At best, it’s irritating, but at worst, it can be unbearable. When you’re suffering from abdominal bloating, there’s no mistaking it.
While you may avoid the foods you know trigger bloating, sometimes it’s not about what you eat. It’s more than likely about the bacteria in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. And that’s where probiotics come in.
But what is the best probiotic for bloating? To better understand that, it helps to know the mechanisms behind digestive problems like bloating and gas.
What Causes Bloating?
Bloating is essentially a feeling of gassiness or pressure in the gut. You may feel as if your abdomen is distended.1 Gas bloating within the GI tract can come from several sources, including:
- Swallowed air
- Chemical reactions in the GI tract
- Bacterial imbalance in the gut
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and other bowel conditions
Sometimes, bloating can be the result of the food you eat. People with lactase deficiency may not be able to break down lactose in the small intestine.
Often, it has to do with the bacteria in your gut. Even minor bacterial imbalances can increase the frequency of bloating and distention.2,3
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) refers to:
- An increase in the number of bad bacteria in the upper GI tract
- An alteration of the type of bad bacteria in the upper GI tract
Bloating and discomfort are common symptoms of SIBO. Bacterial overgrowth can often cause more serious issues, though.4
Supplementing your diet with probiotic bacteria may help support your digestive health.
Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) are small molecules that can create uncomfortable distension symptoms. The small intestine can’t absorb them well. FODMAP molecules also ferment rapidly, which can create excess intestinal gas.
Your doctor may use a hydrogen breath test to help determine the kinds of foods your body can tolerate. If they suspect you have trouble digesting foods containing lactose or fructose, they may recommend a low FODMAP diet.5,6
Other Possible Symptoms Of Bloating
As if the discomfort of bloating isn’t enough, it often brings with it other symptoms. Constipation may be a factor that contributes to bloating.6 Bloating and distension can often accompany diarrhea in people with certain bowel conditions.7
If you experience other symptoms along with chronic bloating, consult with your doctor.
What Are Probiotics?
You might think of bacteria as something to avoid. After all, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to get rid of illnesses caused by bacteria. But there is such a thing as beneficial bacteria. That’s what probiotics are. They’re gut microbes: living organisms that thrive in your GI tract.
Probiotic bacteria maintain a healthy microbial balance in your gut. They can have many health benefits, including:
- Aiding digestion
- Supporting the immune system
- Combating bad bacteria that makes its way to the digestive tract8
Good bacteria may even have a positive effect on your mood, according to at least one study.9
How Can Probiotics Help?
Some strains of probiotic bacteria may help support your digestive health, though you should always see a doctor if you experience prolonged or severe bloating and discomfort.10
Many of the most beneficial bacteria come from the genus Lactobacillus. You can find Lactobacillus in fermented dairy products like yogurt or in specially-formulated supplements. At least one study has found that strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgofilus may help with digestive issues such as bloating, particularly in people with lactose intolerance.11 Other strains of Lactobacillus bacteria may also help aid digestion, including:
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus plantarum12
Lactobacillus paracasei, especially when taken in combination with a high-fiber diet, can support healthy digestion.13,14
With or without the addition of L. paracasei, prebiotic fiber can be an important factor in your diet. Prebiotic fiber is a type of dietary fiber. It can help support the friendly bacteria already present in your GI tract. Foods that contain prebiotic fiber include:
Adding prebiotic fiber to your diet is a delicious way to promote digestive health. When taken together with Lactobacillus paracasei, it can be an extremely beneficial combination.15
Like other probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus rhamnosus is great for your digestive health. Lactobacillus rhamnosus has shown to not only prevent bad bacteria in the gut from colonizing, but also encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Lactobacillus plantarum is one of the more common strains of Lactobacillus bacteria. It’s also one of the most versatile. It’s not only present in fermented dairy products like yogurt, it also exists in plant-based foods like kimchi.16
L. plantarum may also help support digestive health, particularly when it comes to bloating.17 Along with L. paracasei, it can help restore microbial balance to the large intestine.18
Bifidobacterium is another genus of probiotic bacteria that supports digestive health. Unlike other probiotics, bifidobacteria don’t generate gas when fermenting in the GI tract. This means this type of probiotic bacteria may be an ideal option when dealing with digestive issues like gas and bloating.19
How Do I Get More Probiotics Into My Diet?
If you are experiencing issues with digestion, a probiotic supplement is something to consider. Eating foods that contain probiotics can help be beneficial but you likely will not get enough through food alone.
In addition to supplementation, these foods containing probiotics may be helpful:
Even certain cheeses contain measurable amounts of Lactobacillus bacteria.20
It’s important to look for live and active cultures in probiotic foods. That means they contain at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture. It also means the healthy bacteria are still alive, and haven’t died during processing.21 And be aware that certain live cultures can decline after some time in storage.22
As mentioned, it is likely that you are not getting enough probiotics exclusively through your diet, though. A daily probiotic supplement, often in the form of capsules, may offer positive health benefits.23 There are many kinds of probiotic supplements. Each one may have a different combination of strains. Always check with your doctor to see which dietary supplements might be right for you.
Healthy And Happy
A healthy gut is a happy gut. And a happy gut means a happier you. If you suffer from prolonged digestive issues, see your doctor. You can always take steps to maintain good digestive health and well-being.
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