Feeling bloated and uncomfortable in your clothes can be so frustrating and painful and is often the number one reason many women start to seek help and advice on IBS and want to learn how to get better. Bloating can range from having a distended tummy that feels hot and sore to the touch and can sometimes feel like you have a lead balloon in your stomach. Bloating can often be coupled with trapped wind, gurgling and loud noises, gas and feeling like your tummy has turned into a washing machine swishing around with no end to the cycle. It can last for a few minutes a few hours or sometimes even days.

Most often upon waking the tummy is flat and feeling less bloated and then as soon as you eat or drink anything the bloating, cramping and other associated IBS pains can start. Sometimes this can be relieved by moving your bowels. Sometimes even moving your bowel can be difficult with IBS or painful and sometimes it doesn’t relieve the boating.

It is important to note that we as women, naturally tend to put up with a lot of pain before we decide enough is enough and start looking for help with it. There are always other seemingly more important priorities to take care of before putting ourselves first. This is our natural nurturing, mothering instincts and it is for this reason many women inadvertently allow their health to deteriorate dramatically before taking action.

Let me tell you this. Putting yourself first is not selfish. We are conditioned to believe from a young age that we must put others needs in front of our own. And of course we have more responsibilities usually that can seem overwhelming and more important. But you, and your health is very important. Without you are in good shape mentally and physically, how can you look after or support anyone else effectively?

Why does bloating occur?

When bloating occurs in your body it means is that your entire system is communicating to you. We have just forgotten how to listen and don’t know how to relieve this symptom. Bloating is a clear message that something is not right internally and that we need to take action to eradicate this.

It could be that your diet needs some work. But you may have already tried writing food diaries to see if there is a pattern. You may have had a Coeliac test at the doctors to see if gluten is the culprit. You may have tried to eliminate certain foods from your diet to no avail. You could have sought the advice of a doctor and been put on trial medications to see if this will relieve the bloating. Maybe you have tried the impossibly hard to stick to and usually ineffective FODMAP diet. Perhaps you have started to look outside of conventional medicine and tried many alternative therapies to get your system back in alignment.

Whilst I am an advocate of natural healing and many therapies out there are a wonderful accompaniment to your healing process, getting to the root cause of the bloating (and other IBS symptoms) is the only real key to getting long term relief from this symptom. Understanding what is going on in your body is also helpful for long term relief. As is having the full support of those around you. After all, your IBS symptoms do not just affect you, they affect your whole family, your friends and often your work life. But most of all they are affecting your mental and physical health.

I have been told my IBS is ‘stress related’

Stress is often used as a scapegoat for IBS symptoms and women are advised to reduce their stress levels to help become IBS free. Stress is inflammatory on the whole system and can certainly exacerbate the existing condition.

However, living a stress free life is not possible. Every day we all have stresses. It is a part of life. But once the gut is healed and the body is functioning effectively and the nutrients from your daily diet are feeding every cell in your body, including your brain cells, stress is much more manageable. Our brains and bowels are intrinsically linked and therefore, it can feel like the stress is to blame when in fact the gut, the gut bacteria, the diet, the feeling of powerlessness, the inaccurate advice and years of searching for answers are all contributing towards the feeling that your IBS is ‘stress related’. It can make the symptoms feel worse some ways but it is certainly not the only answer and reducing your stress, even it that were possible, will not eliminate IBS.

Social fear

When bloating is bad we can often feel like we don’t want to go out, go to work, participate in life as we feel we look pregnant. I lost count of the times people used to congratulate me on my pregnancy when my bloating was at its worst. This made me feel very insecure and I lost confidence mostly wearing baggy clothes to hide it and stretchy pants to allow room for ‘the bloat’, should I have to attend an event that I couldn’t get out of. Mostly, I would leave early and take myself home to feel sorry for myself and beat myself up that my body didn’t behave the same as everyone else’s seemed to.

Bloating more often that not also produces gas or trapped wind which of course is no fun for anyone. It can be super embarrassing if you have gas and not amazing for those people around you; your work colleagues, your family, your children, your partner or even your clients or your boss! We can all laugh it off at times but it can leave you feeling very unattractive and embarrassed and like a complete social outcast. Like I just wanted to be left alone.

This is how I often felt when I had these symptoms. I got so fed up of not being able to wear the clothes I wanted to flatter my figure and whilst living in London in my twenties I wanted to  enjoy a happy, healthy social life, to wear fashionable clothes and feminine suits and feel confident and sexy. With my IBS I felt the opposite.

This one symptom alone certainly hindered my intimate relationships and made me feel very self conscious. I often cancelled my plans, returned dresses than I was never going to be able to wear and went home early as may bloating and gas had started to get socially unacceptable. I had complete social fear. You may have experiences these feelings too and whilst understandable they are not helpful to your recovery. And you can recover from this.

Is food causing your bloating?

Discovering what could be causing your bloating is quite difficult on your own as no doubt you have already discovered.

You may have already tried to establish an eating pattern or discovered a particular food item that causes your gut to behave this way. You have perhaps created a ‘no-no’ list of food and drinks that you do your best to avoid. Often women can have so many foods on the no-no list that it can feel impossible to find something that you can eat, that won’t make you feel bad and that doesn’t cause bloating or any other IBS symptom.

This is because essentially your gut is in crisis. This could be due to inflammation, gut bacterial imbalance, nutrient deficiency, malabsorption or leaky gut all of which can create feelings of anxiety, stress and even depression. Which can lead to a vicious circle of not feeling mentally strong which can then lead to more bad food and drink choices whilst we look for a quick fix to make us feel better like alcohol, junk food or sugary snacks.

With the gut not processing food effectively, distributing the nutrients around your body and brain it means that in all likelihood your immune system could be compromised. Most of our immune cels are located in the gut and without this powerhouse and complex piece of internal machinery functioning well, our body cannot cope with germs effectively and therefore women with IBS tend to get more colds and be particularly be susceptible to tummy bugs making matters seem even worse.

All of this can be reversed and IBS recovery is possible although it may not seem like that at the moment but don’t give up! You are capable of self healing, your body is amazing and well worth putting the effort in to get your gut health back into alignment.

Good digestion

Having good digestion isn’t just good for a flat belly.  It is essential for absorbing nutrients in your food. Eating serves one purpose and one purpose only. Eating the right foods provides your body with energy on a cellular level in order to complete every day necessary functions.

We eat certain foods for a number of other reasons such as ‘its breakfast time’ or ‘its lunchtime’ as well as for emotional comfort, filling possible voids in our lives as well as for traditional reasons (i.e. Sunday roasts here in the UK). We also eat for religious or ceremonial reasons. There are many reasons why we eat and drink certain things at certain times or the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner can be a particular minefield for women with IBS.

We also eat because, of course, we are hungry and sometimes with IBS the blood sugar can get low and then we can feel hangry, snappy and with a very low mood. Being constantly hungry is another symptom of IBS. This is your body searching out nutrients that it isn’t getting gin your daily diet or your digestive systems inability to process the nutrients that are going in due to some of the aforementioned reasons.

If your digestive system is struggling to digest the food you are putting in then there is a good chance that your body isn’t absorbing all the nutrients within your food. This can lead to feelings of tiredness, irritability, lethargy, depression, headaches, illnesses and a general feeling of brain fog, lack of focus and the IBS pains, bloating and irregular, unsatisfying bowel movements that all go hand in and with IBS.

Therefore, it isn’t just a bloated belly that is important to fix here. Getting your digestive system filtering in the good stuff and eliminating the waste efficiently and effectively is essential for every area of your health. Your energy levels, clarity, feelings of happiness and confidence and keeping on top of your stress and anxiety levels are all linked back to good gut health. As is your general immune function.

What to do next?

One of the easiest ways of relieving bloating is to give your tummy a rest from digesting for a few hours. Many women find intermittent fasting effective within an IBS recovery program.

Sipping water will help to calm your stomach acid even if at first it feels like it is making the situation worse. Alkaline and boost your water with a sprig of mint, a slice of cucumber or other fresh green herbs to provide stomach acid balancing nutrients and help to reduce the bloating.

Also, I find it really beneficial to do some gentle yogic stretching to relieve any trapped wind or gas. I personally love the bow pose and find it really useful. Or just laying on my tummy and gently lifting my head and chest, providing a gentle tummy massage. Twisting is also good for wringing out any gas. Lay on your back with you knees bent and gently roll your knees over to one side. Comfortably. Count to 20 then roll your keens over to the other side. Repeat as often as needed but please don’t strain your neck or back. This feels great and helps to squeeze out your gut like a sponge. Obviously this is not that practical if you are at work but great to do when you get home. There are many yoga poses that are great for IBS but please find a professional to work with if you haven’t tried yoga before to ensure you don’t cause injury.

A hot water bottle on your tummy can also help to move the gas around and feel calming on the belly. There is something so comforting about the heat and providing your tummy with a little love and focus can help it to calm down.

What I find the most useful thing to do if I ever get bloated is to sit comfortably on my sofa or bed gently leaning back and place both hands around my tummy as if ‘speaking’ to my tummy through my hands, The warmth of my hands and the energy and focus on healing from my brain through to my hands is enough to move any trapped wind around and feels really comforting. I learned this at about age 8 when I first used to get such bad pain and bloating I would cry in bed for hours and hours.

Also deep breathing exercises can help to turn your focus inwards, towards healing and loving your gut rather than feeling frustrated and angry with your body. Remember that your body is communicating to you. It is trying to help you figure out what to do so beating yourself up can be really unhelpful in terms of moving forwards towards healing your gut.

My IBS story…

I had IBS from birth. It wasn’t until my mid twenties I knew I had to do something about it. It took me over two decades of trial and error, seeing many specialists and trying lots of different angles to work through my IBS. Most likely going through similar things you are experiencing right now. This is before I found the solution and created The IBS Freedom Method.

Since 2015 I have been teaching women The IBS Freedom Method which is an incredibly practical and highly successful, fast working methodology for women to become IBS free naturally and safely, being guided and supported throughou their healing journey.

I rarely get an IBS symptom anymore and if I do know precisely why it happened. My gut and I are in good communication now and on very good terms, providing I treat her right. I now love my gut and listen to her and then act accordingly. She knows me well and gut instinct is not a myth. Our guts know what is right or wrong instantly about situations and people and with IBS even this incredible internal functionality of our very core essence can become clouded. Learn how to trust and love your gut and she will love you right back.

Further information support and guidance

For more information, IBS tips, recipes and advice I invite you to sign up to my IBS Freedom newsletter below or you can get in touch with me directly via email at helen@theibscoach.com

I am also available on instagram @helen_theibscoach and you are welcome to join my Facebook group The IBS Freedom Method For Women which is a free support group where I post tips and IBS help articles.

I am here for you. I know what you are going through and you can get through this.

Much loves, my beauty!

Helen x

*Pictures are a student of mine, Sam Beckett. This is Sam before we worked together and after just 6 weeks using my IBS Freedom Method. You can clearly see how bloated and uncomfortable she was initially and the dramatic decrease in bloating from learning how to trust and love her gut using this simply methodology. An extra benefit of following the course was an impressive weight loss of 9 lbs without counting a single calorie or starving herself. Food is glorious and believe me when I say that you can fall back in love with your gut, your life and food again.