Swollen belly and bloating? Try to reduce your salt intake! In fact, a diet high in sodium has been shown to increase the risk of developing abdominal bloating and intestinal fermentations. This emerges from scientific research published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology by a team from the prestigious Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Peng et al, The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2019).
The causes of abdominal bloating
Abdominal bloating is a very common condition. It is estimated, in fact, that it can affect more than a third of the population and 90% of those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. A high-fiber diet has been shown to promote abdominal bloating, due to intestinal bacteria responsible for breaking up the fibers introduced with food and whose by-product is gas. However, a high-fiber diet is also considered beneficial to health, since it helps keep blood sugar and cholesterol under control. Is there any other precaution to keep in mind in order to counteract intestinal fermentation and be able to eat in a healthy and balanced way, including the very important fiber in one's diet? Certainly, this is where the research we are talking about today comes into play.
The role of salt, the study
For the first time, scientists have tested the role of salt in the formation of intestinal gas. For this, the researchers analyzed data from a large study conducted a few years earlier. The study aimed to evaluate the effects on blood pressure of a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, compared to a low-fiber diet. In addition to blood pressure values, the study also reported whether or not bloating was present. Then, a very important aspect for the purposes of the study we are talking about today is that each diet was proposed in three variants, each with a different amount of sodium, low, medium and high. At the end of the study it was found that, in fact, the high-fiber diet increased abdominal bloating. But the scientists could also notice another thing, even high amounts of salt increased bloating, by almost 30%! The mechanism that binds a high amount of sodium with bloating is not yet known, but it is hypothesized that the salt alters the bacteria in the intestinal microbiota, favoring those that produce gas. However, this aspect still needs to be clarified.
Therefore, reducing salt consumption is not only good for blood pressure and heart but also helps reduce bloating and allows to preserve a healthy and balanced diet rich in fiber.