There are many causes of bloating – it can be down to imbalances in your gut flora, stress or simply consuming too many unhealthy food or drink choices like soda, alcohol, sugary coffee. It can for some people be an uncomfortable and daily occurence. Covering up your stomach with loose, baggy clothing or straining to do up your jeans can be a thing of the past. It’s worth seeing a nutritionist to identify your particular issues, but to give yourself a better chance at a happier, healthier (and flatter) tummy, here are five top tips that might help…
1. Go with your gut instinct Having imbalances in the digestive system can create many gastrointestinal symptoms one of which is bloating. Refined, sugary foods such as biscuits, cakes, sweets and the “white crew” (e.g. pasta, breads and noodles), can feed the less-friendly bugs in our gut, causing them to over proliferate. The best thing to do is keep these foods to a minimum and add in plenty of prebiotic foods to keep them in check and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. I recommend taking a good quality probiotic daily but avoid the sugary probiotic drinks like Yakult.
AVOID: Sugar, cakes, sweets, biscuits, pasta, bread, noodles.
EMBRACE: Garlic, spices, cabbage (particularly sauerkraut), onions, leeks, ginger, oats, almonds, artichokes, chicory, probiotics
2. Smooth moves
Creating a rhythm is the best way to keep the digestive system happy – this means having plenty of fibre in your diet to ensure regular trips to the bathroom. The best sources of fibre are found in plant-based foods such as vegetables and nuts. Also make sure you are properly hydrated by drinking a minimum of two litres of water a day. A hydrated body is a happy body.
EMBRACE: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, gulten-free grains, water
3. Soothing foods
Trying foods that have a general calming effect on digestion may also help with bloating – fresh lemon in hot water is a quick and easy option. Other calming ingredients that you can to add to teas – or to your general diet – include fresh mint, ginger and turmeric (the latter is delicious in hummus).
EMBRACE: Fennel, aloe vera juice, fresh mint, fresh lemon in hot water, fresh ginger tea, turmeric
4. De-stress to de-bloat
The brain-gut connection is definitely a powerful one. We’ve all had that feeling of deep sickness in our gut when faced with a nervous or stressful situation, consequently causing our appetite to disappear. This is because the digestive system is re-routing blood supply to the muscles so we can run away from perceived danger – the fight or flight response. In today’s stressful, busy lives, we are mobilising this all the time – whether it’s caused by a meeting with your boss or someone pushing in front of you in a queue. The point is, our bodies haven’t yet evolved enough to differentiate between a life threatening situation and one that is just a bit stressful, so the same response is generated and can have a pretty big effect on digestive processes. Moreover, we are often simultaneously eating food when we are activating this response – does chowing down lunch while furiously tapping out emails or watching TV sound familiar?
EMBRACE: A key mantra – rest and digest
5. Chew, chew, chew
I know it’s an obvious one, but if most of us were to time how long we take to eat our meals we’d be shocked. It’s very important to take at least 20–30 minutes to eat any meal and to chew your food thoroughly rather than just get a quick five-minute inhalation of calories. If we take in food that is only partially chewed, the stomach and lower intestine have to work that much harder to break it down. Roughly 20 chews per bite is a pretty good indication.
EMBRACE: Slowing down and savouring each mouthful