Coming from someone who has tried multiple diet and nutrition protocols, under eating and not eating enough, can definitely cause bloating. If you experience constant bloating, it can be related to a wide variety of issues, however under-eating can be one of the root and underlying causes. We are going to talk more about how under-eating and not having adequate food intake, may cause bloating in your digestive tract.
Obesity and weight-related issues are common topics discussed amongst health food enthusiasts, nutritionists, and dieticians. What’s not discussed is the 80% of the US population that does not eat enough food and how this can be the underlying cause of obesity, bloating, and chronic disease.
According to the USDA, more than 34 million people, including 9 million children, in the United States are food insecure. The definition of food insecurity is a lack of consistent access to food, however this statistic does not include the people who do have access to consistent food, and who still undereat, due to busy work schedules, stress, anxiety, and poor nutritional habits. Which as you can imagine, increases this number drastically.
Under-eating is a common way to achieve a caloric deficit, which is how to lose weight. However, there is a difference between achieving a caloric deficit and under-eating. Under-eating is when you deliberately or unintentionally do not eat enough food on a consistent basis. Eating to achieve a caloric deficit, is a conscious effort, to achieve weight loss, however you still have to eat to achieve your caloric targets.
Bloating can be a relatively difficult diagnosis, due to specific food sensitivities and allergies. Some may be sensitive to gluten, wheat, corn, dairy, or soy. Cruciferous vegetables, carbonated beverages, and of course over-eating can also cause temporary bloating.
Even with all these potential reasons of how stomach bloat may be caused, you may be wondering, what else can cause bloating.
Bloating can also be caused by not doing something just as much as eating something or chronically under-eating. One of the biggest causes to bloating and its association with under-eating, is not eating enough of the right foods.
Eating more of the right foods, will help you get rid of bloat, especially if you are not eating enough fiber. Fiber, from foods such as oatmeal, fruit, and vegetables like brussels sprouts, can assist your gut microbiota and digestion, helping improve your gut health and moving more toxins through your digestive tract.
Your body does not absorb fiber and it passes straight through your gastrointestinal tract. Fiber comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases bowel movement. If you don’t get enough insoluble fiber in your diet, you can have symptoms such as irregular bowel movement and constipation.
Soluble fiber forms a gel-like material that passes through the GI tract slowing digestion and allowing better nutrient absorption. One of the benefits of soluble fiber is that it lowers cholesterol and maintains stable glucose levels.
Constipation, bloat, and feeling like you have “bad-digestion” may be a direct cause of under-eating, especially fiber. Consuming very little food will result in less motility and less waste in your digestive tract.
Although it may seem like overeating should be the main cause of bloating and constipation, when you under-eat you also suppress your body’s production of key digestive enzymes and stomach acid to assist in the breakdown of food. Naturally, people with “gut issues” or “bad digestion” tend to eat less or avoid certain foods in order to minimize symptoms.
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Staying hydrated and drinking more water can help you prevent fluid retention caused by dehydration. Drinking more water consistently throughout the day can also help reduce excess sodium in the body.
Your body’s hunger cues may also interpret mild dehydration with feelings of hunger. We often eat or drink because we are bored, not because we are actually hungry or thirsty.
Studies have shown that individuals responded “appropriately” by drinking water when they were thirsty but not hungry only 2 percent of the time. They responded “inappropriately” 62 percent of the time. Most respondents drank and ate when they were not hungry, drank when they were hungry, but not thirsty, and ate when they were thirsty, not hungry.
Drinking consistently throughout the day can help you reduce bloat, eat when you’re hungry, and stay hydrated. Drinking water will assist in reducing under-eating as well, and signal the appropriate hormonal response when you’re hungry to reduce under-eating.
Processed foods have added hidden sugars, preservatives, and are normally loaded with added sodium, causing feelings of bloat and water retention. Consistently eating processed foods, instead of raw, whole, natural foods, will cause you to be in state of constant bloat.
Going to the grocery store, buying lean proteins, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates, and eating at home, can be one of the most effective ways to reduce bloat and also eat consistently.
When you eat out, you have no control over what you are eating, nor do you know what was used when they cooked your meal. Restaurants use copious amounts of sodium, vegetable oil, and added processed foods which can be a direct cause of bloat. By meal prepping or cooking your own meals at home, you can control the amount of sodium, fats, and additives in your food to reduce symptoms of bloating.
The most important thing to remember, is that without consistency you will not see change. You may eat at home, drink more water, and start eating more fiber, but a few days isn’t going to move the needle. If you want to reduce chronic bloat, you need to be consistent in your efforts. Adding fiber consciously every day, drinking 100-120 oz of water, and being more diligent by cooking your meals at home, will help reduce your bloat and improve hunger cues, to also reduce under-eating.
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