Being bloated is not a pleasant feeling. Back in the day, when my body was in a state of complete imbalance, my bloat was through the roof. We’re talking intense pain and a ballooned state that had me looking 8.5 months pregnant! No joke. The. worst. These days, I am a lot more in tune with my body and if bloated, I can usually draw a link, recognising the cause/s of my bloat.
If you’re getting down in the dumps about being bloated, here are some things that you can try:
Slow your pace.
This is applicable to everything from daily movement to how fast you eat. I’m not kidding, running around like a mad woman does not help! Excess circulating cortisol does no wonders for our digestion and hence, can often leave us feeling a little more ’rounder’ than usual. The key is to move, but move smartly.
Eating too fast can also cause a build up of gas in the stomach which leads to a distended stomach. Remember, digestion begins in the mouth, so spend time chewing your food and making each morsel smaller to avoid taking in extra air.
Drink between meals.
Drinking with meals dilutes our digestive enzymes causing a slower digestive rate and hence, the dreaded bloat. I always recommend sipping small sips during meals and saving larger drinks for in between meals.
Start your day with this gut elixir.
A fresh knob of ginger and the juice of 1/2-1 lemon in warm water is the perfect morning drink for an empty stomach. This combo both stimulates the digestive juices as well as provides calming and anti-inflammatory properties for the stomach. You could also sub out lemon for 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and try adding some turmeric or cayenne pepper.
Savour these gut ‘superfoods’.
Thanks to the silica, caffeic acid and Vitamin C content of cucumber it is the perfect addition to any diet to reduce fluid retention and GI discomfort. Try adding some slices to your water or snacking on a lebanese cucumber. I also like to slice one up and use it as I would a cracker and top it with my favourite toppings.
Kiwi fruit is also a gut-lovin’ wonder. It has a little something called actinidin, a compound that supports healthy digestion.
Papaya is another favourite. Not only is it packed full of potassium, it also contains a natural digestive enzyme called papain that makes digestion a more efficient process. Try squeezing some fresh lime over your papaya or throwing a little in your next smoothie.
Finally, parsley is another digestive helper that also has anti-inflammatory properties and assists the kidney’s to do their job promoting the efficient removal of toxins from the body. Parsley is easy to grow and I love to add a couple of fresh sprigs to my salads.
Tea for two and two for tea.
Peppermint tea is another wonder when it comes to the bloat. It exerts anti-spasmodic actions, has a calming effect on the GI system, increases gastric juices, relieves gas and stimulates the gallbladder to secrete more bile which is used in fat digestion.
Fennel tea is another wonder tea for de-bloating. Again, it has anti-spasmodic properties and stimulates gastric juice production. It is also high in potassium and contains anethole, a phytonutrient that has shown anti-inflammatory properties.
Watch your sugar.
Refined sugars are a no go when it comes to bloating. They do nothing to help the cause.
While I love fruit and think it is the perfect portable snack, I find that it can sometimes wreak havoc on my digestion. It it always best to eat fruit on an empty stomach, especially your melons, and if your stomach is a little touchy feely limit your intake to the recommended 2 fruit per day, opting for lower fructose-containing options such as berries, green apples and grapefruit.
The same rule applies for juice and smoothies. If you’re a fan of either of these, it is always best to prepare your own and balance the fruit component with fat and protein.
This also applies to artificial sweeteners too. These can wreak havoc on our digestion and cause the undesirable symptoms of bloating and gas. Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol, found in foods such as chewing gums, absorb at a much slower rate in the body and should be avoided if you suffer from bloating often.
Soak your legumes.
Many grains, nuts and seeds contain phytic acid, a compound that can act as an irritant to the mucosal lining of our GI tracts. By soaking these foods overnight, prior to consumption, the phytic acid level is reduced making them more easily digestible.
I am a big advocate for seasonal eating. Naturally, our bodies crave heavier and warmer foods in winter and lighter, cooler foods in our hot summers. We should listen to these cues and do our body a favour. Consuming a large roast dinner on a 40 degree day, is not something our body will thank us for.
When the gut has less-than adequate levels of good bacteria, it is more sensitive and therefore, is more likely to suffer from issue such as bloating and indigestion.
Probiotics and prebiotics are both required to harbour a strong gut. However, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a type of prebiotic actually is known to feed gut bacteria, adding to the bloat that we are trying to rid of! Thus, if you suffer from constant bloating, it is always best to choose a probiotic product without FOS, rather slowly increasing FOS-rich foods into your diet so as not to shock the already-highly-sensitive gut. Foods rich in FOS include artichokes, sauerkraut, garlic and asparagus.
It is no secret that magnesium is my most favourite mineral (nutrition nerd!). When I skip a day of magnesium, I notice the holistic difference within my body. While it is involved in over 300 processes within the body, it is entirely important to efficient gut function where it plays a functional role in the elimination of bodily waste. In this role, it is the muscles of the GI wall that benefit most from magnesium as they need it for their peristaltic actions.
A daily intake with plenty of dark green, leafy vegetables is key to a good magnesium head start. Grains, nuts and seeds are also good options, remembering to soak them first. If you need a little extra helping hand, a magnesium supplement could do the trick, but it is always best to get the advice from a healthcare practitioner before implementing.
These are just a mere selection of the many de-bloat tips and tricks out there. If you have a favourite, let me know!