Anon

Bloating is making me depressed

I feel very depressed (and I am certainly not a depressive person!) as I am experiencing continual bloating. I have had blood tests and an abdominal ultrasound - all proving to be normal, but I believe that my bowel was seen to be full of gas on the ultrasound. I have always been constipated, eat a very sensible diet, and get plenty of exercise. How can I help myself?

26 July 2019

Thank you for your message. I'm sorry to hear that you're experiencing a lot of bloating and that this is affecting your mood.

It sounds like you’re doing the right things in terms of eating sensibly and exercising regularly.

There are several reasons why you may be feeling bloated. Taking each one in turn, here are some steps you can take that may help:

Excess wind

Common foods that cause wind (also known as flatulence) include: beans, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts and cauliflower. Every one of us digests foods differently so there’s no one rule to suit all – it’s really a matter of monitoring which you react to most so you can avoid or cut down on them in future.

Constipation

Constipation and bloating often go hand in hand so if you don’t currently take any medication for this, it might be worth discussing it with a doctor or pharmacist to see if there’s something that could help alleviate your symptoms.

In terms of self-help, drinking plenty of fluids, making sure to incorporate lots of fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and cereals into your diet and continuing to exercise regularly are all important. And when you do get the urge to ‘go’, raising your knees above hip height by resting your feet on a low stool when you go to the toilet, has the effect of ‘unkinking’ your digestive tract, so that the process of emptying your bowel is quicker, more complete and there’s no need to push.1

Swallowing air

If you think swallowing air might be or a contributing factor, you could try the following:

  • Avoid talking and eating at the same time
  • Sit down to eat (making sure you’re sitting upright and not slumped over)
  • Reduce the amount of fizzy drinks you consume
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Chew with your mouth closed so that you’re not taking in excess air.

Coeliac disease and other food intolerances

Bloating is a common symptom of coeliac disease and other food intolerances. To find out if this is the cause in your case it might help to keep track of the food you eat and your symptoms in a food diary. If you see a pattern emerging you can discuss further investigations with your doctor.

Alternatively there are products available that can help fast track this process. These include food intolerance testing kits and even a new product called Foodmarble that can help you understand how well you digest different foods in real time (although this is more targeted at IBS sufferers).  The reputable ones don’t come cheap, but if you have healthcare cover with AXA PPP healthcare you can purchase a kit at a discounted member price via our Active Plus retail site.

Irritable bowel syndrome

IBS is a common cause of bloating, however in this instance it’s thought to be down to erratic propulsion of contents through the bowel, not excess wind, so I won’t go into any more detail here.

Next steps

Having a healthy digestive system is important for many aspects of our mental and physical health and there are lots of things you can do to improve your overall gut health. Our articles How to have a healthier gut and Exercises to aid digestion, contain lots of information and tips, which you might find helpful.

If your symptoms of bloating persist it would be worth discussing them further with your doctor. If your feelings of low mood also persist, it would be sensible to mention this too. There are lots of support services available and it would be wise to access support if you feel you need it. We have a team of counsellors as part of our Health at Hand team which can be contacted 24/7 on 0800 003 004 for a support call if you need it.

I hope this information has been helpful and I wish you all the best.

Further reading

Is food making you ill? - AXA PPP healthcare

Tips for a healthier gut – AXA PPP healthcare

Love your gut: The ‘Super 3’ Exercises for better digestion – AXA PPP healthcare

References

1 How to Poop Properly: A Total Game Changer - Huffpost

Got a health question?

We’re here to help you take care of your health - whenever you need us, wherever you are, whether you're an AXA PPP healthcare member or not.

Our Ask the Expert service allows you to ask our team of friendly and experienced nurses, midwives, counsellors and pharmacists about any health topic.

Still unsure of your symptoms?

Check out our symptom assessment tool to find out your best course of action. 

Start assessment