Bloating is something we all can relate to. Most of us get it at some point; some of us even struggle with it daily. Your stomach feels inflated, your face is puffy and you just feel uncomfortable in general.
Ergo the stretchy pants come out and the oversized t-shirts are thrown over your faux baby bump. But honestly, that’s not getting to the root of the problem.
Bloating usually occurs as a result of too much fermentation in the digestive tract. Some common triggers include: stress, food sensitivity, poor digestion, a lack of enzymes, poor food choices and even a lack of activity.
Here’s how to understand what could be causing your bloating, and what you can do about it.
No. 1 – Listen to your body
If you feel bloated or experience cramps after you eat something, this is your body’s way of telling you it’s not happy.
Grab a pen and paper and write down a food diary for a week or two. Remember to take note of which of these foods/meals are leaving you feeling bloated.
Also know that it’s not always just the food or meal that’s the culprit. Note down any emotions or situations happening at the time.
Did you eat your breakfast on the go whilst in a mad panic to get the bus?
Did you eat your lunch prior to or after a stressful meeting?
Were you really hungry when you snuffled down that bar of chocolate, or was it something you reached out for when you were feeling under pressure?
Sometimes it’s the food itself that’s causing you troubles, other times it’s the situation you’re in, whether you’re feeling stressed, angry, sad or excited.
No. 2 – Is it a Food Sensitivity?
If you have a sensitivity to foods like dairy, gluten, egg or soy, you will feel bloated. Often you can experience other symptoms like skin rashes, poor digestion, skin breakouts and so on.
For 2 weeks try replacing these possible offenders with alternatives.
Replace gluten products with quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat.
Switch out your dairy products for nut and seed milks such as almond, coconut (or even rice milk) and dairy free cheese alternatives.
Replace soy protein with legumes (black beans are my go-to!), hemp seeds and chia, and if you’re at a loss for a soy sauce replacement, Coconut Aminos has you covered.
You should notice a difference pretty much right away in your abdominal bloating and overall puffiness when you cut these out if it’s a sensitivity.
After 2 weeks, introduce just one group back into your diet, and if that’s ok, introduce the next one the following week until you and find out what’s causing the troubles.
Maybe it’s not the food itself that was the problem, but the quantity and quality of it?
Which brings me on to point 3.
No. 3 – Avoid Processed and Refined Foods
Stay away from heavily processed and refined foods like cakes, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice and fried foods.
These foods are stripped of their nutrients as well as their excellent fibre sources, meaning not only are they not giving you the nutrition you need, but they are also hard for the stomach to digest.
Personally I avoided gluten for years, and then I discovered rye sourdough and I couldn’t be happier. (Follow this link to see why that was the case!)
Often it’s just the way the food is processed that triggers the uncomfortable digestion.
No. 4 – Chew food slowly and thoroughly
Maybe you’re already consuming gloriously healthy and nutrient-packed food, and you said your goodbyes to these top belly bloating agitators a long time ago, and yet you’re still puffing out.
It could be as simple as how thoroughly you chewed your food.
Did you waffle down your food without thought, gobbling it up in a hurry, whilst watching TV or working on your computer?
Many people often mindlessly inhale their food when sitting in front of a computer or TV and forget to chew properly.
Chewing is a very important part of digestion because is it the very first step of digestion.
Chewing slowly allows the salivary enzymes enough time to break down and liquefy food so that our digestive organs do not have to expend too much energy trying to manage large unbroken particles.
It also helps break large food particles down into smaller particles, allowing for easy digestion and absorption of nutrients from food in the intestines. Remember – your stomach doesn’t have teeth!
No. 5 – Dehydration
Many people see a distended stomach and think if they drink a lot of water, they’ll be contributing to the bloat, or they think it’s water retention and avoid water even more.!
Ironically enough, the body is much more likely to retain fluid if we are dehydrated, so keep an eye out for that. Do you find when you eat lunch on certain days when you haven’t had a chance to drink any water your bloating is worse?
(And knocking back mugs of coffee or black tea doesn’t count as hydrating yourself 😉 )
From now on make sure you are drinking plenty of water (or alternatively electrolyte filled coconut water) throughout the day and see how you feel. It could be as simple as that.
Do note that drinking lots of water right before or after eating can dilute your digestive enzymes and make it harder for you to digest your food, so try to hold off drinking a lot of fluids at least 30 mins before eating, if not a tad longer (small sips during a meal is totally fine).
No. 6 – Fruit for Dessert
There you are thinking you’re doing the right thing by swapping out your usual dessert for fruit, but then wham! Hello bloat.
Surely this beats chocolate cake, right? Well, it does in some ways, but it can also lead to the infamous bloat after a meal.
Why? Well you see fruit digests very quickly, so it’s actually preferable to eat it on an empty stomach or in between meals, rather than after. Some fruits can digest within a matter of half an hour and move right through your digestive tract. Other meals can take up to 8 or even longer depending on the meal, especially if it contains meat.
When you eat fruit on top of a heavy meal, it can simply sit there for hours and ferment, thus causing the bloating.
Fruit is one of the most cleansing, energizing and nutritious foods which you should have daily, but have it as a snack or a starter, not for dessert!
No. 7 – Include digestive herbs and spices into your daily routine
Swap your cup o’ Joe for a herbal tea that includes digestive herbs like fennel, dandelion, ginger or cinnamon to really get those digestive juices flowing.
Pukka teas and Yogi teashave an excellent range of delicious herbal teas to try out, and with the cold weather creeping in, now is the perfect time to brew up and warm yourself from inside out.
Think 3 ginger tea, 3 mint tea, 3 fennel tea, cinnamon tea, Stomach Ease, Detox and Classic Chai.
And don’t stop there. Try adding the following herbs and spices to your meals to not only accentuate the taste of your meals, but also to support your digestive system by assisting breakdown and absorption of foods.
Go for Cardamom, Coriander, Cayenne, Cumin, Cinnamon, Turmeric, ginger, garlic, fennel, rosemary and black pepper.
No. 8 – Keep Active
If you suffer from chronic bloating try adding at least 30 minutes of exercise to your daily routine.
Personally my go-to choice is yoga, as there are so many wonderful positions that create extension and contraction of the abdomen such as cat/cow, child’s pose, or seated twists to really help increase circulation, massage the colon, help to release gas and help keep your digestive system running smoothly.
Of course you can also opt for pilates, running, walking, a good gym workouts etc. instead which will also work nicely.
No. 9 – Keep an eye on your salt intake
Sometimes it’s something simple, like your salt intake.
You might not think you’re consuming a lot, but if you take a close look at the sodium levels in your sauces, salad dressings, cured meats, salty snacks and any restaurant or lunch time café foods, plus your home cooking you may begin to see it add up.
Large amounts of sodium = water retention = BLOATING.
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*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication