Birthdays are supposed to be festive affairs and so when Son #3 recently had one we decided to party it up by going to a local Italian all-you-can-eat buffet. It was insanely delicious and we all had a great time. Until. On the way out my son looked up at me with glowing eyes and said, “Mom you got me the bestest birthday present ever!”
“Oh you’re welcome sweetie,” I cooed, thinking that he was talking about the sweet race track we got him (which he demolished the next day with a screwdriver to “make it work better” making me wonder why I even bother with real toys instead of just taking them to a junk yard and letting them go nuts).
But no. He had something else in mind. He reached his tiny hand up and patted my stomach and said, “You got me a new baby! I always wanted another brother!” At least Jelly Bean had the decency to look offended. Although that might have been because he kinda just dissed her. (He’s still not over being de-throned.)
My newly minted 7-year-old learned a life lesson right there: You never ask a woman if she’s pregnant. The only two exceptions are if she’s waving a pregnancy test in your face (which: ew) or you see a baby coming out between her knees (which: ah). This mama’s festive spirit was extinguished. I wish it didn’t have that effect on me but we all know I’m a leeetle sensitive on that front these days, so yeah.
Although I probably shouldn’t have been surprised – it’s not the first time one of my kids has mistaken a food baby for an actual baby. Because here’s a fun fact about Charlotte: Every evening, almost without exception, I bloat up like a balloon. Or a 5-months-pregnant lady. It’s super annoying and not just because that means I have to time any full-body pictures to only be taken in the early morning, preferably before breakfast. (So much for candids!) But really it sucks because it’s uncomfortable. My stomach gets all tight, I feel overly full (even if I didn’t eat that much), my pants dig in and sometimes the balloon is a hot air balloon, complete with gas fuel.
So what’s up with my stomach? Google “tummy bloat” and you’ll quickly discover I’m not alone. After reading through dozens of articles about what makes bellies go big, it seems there are about 5 main causes:
Cause: Undigested carbs
Apparently some people have a hard time digesting certain types of carbohydrates, generally referred to as FODMAPS (which stands for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols). These certain types of carbs – including some fruits and veggies, fructose, artificial sweeteners, inulin fiber, wheat and dairy – are harder to break down and if they make their way undigested or partially undigested through your digestive tract then they can cause a whole bunch of problems including pain and bloating. It’s even been found in some recent studies to help 70% of patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which, as a girl who has struggled with that forever, is kinda huge.
Cure: Avoid those foods, obvs. Which is easier said than done since the FODMAPS elimination diet is pretty restrictive and also not very intuitive (for instance, artichokes are a no-no but celery is fine). Also, take a probiotic. These are good for lots of things but having a healthy balance of gut bacteria is critical for proper digestion.
Cause: Celiac’s disease
If you have Celiac’s and don’t know it (or do know it but choose to ignore it), bloating is par for the course when you eat gluten.
Cure: There’s a blood test that can be an indicator for Celiac’s so you can ask for that (I was tested and I don’t have it) or you can try eliminating gluten and see if that helps.
Cause: You overate/carry your weight in your stomach area
I am kind of surprised how many lists include this since you’d think it would be obvious but when you overeat your tummy swells (also known as the Thanksgiving Effect). Also, if you carry excess fat on your stomach it can make your tummy look bigger. Because science.
Cure: Don’t overeat (or just realize the bloat is temporary and enjoy the heck out of that meal if it’s not a common occurrence). And if you figure out the cure for tummy chub then you’ll be a millionaire and I hope that you are least tell me about it!
I don’t know why but I feel compelled to repeat all the times someone has said to me “You’re so full of crap your eyes are brown!” Which really isn’t funny. Or pertinent. So PSA: My eyes are hazel. So apparently I’m full of algae! And blue-eyed folks are full of Curaçao! Erm. Anyhow, I don’t think you need me to explain to you how unpooped out poop makes you fill with poop and poop takes up room which makes you feel pretty poopy. (I live with a preschooler. I’m sorry.)
Cure: Check out my list of constipation remedies! I love that post so hard! Harder even than those marble poops that fall out of diapers and leave a bunny trail after your toddler in public places.
Cause: Weird breathing stuff
Mouth breather? You’ve got bigger problems than bloat, frankly, but feel free to join the pretend-preggo party. Other culprits include gum chewing (which is super annoying anyhow so just stop), drinking through a straw, drinking carbonated drinks, gulping, talking while eating (which is also super annoying) and trying not to hyperventilate when One Direction comes on the today show because by golly you are a grown woman.
Cure: Get nasal surgery if you can’t breathe through your nose. And just stop doing the other stuff. Although One Direction does have some super catchy tunes.
Cause: Hormone stuff
Man, hormones mess with everything. They’re basically the terrorists of the body. You screw with them even a little bit and they will BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN. One of the things that bugged me about the Mirena IUD was the persistent lower-tummy bloat. Birth control pills make me gain weight around my waist. And one of the symptoms of PCOS is bloating. I hate hormones. (And yes I’ve read “What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Peri-Menopause. It’s a great book. Super interesting read. Disastrous results for this girl. But I’m sure I was doing it wrong.)
Cure: I have no clue on this one. There are a slew of herbs, conventional meds and everything in between promising to level you out. I think this one is definitely doctor territory.
There’s also some pretty serious medical conditions – like tape worms!! – that can cause bloating so I feel compelled to add the obligatory I’m-not-a-doctor-go-haunt-their-office warning.
Back to my tummy troubles (me, me, me!)
After looking through all the possible causes I’m thinking my daily bloat is likely food related because when I wake up it’s flat (well as much as it can after birthing five babies) but by night time I’m the proud mama of a food baby. I haven’t been able to link it to a certain food – for instance, abstaining from gluten made no difference. But according to the FODMAPS theory that’s because I didn’t eliminate enough things for a long enough time. I’m not sure what to do about that though. After reading through the list I kind of think that the tummy bloat is a small price to pay for getting to eat Brussels sprouts, cabbage and apples. (MMMM.)
So I have come to not much of a conclusion. Tummy bloating is as common as it is irritating.
Anyone have any other suggestions for reducing bloat? Should I give FODMAPS a try? I know some of you have tried it – did it make a significant difference to you? Anyone else bloat up like a rapper’s ego in a grill store? Lastly – anyone else ever been asked if they are pregnant when they’re not?
P.S. I’ve often heard salt blamed for overall bloating but I’ve never seemed to see that effect in myself. Is there something I’m missing?