One way or another, all of us have experienced bloating at some point in our lives. Some of us, especially women, experience it pretty regularly, making it an unpleasant part of our daily routines. The big question is: can we prevent it, or at least minimize it? The answer: absolutely.
This article summarizes natural ways to prevent and deal with bloat (that is not a result of a medical condition or disease).
Please note that any lasting bloat, recurring constipation and severe pain in the abdominal area should be taken seriously and consulted with a gastroenterologist immediately.
Some of the biggest culprits that can result in bloating are: big meals, fatty, processed and salty foods, stress, fizzy drinks, sedentary life, menstruation, menopause, depression, diabetes, alcohol, antibiotics, dehydration, parasites, poor gut micro biome, yeast overgrowth (candida), birth control pills, pregnancy, medications, constipation, too little or too much fiber, Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, inflammation of the colon, IBS, Crohn's Disease, and hormonal changes. Often times, combination of factors will lead to bloating and gas so keep reading to learn how you can prevent it.
Follow these guidelines and natural ways to prevent, or at least minimize, bloat:
Avoid fatty meals, which slow down stomach emptying and increase chances of acid reflux.
Eat small, frequent meals - overstuffing your stomach can lead to reflux which brings on bloating.
Try not to lie down after meals (especially big) - gravity helps prevent acid reflux.
Finish all your meals before it gets dark - digestion slows down once the sun sets. Good rule is to "breakfast like a queen, lunch like a princess, and dinner like a pauper".
Limit eating out, and if you do, make it a lunch on a brunch date so you have more time to digest your food before you hit the bed.
Exercise regularly to promote regular bowel movements.
Reduce consumption of processed foods which lack nutrients, fiber and are loaded with salt, preservatives and added flavors.
Avoid acid blockers - while they may be safe to use once in a while, overtime acid-suppressing drugs can cause bloat and change the pH of your stomach (from acid to alkaline) turning it into a good environment for bacteria to settle and multiply.
Minimize occurrence of aerophagia (swelling air) by eating slowly and mindfully, not drinking during meals (drink before or after), avoiding carbonated beverages and spitting out gum. Also, quit smoking, which beside being detrimental to health (causes inflammation in the lining of your stomach and intestines, and kills beneficial gut bacteria), leads to inhaling and swallowing a lot of air.
Drink at least 2 liters of water a day and consume water rich fruits and vegetables. Monitor your urine color - your pee should be clear to light yellow.
Minimize caffeine, dairy and alcohol - they can worsen reflux and bloating.
Go easy on salt (processed, pre-packaged, long shelf live and restaurant/take out meals are highest in salt) - salt can cause water retention, making you look and feel bloated.
If you do have alcohol, make sure to drink lots of water between drinks to help flush the alcohol out of your system and prevent dehydration and bloating. Also, try to limit consumption to no more than one drink a day, avoiding binge-drinking.
Minimize or eliminate carbonated water and other fizzy drinks.
Avoid artificial sweeteners at all cost. Studies show artificial sweeteners increase insulin levels, as insulin is released as a response to sweetness not calories, creating more sugar cravings. Researchers have consistently found a correlation between drinking diet soda and being overweight.
Moderate consumption of sugar alcohols (mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH)) often added to low-carb or sugar-free products such as protein shakes and nutrition bars. Excessive intake can cause bloating and diarrhea.
Ginger tea has been proven to have a soothing effect on the digestive system, helping reduce gas and bloating.
Warm water with lemon drank first thing in the morning has been proved to help move things along, and having a detoxifying effect on the liver.
Safeguard your liver - main detoxification organ - by avoiding medications such as acetaminophen and tricyclic antidepressants.
Aim for 25 to 30 g of fiber a day. Be careful of eating large amounts of fiber in one sitting (especially before you go to bed) - spread your intake throughout the day and try to keep your fiber intake the same. Additionally double up on your water consumption to prevent clogs.
Although very healthy and potent cancer-fighters high fiber foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, beans and legumes can cause gas - if you are not used to eating them, start with a small amount, and slowly build up your tolerance; when serving them add lemon juice to them to stimulate digestive enzymes; additionally soaking beans overnight before cooking helps too.
If you feel your bowels are getting backed up, and start to become really bloated, try a liquid diet for a day, drinking primarily water, green veggie juices and bone broth.
If an antibiotic is necessary, request a narrow-spectrum one, which will minimize damage to your micro biome by targeting a narrower range of bacteria.
Always take probiotics during, and at least one month after, an antibiotic treatment. Take the probiotic dose at a time as far away from the antibiotics as possible.
Eat probiotics foods to support your gut bacteria - foods high in fiber and resistant starch are especially important when on antibiotics. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi feed your gut bacteria as well as provide additional live microbes themselves.
Eliminate sugary, starchy foods - yeast species love sugar, causing yeast to thrive and lead to test infections and contributing to microbial imbalance induced by antibiotics.
Minimize inflammation in your body (including colon and intestines) by eating the best-quality food you can afford; aim for organic produce to minimize exposure to pesticides, responsibly farmed animal protein and wild caught, sustainably harvested fish and shellfish.
Consume lots of anti-inflammatory foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines), flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts as well as green leafy vegetables, bok choy, celery, beets, broccoli, tomatoes, olive oil, and fruits (especially berries, tart cherries and oranges). Sip on bone broth and add turmeric spice to your recipes.
Lactose intolerance is a common reason for gas and bloating - try avoiding any dairy for 2 weeks and see if your symptoms improve.
Manage your stress levels.
If you have any questions about how to make appropriate dietary changes to minimize bloat, don't hesitate to contact me here.
"The Bloat Cure - 101 Natural Solutions for Real and Lasting Relief" by Robynne Chutkan, M.D., FASGE