woman lying in bed clutching stomach

Bloating: can bad posture cause poor gut health?

Posted by for Wellbeing

Does bad posture cause bloating? We asked the experts if slouching could be affecting your gut in the same way it does your mental and joint health.

Maintaining optimum gut health is key to various aspects of our general wellbeing, including big hitters like our immune and mental health. Despite all that we know about maintaining a healthy stomach and digestive system, bloating remains a common complaint whose causes tend to be hard to pin down.

With the coronavirus pandemic limiting access to general medical practitioners – and therefore diagnoses for conditions that often require physical examinations – it’s no wonder that people who experience the discomfort of bloating are scrutinising every possible culprit.

Given that our backs and guts are in such close proximity, it doesn’t hurt to question whether there’s a link between bad posture and bloating. After all, drawing your belly button in towards your spine is just one of the common reminders we’ve all heard to correct hunched posture adopted from working at desks and staring at screens.

Although the gut is sandwiched between the core muscles and the spine, it’s so well insulated that physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst suggests, “Bloating is more of an issue with the bowels and digestive system rather than the musculoskeletal system.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Although bad posture can’t be a primary cause of bloating, according to experts, it can definitely make it worse.

WHAT CAUSES BLOATING?

While it takes some investigative work to pinpoint a cause of bloating, it will almost always be dietary. Sana Khan, nutritionist and founder of Avicenna Wellbeing, says causes of bloating are so varied they can include “dietary intolerances, allergies, possible digestive health issues, not chewing food properly, eating too quickly, drinking fluids alongside meals, eating lentils, and even chewing gum.”

But before you cut any food out of your diet, she warns this can further exacerbate the issue, saying, “This can result in an imbalance of good and non-beneficial bacteria and yeasts – your gut could experience a possible overgrowth of pathogens which can in turn contribute to bloating.”

HOW BAD POSTURE AFFECTS BLOATING

SLOUCHING

Phyllis Woodfine, an osteopath of 28-years says, when you’re slouching the “pelvis is tilted forwards and the spine is curved and shortened”, leaving little room for your gut to move.

She further explains: “Poor circulation as a result of poor posture can lead to digestive problems and compression of the digestive system if [you’re] in a prolonged slumped posture.”

WEAK CORE MUSCLES

A weak core collapses in on itself further encouraging the back to stoop over, while “strong abdominal muscles can help ease discomfort in the digestive system, by allowing a better open space in the abdomen,” says Hirst.

However, be mindful of using classic core strengthening workouts to ease your discomfort from bloating. Common ab-sculpting moves such as crunches and planks can either force you to further compress your gut, or call for rigid holds that don’t always allow for deep relieving breaths.

EFFECTIVE WAYS TO LESSEN THE DISCOMFORT OF BLOATING

DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING

According to physiotherapist, Katie Knapton: “Taking shallow breaths can increase upper body tension.” So it stands to reason that taking longer, deeper breaths can help to ease things up.

To reap the benefits of breathing, Knapton suggests doing so diaphragmatically. She explains, “Diaphragmatic breathing is often used to alleviate stress and anxiety and it may help reduce bloating and discomfort. This train of thinking is because the diaphragm will create a gentle massaging effect on the intestines.”

As for how to do it, she says: “Get in your most comfortable supported position – seated or lying down – have one hand on your tummy and one on your chest. As you breathe in, feel your hand on your tummy rise – your other hand should hardly move. Just repeat three to four times then relax. You can do a mix of some larger breathes and smaller ones.”

WALKING

When your motivation to workout is low, the thought of completing even the quickest stretching routine feels like a call to get on your marks. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on experiencing some relief from your bloating.

Woodfine says another way to ease discomfort is by taking a walk after a meal: “there is some evidence to show that digestion is improved in the standing position.”

And to avoid slouching while you walk, Knapton suggests you should “elongate your body when standing, as if someone is pulling a string from the top of your head.”

Image: Getty 

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