One of the biggest complaints many of us have with our digestion is bloating. That tight uncomfortable feeling where you look 5 months pregnant (baggy clothes anyone!?).
A few lifestyle changes can end your bloating for good. Women especially have difficulties with bloating, mainly because of our periods/ hormones and the battle for room between our reproductive organs and our digestive tract (making it rather cramped down there).
What is bloating?
Contrary to popular belief, bloating isn't water weight or an accumulation of fluids in the abdominal area. Bloating usually happens when the gastrointestinal tract fills with air or gas. For many people what bloating comes down to is inadequate digestion (causing some foods to ferment), inability to break down sugar and carbohydrates fully or an imbalance of gut bacteria.
What are the potential causes of bloating?
- Drinking through a straw
- Imbalance of gut bacteria
- Eating foods day after day that you're sensitive to
- Gum Chewing
- Certain foods
- A sudden increase in fiber
- Digestive disorders like IBS, celiac disease and ulcerative colitis
Which foods can cause bloating? (These won't cause bloating in everyone)
- Sugar and sweet snacks
- Dairy products
- Some difficult to digest veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, onions and cabbage
- Some harder to digest grains like corn, oats and wheat
- Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols
How to Avoid Bloating
Avoid carbonated water (even fizzy water)
I got on a major Le Croix kick but had to stop because it was making me so bloated. The carbon dioxide when combined with your stomach acid creates a chemical reaction that makes you bloated and gassy. Not to mention you're physically swallowing a gas so it makes sense that it would make you bloated. If you drink a fizzy drink with sugar it's a double whammy because the sugar is feeding the bad bacteria in your gut! So avoiding bubbly drinks can help you avoid the bloat.
Get some probiotics into your diet
Probiotics are your very own superheroes that stop bad bacteria and yeast from accumulating too much in your intestines, which leads to bloating. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha are yummy options.
Discovering food sensitivities
First off, what is a food sensitivity? A food sensitivity isn't all allergy and it isn't an intolerance. Meaning it doesn't set off an immune reaction and it's not from that lack of an enzyme. A sensitivity means your body reacts poorly to a certain food causing symptoms. Doing a basic elimination diet eliminating dairy, gluten, soy, corn and eggs can be a good starting point for getting rid of your bloating.
Like I mentioned above a food intolerance means you lack the enzymes to digest a certain components of food like lactose or fructose. A doctors visit can help narrow down any potential intolerances you may have.
Celiac Disease Testing
While this may not be a common cause of bloating considering only 1% of the population has celiac disease, I have to mention it. Bloating that doesn't seem to go away no matter what can be a symptom of celiac disease. Even though chances are you don't have it, getting tested before you try eliminating gluten is smart. You want to know before hand so you know how strict your gluten free diet has to be.
Some women experience bloating before their period. During the follicular stage estrogen levels rise while the uterine layer thickens and at this time bloating can occur. Bloating usually goes away when the period begins but if you want to get rid of it exercise, avoiding high salt foods and drinking 1-2 litres of water daily can help.
Chew your food
Most people chew 4-7 times and swallow. If this describes you, then you are literally swallowing chunks of food. Digestion begins in the mouth, in fact there's an enzyme in your saliva called salivary amylase that starts the digestive process! Count your chews next time you eat, then swallow when your food is a paste. Not only will this reduce bloating, but it will help your body digest foods easier.
Stop eating dairy and see if it makes a difference
Lactose is the main sugar in milk, and in order for it to be properly processed in your body, you need have an enzyme called lactase. Infants have plenty of it because they need it to digest breastmilk, but as we get older, we produce less and less lactase because we don't need milk anymore. This makes it extremely difficult for the digestive system to break down cow's milk and other dairy products the same way, which is what causes that bloated belly. Dairy can also cause constipation and that's another reason that it can cause bloating.
How to get relief when you're already bloated
1. Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger is a wonderful anti-inflammatory food for the prevention and treatment of bloating. Take a chunk of raw ginger and steep it in hot water for at least 5 minutes. Add some freshly squeezed lemon and drink up.
2. Drink Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea contains menthol which is an antispasmodic meaning it relaxes the gut and allows for the bloating to go away.
3. Take a walk
Some light exercise can help get things moving and reduce bloating. It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but it can help not only prevent bloating, but help it go away.
4. Chew fennel seeds or try fennel tea
Chew a pinch of fennel seeds at the end of a meal to benefit from its gas-reducing oils. This is an ancient remedy that has been used to relieve digestive upset and bloating. If you don't want to chipmunk out on some seeds you can make some fennel tea.
5. Drink lemon water
Lemon juice stimulates digestive enzymes and speeds up the process of whatever good is happening in your gut. Keeping hydrated in general is a good idea if you want to successfully fight bloating.
6. Try some yoga stretches
Yoga offers relief when your digestive system is all tangled up. There are a few different postures you can do at home to ease the bloating and reduce any pains in your abdomen that might be occurring as a result.