilkinson (RNutr) is a Registered Nutritionist with 14 years of experience in the health field.