It's not exactly the daintiest topic in the world, but it's certainly something everyone's experienced - that sensation of pressure inside the abdomen, sometimes coupled by swelling in the belly. You know, bloat.
Although it's hard to assess the exact prevalence of bloating, the condition is certainly commonplace. Many people experience bloating after a big weekend of eating, and the gassiness will eventually dissipate by itself. In these cases, there is little to worry about, beyond being temporarily unable to zip up your favourite jeans.
However, if your bloating is more than an occasional inconvenience, it may be worth exploring further, as regular or consistent bloating can be extremely debilitating. It doesn't just impact on health but can also have an effect on body confidence and general well-being. Here are a few ways to avoid or decrease effects of the bloat.
Eat Little + Often
To keep your metabolism revving throughout the day, focus on small, protein- and fiber-packed snacks or small meals every 3 to 4 hours. You may not only burn more calories eating a series of smaller meals, but also avoid the afternoon crash and end of the workday slump. Tip: Use your smartphone or computer to remind you of these intervals.
Light Exercise To De-Bloat
Exercise helps your body move stool and gas out of the colon and may make bowel movements more regular. Exercise also releases extra sodium from the body through sweating, which can help to relieve water retention.
It is vital to drink plenty of water before and after exercising to stay hydrated, as dehydration can make constipation worse, so in addition to light yoga and gentle walking give this workout by Blogilates a go.
Don't Consume Food + Drink That Promote The Bloat
Gas is a vital contributor to bloating, and even though an apple a day may save you a trip to the doctor's office because they have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and respiratory problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, they do not keep the bloat away. High in fibre, apples also contain fructose and sorbitol, sugars found in fruits that many people can't tolerate. The result? You guessed it: gas and the inevitable puffy feeling. If you'll be wearing a form-fitting outfit or bathing suit, you might not want to reach for an apple, pear, peach, or prunes.
Kale, broccoli, and cabbage contain raffinose—a sugar that remains undigested until bacteria in your gut ferment it. That produces gas and makes you bloat. But don't shun those healthful greens just yet. Consistently eating nutrient-rich, high-fibre foods leads to having a stronger, healthier digestive system that's less prone to bloating and bothering you, in comparison to sporadically consuming these foods.
Consider combining legumes with easily digestible whole grains, like rice or quinoa. Plus, fun fact - cooking any vegetable softens the fibre and shrinks the portion as some of the water cooks out, so it takes up less space in the GI tract. It won't eliminate or prevent bloating altogether, but it may make your veggies easier to digest.
It's probably not news to you, but beans, along with lentils, soybeans, and peas, are gas-causing foods. These little guys are basically bursts of protein in a pod, but they also contain sugars and fibers that our bodies can't absorb. So when legumes reach the large intestine, your gut bacteria take the lead and feast on them. This process leads to gas, which can balloon your waist.
Asparagus is an anti-bloating superfood. Sure, it makes your urine smell, but it also makes you pee, helping you flush all that excess water, thus relieving any discomfort and bloat. It also contains prebiotic, which help support the growth of 'good' bacteria. This helps maintain a healthy balance in your digestive system to prevent and/or reduce gas.
Eating high-sodium foods can trigger water retention, which can balloon you. Avoiding sodium isn't as simple as steering clear of the saltshaker, as sodium sneaks its way into most processed and packaged foods, including soups, breads, and other surprisingly salty foods. This makes it very difficult to avoid. When and if you do succumb to salt, drink a lot of water to help flush it out.
Foods rich in potassium — like bananas, avocados, kiwis, oranges, and pistachios prevent water retention by regulating sodium levels in your body and can thus reduce salt-induced bloating. Bananas also have soluble fiber, which can relieve or prevent constipation.
Bloating can also be caused by constipation. If you’re not able to eliminate waste in the GI tract, you become 'backed up' so to speak, which can lead to a bloated look. The enzyme in papaya, papain, helps break down proteins in your GI system, which makes digestion easier. The tropical fruit also has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as fibres that support a strong digestive tract. You can enjoy sliced fresh papaya or blended into a smoothie.
Fennel is also a digestive tract saviour. The seeds have a compound that relaxes GI spasms, which allows gas to pass and relieve bloating. You can also chew on the seeds directly or sip on a fennel tea at the end of a meal.
The term "sugar alcohol" can be quite misleading as they are neither a sugar nor an alcohol. Sugar alcohols are in most "sugar free" and "diet" products and once you know what to look for you will be amazed at just how many products contain some form of them. This is because the sugar alcohol is not completely absorbed in the digestive system and this causes fermentation to occur in the intestines. Due to this fermentation, bloating, diarrhoea and gas is produced which can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Finally touching on alcohol, after a night out drinking, you may also notice bloating in your face, which is often accompanied by redness. This happens because alcohol dehydrates the body. When the body is dehydrated, skin and vital organs try to hold onto as much water as possible, leading to puffiness in the face and elsewhere. If you are drinking, try and have a glass of water for each alcohol beverage you consume, or at least drink an adequate amount after drinking and especially before bed.
Avoid Swallowing Excess Air + Gas
When you finally get home after a long day, you're totally famished—we get it. But that doesn't mean you should scoff down your dinner in a hurry. Eating too quickly causes you to swallow excess air, which can lead to uncomfortable gas and bloating. Mindful eating and slowing down the chewing with your mouth closed, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. Fight off the urge to gorge by snacking on something like a small piece of fruit or an ounce of nuts before dinner is ready.
Similar to eating your dinner too quickly, sipping out of a straw can also cause you to suck in too much air and as a result, leave you feeling puffy. This is one of the most important tips on how to reduce bloating to remember because if you're drinking water through a straw daily, that could be the reason you're bloated all day long.
Quit smoking! Bloat can occur when you suck in the excess air as smoke is inhaled from the cigarette, so consider your daily habits and think long and hard about the effects they could be having on your hard working body.
Avoid Chewing Gum. Swallowing air while chewing may also lead to bloating and gas pain, along with the sugar alcohols. It's advised to swap gum for ginger mints or peppermints to freshen breath instead.
Try Abdominal Massages
Massaging the stomach has lots of health benefits and a DIY stomach massage is really easy to learn. It can help relieve bloating and built up gas in as little as five minutes. NOTE: If you're pregnant, it’s best not to do a stomach massage on yourself.
Consider Allergies + Intolerances
If you feel gassy after a few slices of cheese or a bowl of cereal with milk, you may be lactose intolerant — which means your body lacks the necessary enzymes to break down lactose (the sugar found in dairy products). That can cause gas to form in the GI tract, which may trigger bloating.
So before all that gas gets to you, steer clear of dairy products and opt for the many lactose-free or non-dairy alternatives out there. If this is hard for you, the use of lactase tablets like Lactaid, which help people digest foods that contain lactose may assist in reducing your bloat once lactose is consumed. To help pinpoint any intolerances you can keep a food diary, take specific tests and speak with your doctor.
Take Enzyme Supplements + Pro-biotic's
Get some of those good bacteria into your gut! Digestive enzymes are molecules which assist in the breakdown of the foods we eat, whereas probiotics are good bacteria that live in the intestines, they help regulate digestion and champion the overall health of your digestive tract. Sure, you can take supplements, but you may as well get a breakfast out of it. So eat your bloat away by mixing a little fruit or granola with yogurt that has active cultures. We recommend supplement strains that have been well researched for bloating.
Ginger contains the digestive enzyme zingibain, which helps your digestive system break down protein. The compound potentially helps food be digested more easily, reducing bloat, gas, or constipation, you can either chew on some fresh ginger, or if you are feeling full, sip on a hot cup of ginger, peppermint, fennel or chamomile tea, they can help the GI muscles to dissipate the gas that causes your stomach to bloat. Aside from improving digestion, chamomile can also soothe and relax, which can help ease any sort of stomach discomfort.