The easing of lockdown has ushered in a welcome return to the beer garden. While many of us indulged in alcoholic drinks at home over the past year, the social element of the pub has been something that many of us have missed.
For some of us, our alcohol intake has reduced, as at-home drinking lacked the lustre of a good night out. Now, as we head back to our favourite spots to enjoy soaking up the sun with a cold, refreshing glass of our favourite tipple, we might start to notice some unwanted side effects creeping in as we reintroduce some of our best loved beverages.
If you’ve noticed that you’ve been feeling bloated lately, and this seems to coincide with going out more frequently, it might be time to take a closer look at what’s in your glass.
Battling the bloat
Bloating happens when you have a build-up of gas in the stomach and intestines. The sensation can range from mild discomfort to sharp, intense pain as the trapped air moves around your abdomen.
You may also notice that your stomach looks distended. This swollen appearance can sometimes be quite extreme.
What causes bloating?
There are many factors which can cause the build-up of excessive gas that leads to bloating, including:
- Swallowing too much air. Munching gum, talking while eating or chewing with your mouth open can all cause you to take in excess air which, when swallowed, can lead to bloating.
- Fizzy drinks. Carbonated drinks are a common cause of bloating, thanks to all the bubbles entering your digestive system.
- Premenstrual tension (PMS). For many women, bloating is a common and uncomfortable symptom associated with PMS during the monthly menstrual cycle.
- Coeliac disease. Approximately 1% of the UK population reportedly suffers with this immune condition, which causes a reaction to gluten. Side effects include bloating, as well as diarrhoea and stomach aches.
- Food intolerance. Much more common than coeliac disease, around 45% of the UK population is believed to suffer with a food intolerance, causing problems such as bloating and other digestive discomforts.
What is food intolerance?
Food intolerances can occur when your body’s immune system mistakes a food protein as a threat, releasing antibodies to fight it. This reaction can cause inflammation, leading to a host of complaints such as headaches, brain fog, skin conditions like eczema or acne, or joint pain. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and bloating are particularly common complaints.
It’s estimated that around 45% of the UK population has some kind of food intolerance. Often, they go undetected for years, causing mild, but persistent and frustrating problems that stop you from feeling your best.
So, could it be alcohol?
While the general term ‘alcohol intolerance’ suggests a sensitivity to ethanol, it’s more likely that you are reacting to one of the many ingredients found in the beverage.
These potential ‘trigger foods’ are often completely overlooked, as we tend to assume that it’s simply a case of ‘drinking too much’, which causes us to feel unwell.
So, what could be causing the bloat?
The basis of the fermentation process necessary in beers and wines, yeast is a common trigger for food Intolerance. Feeding off sugars to ferment, the resulting bubbling can be upsetting for the digestive system for those with a yeast intolerance.
While it can be difficult to avoid yeast when it comes to alcohol, you can choose to partake in spirits and mixers such as vodka, gin, or bourbon. Or instead, opt for filtered beers and wines.
Wheat and gluten
A component of wheat-based beers and ales, gluten can be a common cause of many problems with digestion.
If you feel that the swollen stomach that you’re experiencing the next day simply doesn’t add up to the amount you actually drank, it could be the case that it’s the gluten causing you problems.
Many artisanal beers, as well as ciders and perries, are made using a range of fruits. This can be bad news if you have an intolerance to berries, apples, pears, or other fruits such as citrus.
As a food we assume is good for us, even in alcohol we don’t tend to think fruit would cause us any problems. But, if you’re experiencing reactions to certain fruits, they could be behind your bloating.
Take control of your diet
Getting to the bottom of a food intolerance can be frustrating. A common recommendation is the elimination diet, where you remove one food at a time for a few weeks to see how you feel. But this process can take a long time. And, although many of us commonly react to a few different ingredients, the elimination diet is often abandoned when the first trigger food is found, leaving an incomplete picture of what’s causing the problem.
Get answers faster with Smartblood
When it comes to food intolerance testing, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable laboratory testing company.
At Smartblood, we offer a comprehensive test to help you take control of your diet quickly and discover your own trigger foods.
Our home-to-laboratory service gives you fast, accurate results that pinpoint exactly which foods you are reacting to. Tests are completed in our accredited laboratory by trained experts, with clear, easy to understand results sent to you via email within three days.
Dedicated nutritional support
Our tests include a telephone consultation with our BANT registered Nutritional Therapist. This additional support is there to help you understand your results the changes you need to make to optimise your diet.