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Banish the Bloat: Natural Solutions for Abdominal Discomfort

Posted by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa on October 09, 2023

Woman lying on sofa looking sick in the living room

Let’s get something straight, to start. The word bloating. It’s the word du jour, and I hear a lot about it. The thing is, most people complaining about it don’t actually know what bloating means. Bloat is any abnormal swelling, or increase in diameter of the abdominal area. A bloated person usually feels full and tight in the abdomen, which may or may not cause abdominal pain. 

What Causes Bloating?

The hitch is about what causes the swelling. Common causes are intestinal gas and abdominal water retention. Amplified belly fat, obviously, or even a tumor or infection can inflate that area. Each cause has a treatment, and each is different. For example, a menstrual period may bring gas and/or water retention. Today, let’s talk about bloating from intestinal gas, and we’ll get back to the other causes some time later.

A gut full of gas sounds trivial, but that constant pressure can be one of the most annoying symptoms a person can endure. It pales next to a brain tumor, but it can sure ruin a good day.

Gas can form anywhere in the digestive tract, but it largely comes from bacterial action in the large intestine, as a byproduct of fermentation. Those bugs live off our waste, so, if undigested carbohydrates make their way to the bacterial homeland, the microbes break them down to simpler compounds, including some in gaseous form. The usual strategy to pump up carb digestion is to bring more blood to the stomach and to stimulate the secretion of stomach digestive juices.

Bloating Solutions

The parsley family is famous for its collection of gas-suppressing seeds. Think cumin, dill, coriander, anise and caraway. The theory is that the abundant essential oils in these seeds bump up digestive juices, or perhaps they kill bad germs. In my mind, fennel is the world champion. In a recent Italian study, coriander and fennel were both found to be natural bactericides. A 2016 scientific paper stated that anethole, a major constituent in fennel seed, restored delayed gastric emptying.  A 2017 meta-analysis looked at 14 trials with 1927 participants and found evidence for effectiveness for different fennel preparations (oil, tea, herbal compound) in treating children with infantile colic. Twenty-four European patients took an herbal mixture containing dandelion, St. John's Wort, lemon balm, calendula and fennel. Ninety-five percent had total relief of colitis symptoms in 15 days. Use fennel, or any of these parsley family seeds, by chewing the whole seed, brewing in tea or taking capsules. They are very safe. To really nail the bloating, you might need a substantial dose. Increase until you subdue the gas. 

Ginger to the Rescue

Ginger, another warming herb, is a first aid kit on a plate, a time-tested remedy and it is used by nearly every culture in the world as a treatment for gas. Prepare a tasty tea and drink it after a large meal to ease discomfort. It reduces gut spasms, absorbs and neutralizes toxins in the GI tract and boosts digestive juice secretion, including bile and saliva. A recent paper reported that ginger enhanced fat digestion by stimulating bile and pancreatic lipase enzymes. This spicy root contains ingredients that soothe the gut and aid digestion by augmenting peristalsis. A study of colitis found that ginger reduced inflammation and injury, apparently through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. In 2016, a Spanish study confirmed the benefit of ginger for indigestion, and another this year from Australia proved that ginger speeds up digestion to reduce symptoms. Use 1 tsp. chopped herb brewed as tea, 3 times a day, or as much as needed to lessen the bloating.

Warming Herbs Tame Bloating

On the whole, warming herbs reduce gas and bloating, and black pepper is an excellent example. Though it’s little respected here, it is one of the most valued herbs in Asia.  Piperine, a main active constituent, has a reputation for increasing bioavailability and absorption of nutrients. A Pakistani study confirmed a mechanism for increasing intestinal motility, which is known to reduce gas. A 2013 paper confirmed the longstanding reputation for enhancing digestion. Long pepper, a famous Asian herb, is a two inch long peppercorn closely related to black pepper, with which it is often combined. It tends to moisturize tissues, such as the lungs and digestive tract, while black pepper reduces excess moisture. Use black pepper in tea or capsules to your comfort. Start with 500 mg per meal and increase with each meal until you have banned the bloat.

Bloating can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience caused by various factors, with intestinal gas being a common culprit. Fortunately, nature offers us a range of solutions to tackle this bothersome issue. The seeds from the parsley family, such as fennel, coriander, and caraway, are known for their gas-suppressing properties and can be easily incorporated into your diet. Ginger, a versatile and time-tested remedy, can also come to the rescue by soothing the gut, boosting digestive juices, and reducing inflammation. And don't forget the underestimated black pepper, with its remarkable ability to enhance digestion and reduce gas. Embracing these warming herbs as part of your daily routine can go a long way in taming bloating and helping you enjoy a more comfortable and bloat-free life. So, the next time you find yourself dealing with abdominal discomfort, consider these natural remedies to find relief and banish the bloat for good.

How to Learn More About Herbalism

Learning about herbalism and other forms of natural medicine and nutrition is convenient and straightforward with PCC courses. Herbalism enthusiasts from a variety of walks of life can find something valuable in the course. PCC's instructors are well-versed in Ayurveda, Chinese traditional medicine, or other well-recognized elements of herbalism. It's wise to learn about herbalism from someone involved in, for instance, the American Herbalists Guild or other professional organizations that help to make herbalism education strong and well-researched. PCC's instructors are all well-connected to the broader herbalism community.

Recognizing the value that herbalism can bring to your life can put you on a path to greater understanding. Herbs of many kinds have been used in foods as a way to nourish and heal the body for thousands of years, and you can learn more about them right here in the Portland, Oregon area, all through convenient courses at Portland Community College. 

Learn more and sign up for an Herbalism course today.

Topics: Functional Nutrition, Integrative Healthcare, Herbalism

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