Because no one should have to take recluse in bed every time they eat.
Have you ever caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror on the way to bed and had to do a horrified double-take because you suddenly have a massively bloated belly that resembles a basketball that was definitely not there earlier in the day?
Unexplained belly bloat is super common among women, with two-thirds of us experiencing periodic bloating throughout our lives and one in five bloating so badly it severely impacts our lives.
The causes are often frustrating – if not impossible – to get to the bottom of because the symptoms can overlap with health issues like endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), thyroid disease and food intolerances.
As well as changing the way your body looks, bloating can be soul-destroying if it flares up at a bad time, like before going clothes shopping or on a fancy date. Even if you’re totally happy with how you normally look, suddenly having a protruding pregnant-looking stomach can make you get seriously down on yourself.
As well as potentially affecting your self-esteem, belly bloat can also be painful and uncomfortable. It often comes with embarrassing and uncontrollable gas that can force you to make desperate dashes to the bathroom. So if you suffer from a chronically bloated stomach, you’ll be happy to know it is curable – and the ways to do it are surprisingly easy. You can restore your self-confidence to its former glory, and your entire body and wellbeing will be better off as well. Here’s how…
1. Stay away from gassy foods
Everyone knows the rhyme sung in schoolyards about beans and how they make you gassy. Well, as well as beans, certain vegetables from the cruciferous family can also cause that gassy, bloated feeling; broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower being some of the worst culprits.
So should you completely cut these super-nutritious veggies from your diet? .
“Don’t be nervous about them,” reassures Registered Dietitian, Dawn Jackson Blatner.
“Just work them into your diet slowly until your body adjusts to the compounds that can initially cause gas.”
In the meantime, try taking an anti-gas product, which you can purchase over the counter at your local pharmacy and most supermarkets, to help reduce gas from beans or vegetables.
2. Up your intake of probiotics
One of the best things you can do for your overall gut health is to eat foods that contain probiotics (good bacteria). A balanced gut ecosystem can dramatically reduce belly bloat, which is often simply a result of having way too much bad flora in your stomach. Bad bacteria produce gas, and gas causes bloating, so flooding your bod with more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff (sugar, alcohol and fast food all promote bad bacteria), is an easy fix.
“Eating dairy with probiotics will help to ease digestive woes that can cause bloating,” says dietitian and personal trainer Lyssie Lakatos.
As well as eating foods high in probiotics like yogurt, you can also take probiotic supplements, to really up your good bacteria game.
3. Eat smaller meals more often
Instead of having a king-sized breakfast, large lunch and massive dinner, try having smaller meals more often. Eating a smaller meal five or six times a day can free you of the bloated feeling you get after a big feast (like Christmas dinner), and eating more frequently also helps to control your hunger cravings and manage blood sugar levels.
As long as you maintain food and calorie intake proportionate to your personal needs, having more meals each day is the way to go. Smaller meals are easier to digest, and the stomach can empty quicker, preventing a bloated tum.
4. Skip gas-producing drinks
We all know what a beer belly looks like, and the cause is right there in the name; beer. If you don’t want a bloated beer belly, avoid alcohol.
“The occasional social drink is fine, but a little goes a long way,” says Lakatos.
“Large amounts of alcoholic beverages, especially in the evening, are proven to have a bloating effect.”
So put down the wine unless you want to give your dad’s belly a run for its money at the next family BBQ.
As well as cutting down on the booze, avoid drinking large amounts of carbonated beverages like seltzer water and soft drinks. The gas from these drinks can get trapped in your stomach, causing the dreaded bloat. Water is the best bet, and you can make it more palatable, and kinder on your gut by adding digestion-promoting lemon, lime or cucumber. If all else fails and you succumb to a wine craving, follow it up with a peppermint tea, which has been shown to have a mild calming effect on the stomach (and tastes delicious).
5. Rule out allergies and intolerances
Different food allergies and intolerances can cause gas to build up in the stomach, resulting in bloating, so it’s super important to figure out what foods your body can and can not handle. If the thought of partaking in a Sunday cheese platter with the girls makes you squirm in pain, or you can’t even look at a loaf of bread without your stomach puffing up, it’s a surefire sign you should get yourself to a doctor and request a food intolerance and allergy test.
The most common foods behind allergies and intolerances include dairy products, gluten-containing foods (most bread, pasta, rolls, cereals) and certain kinds of carbohydrates. A simple strategy for discovering if any of these foods are causing your bloating is to try cutting out the suspected food for a week or two and tracking your symptoms in a food diary.
6. Avoid salt and high-sodium foods
Sorry, salt lovers, salt might be a great seasoning to add to your meal, but it can also cause gastrointestinal discomfort and excessive bloating.
“Sodium attracts and retains water, giving you a puffy appearance,” explains Lakatos.
Putting a pinch of it in with your pasta might not be a problem, but you should definitely stay away from highly processed foods with large amounts of sodium in them if you want to avoid a painful beach ball tummy.
Eating too fast and not chewing your food completely can result in you swallowing a lot more air while you eat, which gets trapped in your stomach and leads to bloating.
Slowing down while you eat can not only make you enjoy your food a lot more, but decrease bloating before any food has even hit your stomach. Digestion starts in the mouth, so chewing your food more thoroughly before swallowing it (experts suggest up to 20 times) is the first step to decreasing stomach bloat.
8. Eat more veggies
If you’re not getting enough whole vegetables in your diet, you’re probably having a harder time expelling waste from your body, as fibrous vegetables are essential for helping to ‘sweep’ waste through your intestines and out into the loo. Chances are, you’re probably constipated a lot of the time, and this could be why you always look (and feel) bloated.
Pooping is really important to your overall health and so being constipated is a big no-no if you want to be healthy and bloat-free.
You should aim to eat around five to six servings of vegetables and two to three servings of fruit a day. This will help you to be able to easily empty your bowels, and shrink your bloated belly.
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Comment: Do you suffer from a constantly bloated belly? How do you handle it?