If you have problems processing certain foods, like lactose or gluten, eating them can lead to significant bloating and discomfort. Take lactose intolerance, for instance: In this case, the gut can't handle milk or other products that have lactose, because you don't have enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks the protein down. As a result, it goes through your system unprocessed and causes an inflammatory reaction in your intestinal lining. This leads your bowel to become distended, resulting in bloat, Dr. Peeke explains. If you suffer from gluten intolerance -- also called celiac disease -- eating a slice of bread can trigger a similar reaction, including pain, gas, nausea, and even vomiting and diarrhea. Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients that occurs with celiac disease can actually lead to weight loss, although it has also been linked to obesity.
The Treatment Whatever problem you suspect, it's important to speak to your doctor before making any changes to your diet. She may instruct you to eliminate all possible foods that could be causing an adverse reaction, while keeping a diary of what you're eating. If, as you add selected foods back into your diet, you experience stomach distress, you've likely "caught" an offender. If gluten intolerance appears to be the issue, your doctor can diagnose it with a blood test and confirm it with a biopsy of the small intestine; lactose intolerance can be diagnosed with a blood or hydrogen breath test. Once a diagnosis has been made, adopting a diet free of your food foe should put a stop to your tummy troubles and make your belly deflate.
Originally published in the July 2011 issue of Parents magazine.
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