How to Reduce Stomach Bloating

5 min read

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By Wing Joo Loong Team

Key Takeaways

  • Too much cold, raw, fatty, greasy, deep-fried and spicy foods can make it hard for the digestive system to work well. 
  • Digestive imbalances can be triggered by stress, negative emotions, irregular eating habits and overeating. 
  • Si shen tang (四神汤), hawthorn, roselle, liquorice root, peppermint, camomile, rose and dried tangerine peel are natural remedies for stomach bloating.

Feeling ballooned? You may think that avoiding bloat-inducing foods such as dairy products, alcohol, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, wheat, onion and garlic can help beat the bloat, but bloat can still happen. Thankfully, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) might have the answer to the underlying issues causing the bloat.

What Causes Bloating According to TCM

Bloating occurs when the gastrointestinal tract is filled with gas. The abdomen tends to feel full, tight or swollen, with other accompanying symptoms such as pain, burping and/or flatulence. Poor dietary habits, stress, lack of sleep and even the hot and humid weather in Singapore can hamper our digestive functions.

"TCM views symptoms as signs of a deeper imbalance."

We have classified the causes of bloating as follows: 

1. Indigestion

In TCM, food stagnation is viewed as indigestion leading to blockage and retention of food in the digestive tract. This commonly occurs in children or babies whose spleen and stomach are naturally weak but can also affect adults. 

Causes: Overeating, eating too quickly, eating in a hurry and/or eating while worried or stressed.

Signs and symptoms: A feeling of fullness and pain in the upper abdomen, bad breath, smelly stools, vomiting, nausea, belching, sour regurgitation and/or insomnia.

2. Stress & Negative Emotions

A stressful and fast-paced lifestyle can cause your liver to perform sub-optimally. When the liver is unable to regulate the outflow of bile and flow of Qi and blood, it can upset the normal functioning of your digestive system (‘liver-stomach disharmony’). 

Causes: Stress and negative emotions such as anger, irritability, mood swings and anxiety.

Signs and symptoms:
Poor appetite, belching, fullness and distending pain in the upper abdomen, excessive sighing and irregular bowel movements.

3. Phlegm-Dampness Retention

In TCM, internal ‘dampness’ is believed to occur when the spleen’s function is compromised, thereby disrupting the body’s water metabolism. When dampness accumulates over time, it blocks Qi and blood flow, congeals to form phlegm in the lungs and affects the lower part of the body and abdomen. 

Causes: Excessive intake of raw, cold, fatty, greasy, deep-fried or spicy foods that weaken the spleen. Eating damp-inducing foods such as dairy products, alcohols, processed foods, sugars and sweeteners can aggravate the condition. 

Signs and symptoms:
Heaviness in the limbs or body, skin puffiness, phlegm discharge, fluid retention, thick greasy tongue coating, loose or sticky stools, and/or aching joints and limbs.

4. Spleen-Stomach Disharmony

In TCM, the spleen governs the digestive system. While the stomach receives food and breaks it down for further absorption, the spleen helps transform food into new Qi and blood and delivers nutritive essence to the rest of the body. When this harmony is disrupted, Qi becomes stalled, and your body will not be able to get the optimal energy it needs.

Causes: Irregular eating habits, not eating enough, consuming cold or raw food and drinks, skipping meals and/or overeating. 

Signs and symptoms:
Lack of appetite, weak limbs, loose stools, abdominal discomfort and/or tooth-marked edges on the tongue.

Natural Remedies for Bloating

Hawthorn

Hawthorn has long been used as a digestant medicinal to treat common digestive disorders such as food stagnation, bloating, fullness or pain in the stomach and poor appetite. In a pot, add 2 tablespoons of dried hawthorn slices to 2 cups of water. Gently simmer over low-medium heat for 15 minutes. Allow it to cool down before adding honey as a sweetener.

Roselle

In TCM, sour foods such as hawthorn and roselle help aid digestion, improve metabolism and reduce water retention. Make your own tea blend with roselle, hawthorn and liquorice root. Simply add 2 tablespoons of dried hawthorn slices, 1 tablespoon of roselle and 1-2 pieces of liquorice root to 2 cups of water. Gently simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add rock sugar or honey to taste. 

Liquorice Root

These sweet roots have therapeutic benefits on the spleen and stomach. Liquorice roots not only provide gastrointestinal relief but also contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate sore throats and coughs. Simply boil in water and add honey to taste. 

Peppermint

Peppermint tea is perfect following a heavy meal, especially after indulging in rich foods during the festive season. It also has a cooling effect on the body and helps disperse Qi stagnation. Infuse 1-2 teaspoons in hot water and enjoy a refreshing brew. 

Camomile

More than just a calming brew, camomile tea has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties that help soothe digestive disorders and ease abdominal pain. Infuse 1-2 teaspoons in hot water and add ginger, peppermint or roselle to alleviate your tummy woes.

Dried Tangerine Peel

Ease digestion and regulate Qi with some aromatic dried tangerine peel. They make a great ingredient for tea infusions, desserts and Chinese soups. 

Rosebuds

If you’re struggling with Qi stagnation, rosebuds can help. Simply infuse 1-2 teaspoons of rosebuds in hot water. Rosebud tea is rich in vitamin C and also aids in relieving PMS and abdominal distension. 

Si Shen Tang

Sì shén tāng (四神汤) is a classic TCM formula comprising a harmonious blend of herbs that strengthen the spleen and stomach. It helps regulate the digestive system, relieve stomach issues and calm the nerves. 

The information above serves as a general guide only. Please consult a certified TCM physician for a more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

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