Bloating is commonly linked with overindulgence or eating a rich diet, but it can also occur after eating relatively little in those with functional disorders of the gut such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
If symptoms have been present for a while, it is important to seek medical advice to find out the cause.
But assuming a clean bill of health is given, symptoms may be related to insufficient bile production in the liver which is needed to emulsify dietary fats before they can be absorbed.
Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan, recommends three of the best supplements to reduce bloating – probiotics, peppermint oil and artichoke.
Probiotic supplements provide specific strains of beneficial digestive bacteria that have beneficial effects on digestion to reduce bloating, according to Dr Brewer.
She explained: “As well as aiding the breakdown of food, probiotic bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which are transported to the liver to have positive effects on bile production, fat digestion and cholesterol metabolism.
“Taking probiotics for 4 to 26 weeks can improve IBS symptoms, including bloating, when used alone or in combination with standard anti-spasmodic medications.”
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that probiotics used to manage IBS should be taken for at least four weeks.
Dr Brewer advised: “Select a supplement providing a known quantity of probiotic bacteria, such as 5 to 50 billion colony forming units (CFU) per dose, consisting of at least three different strains.”
Peppermint oil improves digestion and relieve bloating by increasing gastric emptying, stimulating secretion of digestive juices and bile, says Dr Brewer.
She added: “It also has a relaxing effect on the intestinal tract to relieve spasm. Peppermint is therefore taken to relieve bloating, indigestion, colic, intestinal cramps, flatulence, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
“The results from 12 clinical trials, involving almost 600 people, explored the effectiveness of peppermint oil, fibre or antispasmodic drugs (eg mebeverine, hyoscine, otilonium bromide) in treating IBS.
“The number needed to prevent one patient having persistent symptoms was 11 for fibre, 5 for antispasmodics, and 2.5 for peppermint oil, making it the most effective treatment.”
You can drink peppermint tea as required, or take a peppermint capsule (100mg) per day.
Extracts of globe artichoke stimulate bile production and can quickly relieve bloating without side effects.
It is also helpful when bloating and indigestion are due to overly spicy food or drinking alcohol.
Dr Brewer said: “In people with irritable bowel syndrome, taking artichoke extracts with meals, symptoms of bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain and constipation significantly improved over a six-week period.
“Good benefits were noticed within 10 days and 96 per cent rated artichoke extracts as better than or at least equal to previous treatments for their symptom.
“Artichoke also helps to reduce fatty infiltration of the liver and to reduce cholesterol synthesis. Usual doses are 360 mg two or three times daily with food.”
Select a supplement standardised to provide a guaranteed amount of the key active ingredient, cynarin, Dr Brewer further advised.