Oct. 19, 2009 -- Many of us have experienced it -- the uncomfortable feeling of bloating. The side effects can be painful and embarrassing, and they can also be warning signs of bigger health problems.
There are ways to help stop and even prevent the discomfort of everyday bloating. Dr. Mehmet Oz, the host of "The Dr. Oz Show," stopped by "Good Morning America" today and explained what foods and lifestyle choices cause bloating, and how to get rid of it.
Bloating, he explained, is "an uncomfortable buildup of air in your digestive track ... a civil war happening inside your gut."
"Twenty percent of the gas that causes bloating is actually from gas we swallow, 80 percent is from the digestive product," he said.
That 80 percent comes from the breakdown of undigested food in the digestive tract, and also occurs when the body doesn't absorb certain carbohydrates -- including sugars, starches and fiber found in many foods -- because of a shortage or absence of particular enzymes that aid digestion.
"[Bloating] can add about 3 inches to your waist," Oz said, adding that it affects both men and women.
Part of the problem is that "people get embarrassed about it," he said. "We learn a lot if we'll just be honest."
Common Foods Can Cause Bloating
Oz says common foods we eat every day can cause bloating, such as carbonated beverages and artificial sweeteners, certain fruits and vegetables, wheat and dairy products.
Carbonated Beverages, Artificial Sweeteners:
Carbonated beverages "have gas in them ... and cause gas in your intestinal system," Oz said.
He also said to look out for anything that contains sorbitol, an artificial sweetener found in some sodas, gums and hard candies that your body cannot break down.
"The body has trouble digesting them," he said.
Certain Fruits and Vegetables:
Vegetables and fruits, including beans, potatoes, brussels sprouts, lentils, broccoli, bananas and raisins, are good for your health, but they contain complex sugars and starches that are hard to break down and can cause bloating.
"These vegetables will often have sugar in them and starches that are hard to digest," Oz said. "All you get is gas."
Wheat and Dairy:
Wheat and dairy can cause bloating for those who suffer gluten or lactose intolerance or allergies.
How to Help Prevent or Stop Bloating
Try Beano: Oz says this product can help in the battle of the bloat.
"Beano has changed my life," he said. "It digests [the sugar] that is in a lot of these products."
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners: In addition to soda, there may be artificial sweeteners in foods you don't expect, such as yogurts or reduced-calorie foods.
Seek Out Gluten-Free Foods: If gluten is troublesome for you, Oz said to seek out "gluten-free products that are readily available in every major store -- there is even gluten in ice cream."
Look for Dairy-Free Products or Those Containing Lactase: There are a wide variety of foods in grocery stores made from soy products or rice products.
"They are made of products that don't have lactose in them," Oz said.
Over-the-Counter Products: Oz recommends products that have simethicone, an active ingredient in medications such as Gas-X and Mylanta.
These products "will dissolve [gas bubbles] pretty quickly," he said. "It's wonderful for us for many reasons."
Bloating Can Be a Symptom of Another Problem
Oz says bloating can be a symptom of more serious health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and even ovarian cancer. If you're concerned, or if your bloating isn't getting better, always check with your doctor.
Click here for more information about "The Dr. Oz Show."