Bloating is a problem for a lot of us. I am often asked how to reduce it, make it go away or what changes are needed to reduce it. The honest answer is that it depends on what is causing the problem and how it manifests in each individual. There are so many possible causes; gas, constipation, sedentary lifestyles, hormones, food intolerances, or lack of fibre in the diet can all play a part. There are also more serious reasons for bloating such as parasites, coeliac disease or diverticulitis and if symptoms don’t improve you should always check in with a doctor.
When you are trying to eliminate bloating the first port of call is CHEWING! Do you chew your food enough? Do you take time to sit? Do you take time to rest and digest? Or are you expecting your body to breakdown food whilst also trying to do 100 other things? In which case the food is probably being broken down at a slower pace and therefore sitting in the gut. This causes fermenting or putrefying (what a lovely thought), and both cause bloating on a big scale!
The power of probiotics
Do you have enough good bacteria in your gut helping you to break down and absorb the vitamins and minerals in your food? Without a strong colony of good bacteria you could be missing a lot of nutrition and also suffering after meals. If you use a lot of NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs) or antibiotics the chances are that your gut colony will be on the low side. I recommend that everyone should take a course of probiotics every six months as this will help keep the tummy and gut healthy, as well as gas free and flat.
People are less aware of prebiotics but they are crucial for probiotics to work - you need a good prebiotic base for a good bacteria colony to grow. For prebiotic power you can get supplements, or you should start to include in your diet things like onions, garlic, leeks and asparagus (which is also a diuretic so will help any water retention, another cause of bloating), and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir which are easy to make and great for the gut.
The importance of fire in your belly
Is there fire in your belly to digest foods? When I say fire I am talking about digestive power which comes from digestive enzymes and juices. These are juices that come from your stomach, liver and gall bladder and help to break down the food you ingest. If you are having trouble with food sitting in your tummy, a good remedy is a capful of apple cider vinegar 20 mins before you eat, or you could try a digestive enzyme supplement.
Make it mindful
Next on my list is the importance of mindfulness. It is important to be aware of how you react to foods and which foods trigger a reaction (whether that is bloating or a change in bowel movements). It is amazing how little notice we take of what our bodies are trying to tell us when we eat certain foods. The big offenders in these cases are things like dairy, red meats, wheat, gluten and sugar, but they are not the only ones and if you are intolerant to a food this could be the sole reason of your bloating. If this is the case, removing it from your diet would be the easiest way to cure it.
Raw isn’t always right
I love raw vegetables and raw food but they can be more difficult for some of us to break down. If you find that this is the case, give your veg a quick steam. This starts the breakdown process for you and means there is less likelihood of any bloating. It is a tricky one as while raw is harder to break down for us it's also higher in fibre so there are pros and cons to both - the best way is to just see what works for you.
Hold off on hydration
Hydration is essential for the body to operate at an optimum but do be aware that drinking while you eat dilutes the digestive juices and weakens the fire in your belly. If you are struggling with your digestion then avoid drinking anything twenty minutes before and after a meal. And by hydration I don’t mean fizzy drinks, which are actually dehydrating and will only add to bloating for obvious reasons! Stick to the water or herbal tea.
Be wary of water retention
Water retention can also be a big cause of bloating so make sure you include diuretic foods such as cucumber, celery and asparagus in your diet and also include foods full of potassium like bananas, avocados and kiwis as these will help balance any salt-induced bloating. The more water you take in, the less water retention you will have - two litres a day is about right.
Increase your fibre
Another thing to think about when combatting bloating is to increase the amount of fibre in your diet. Things like flaxseeds or chia seeds are great sources of fibre and help keep things moving along in our gut, and are also great vegetarian sources of omega 3, fats and protein. Another good fibre option is brown rice - lovely for the gut and high in B vitamins.
A brisk walk for 20 minutes, three times a day can help. I find people who sit at their desks all day suffer with bloating a lot. So have a break throughout the day and this should help keep the bloat away.
Foods to eat to help bloating:
Fennel (seeds, root or tea)
Fennel-anything will help relax the gut and allow gas to pass and relieve bloating.
Pineapple and papaya
Both contain digestive and anti-inflammatory enzymes such as papain and bromelain that are really helpful in the processing of food.
Great added to dishes with pulses, as it really helps the bloating effects of beans. It is also an anti-inflamatory and in my opinion the more you include in your diet the better!
Ginger, peppermint and charcoal (supplement form)
These all aid digestion in different ways or are calming on the system.