Bloating and COPD – Part 1
This week I am writing about the bump many of us wish we did not have: bloated stomachs that no amount of effort on our part seems to deflate. I remember some years ago getting out of my bath, and looking at myself shocked at the image in the mirror reflected back at me. Not only was my stomach bloated, it looked as though I was soon to give birth to twins.
Like many, I had gained weight as I was not able to exercise as when fitter. Less mobility equals less movement and on goes some weight. Even so, whatever I did, and it seems others too, had little effect on bloating.
Bloating continues to be a much talked about subject with little in the way of conclusion, or helpful advice in the COPD community. Very many COPD’ers are effected by bloating. Doctors offer little if any advice, sometimes seeming to be none the wiser to the cause. The reason why I have looked into this often complained about part of COPD – as I needed to find answers if only to help myself.
We have to first think about where our lungs sit inside our bodies. Many assume our lungs are under our ribs, enclosed in the upper part of our torso. While part of our lungs is under our ribs, our lungs are very large and extend below our rib cage. This is the part that because it is not constrained by our ribs gives 70% of lung capacity as they extend below and down behind your diaphragm and stomach. The upper part of your lungs being constrained by your ribs can only offer 30% of capacity to a fit lung person. This explains why a knock to the stomach can leave a person winded. Not being protected by the rib cage at this point and easily crushed means anyone that is lung challenged will when bending to pick something from the floor, or tie shoe laces, get more breathless. For instance many, if not most, of us at the severe stage can no longer cut our toe nails and in some cases even find it a problem to put on socks.
Over time our lungs get larger due to being hyper inflated with emphysema, and become more extended. Doctors refer to these as long lungs. Someone with long lungs maybe asked to have two lung x-rays when at the hospital. One for the top half the lung, the other for the lower. I have long lungs.
As our lungs grow larger, and more inflated, they push our stomach and diaphragm outwards from behind, giving the bloating effect. Eating large meals makes this worse – as then we have our diaphragm and stomach fighting each other for space as our lungs push outwards, making for more bloating. And as we become more bloated, we become more breathless on movement. This really is a cause and effect condition. The good news is there are ways to help yourself. You will probably not be able to entirely stop the bloating – but can limit it and make yourself a little less breathless as a result.
Eating smaller portions really does help. Have you, as I have done in the past, come out of a restaurant to find you are much more breathless than usual? That walk to the car, even though only a few yards, seeming to take an eternity? This is the point when the food in your stomach is having a fight for space with your lungs. The lungs have a smaller amount of room as they are compressed by the food in your stomach making for more breathlessness. There is no getting away from it. Eating smaller meals is the way forward. Smaller portions, little and often does help. But there is more you can do to help that bloating apart from eating smaller meals. I will write about how our breathing effects bloating and an exercise that can help to reduce bloat in my next article.
Till then keep that smile. But most of all Breathe easy.