Beating The CF Belly Bloat
Cystic fibrosis (CF) belly equals CF bloat. One of the most uncomfortable feelings and, often complained about amongst the global patient cohort. I spent some time looking into what causes CF bloat as well as how well we can manage it. Here I share my findings and my five best tips for feeling more comfortably body confident.
Some possible causes
Related to cystic fibrosis
- Malabsorption (inadequate enzyme dosing or missed enzymes)
- Slow gut transit
- Delayed gastric emptying
- Distal-intestinal obstruction syndrome (DIOS)
- Imbalanced healthy gut bacteria
- On-going constipation (unrelated to DIOS)
- Antibiotic use
- Yeast infections of the gut
- Trikafta side effect
- Other medication side effects (examples are painkillers, antiemetics)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Many of the underlying causes on this list cannot easily be resolved, which is why learning to manage how well we adapt to the bigger belly days is so important.
Unrelated to cystic fibrosis
- Food sensitivities/intolerances
- High intake of fizzy drinks
- Eating too fast
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Menstrual cycle
- Liver conditions
Some of the things on this list can be addressed more easily. Patients can try eating meals slower. Each bite of food should be chewed 7 times before swallowing and, on average it should take around 30 minutes to eat a meal. Another thing patients can do is looking at food sensitivities, if it is medically safe to do so.
Beat the bloat
Learning to live with the popped belly is key to feeling comfortable, confident and happy in your own skin.
Ditch the scales and mirrors.
…if they make you feel miserable about how you feel in your own skin. Your weight will always be checked at clinic so if the scales at home (especially post-Trikafta) make you feel "bloatier" then just don’t keep them around.
Natural products to ease the angry bloat
If constipation is a factor especially after Trikafta, you can look at adding in some gentle soluble fibre. Psyllium husks or whole linseeds are great alongside your medically prescribed laxatives. Always ensure plenty of water with the products to avoid becoming constipated further.
It is widely recommended that a high grade probiotic supplement is added in alongside anyone using antibiotics. This helps repair the healthy gut bacteria that all the CF antibiotics do a wonderful job of wiping out. Losing the barrier of good gut bacteria leads to a buildup of gases and gut distension. Yikes.
Invest in bloat friendly clothes
Elasticated waistbands or maternity jeans which are super versatile and comfy. It is best to avoid high waisted, tailored fits with zips and buttons around the tummy area. Floaty dresses over tights with boots are cute. Always grab some well fitted underwear which makes you feel good, no spandex! Belts are a must for boys, up or down a hole size depending on how your bloat is behaving.
Learn to love the skin you are in
Focus on building up your body confidence by appreciating how amazing your life vehicle has been at keeping you alive. Treat yourself to that fancy new haircut or get your nails done. Pay attention to anything that makes you look in the mirror and feel a little bit more in love with YOU.
Find stress busters that work
The link between gut health and stress has been widely reviewed medically. It is apparent that stress causes the gut to flare up. In IBS, bloating is largely attributed to a stress response. The network between the gut-brain axis has been proven to be so powerful that clinical trials are being held to replace antidepressants with certain strains of bacteria in probiotics. That is how powerful the link between our brains and our tummies are.
So, find something that really works for you to help level out your stress responses. In time your bloated belly will thank you for it.
Ideas such as yoga, gaming, mindfulness, walks, listening to music, reading, gardening, being in nature are all great ways to debunk that frazzled feeling.
Cystic fibrosis affects every aspect of life. Will you tell us about the realities of CF in our survey?