Belly bloat is not a good look, is it? Sometimes, it’s not just a bad look, it can be really uncomfortable too. Since we’re always looking for a permanent fix, not just temporary relief, the ideas I’m going to share to beat belly bloat will focus mostly on prevention. Preventing it in the first place should lead to fewer discomfort and socially awkward experiences.
But before you can effectively, and hopefully, permanently, get rid of your gut, you’ll need to know what’s causing your symptoms.
Learn what triggers your symptoms
These are some common reasons why we have digestive complaints, and stomach distention:
- unhealthy bacteria in the stomach,
- not enough exercise and movement,
- gluten intolerance and other food sensitivities,
- poor diet and how you eat, and
- age-related changes
The 13 tips I go into next should help a lot to relieve the above issues and if you have them, IBS-related symptoms. If you don’t notice improvements after 2 weeks, you should see a doctor. You may have developed a medical condition such as Crohn’s disease or have a stomach infection. Also, some conditions like diabetes and hypothyroidism usually cause gastroparesis, which prevents your stomach from emptying properly.
Listen to your gut
Our GI tract is a complex and dynamic group of microorganisms, which in some respects, is a lot like the microorganisms that live on the ocean floor. The various microorganisms in our gut act and interact with each other. Sometimes the interactions are not so nice. You might experience heartburn, constipation, bloat, pain, and discomfort due to problematic food combining. We can develop food sensitivities that we’re not yet aware of. Whatever it turns out to be in your case, you know that your gut is not happy with what you’re feeding it. Like you and me, your gut wants to be happy. By listening to your gut, you’ll learn that it doesn’t like starch with proteins, or Dunkin Donuts coffee, or fruit past noon.
Now that you’re listening to your gut, follow the clues. Using a food journal or an app like Cara, you can track what you eat and the symptoms you feel during, 30 minutes, 90 minutes, a day, or days after you eat certain foods. I’m suggesting that you become a researcher and start investigating what your body is telling you. Once you learn a little, investigate some more. Become informed and hack the crap out of your biology. At the end of this post, I’ve shared a couple recommended reading to help you with this step.
Now that you have some idea how to figure out what’s causing your symptoms, here are specific steps you can take to prevent them.
1. Get up and move
Lack of exercise and poor diet are the two top causes of belly bloat so get up and move. Going for a walk after dinner is something I learned from my British friends, and I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t do it. It’s such a great habit to help beat belly bloat.
2. Don’t eat too fast
Not chewing your food well and eating too fast causes you to swallow air, which can lead to bloating. Chew slower and take more breaks when you eat. An average-sized meal should take you at least 20 minutes to eat instead of an average of 5 minutes.
3. Wait at least 15 minutes to drink liquids.
Drinking water and other liquids with food disrupts the digestive process and causes gas and bloating. Wait at least 15 minutes before and after meals to drink liquids.
4. Eat smaller portions
Instead of eating three meals a day, have five snack-sized meals instead. This will give your digestive system less work to do each time, will minimize food reactions, and control blood sugar levels.
5. Up your fiber intake
The western diet is highly processed and doesn’t have enough fiber. Too little fiber is doing a number on our GI tract. Help your digestion by having a tablespoon of flax powder about once a day. Use it to make hot cereal or sprinkle it on cold cereals. It’s great on salads, in smoothies and in lots of other dishes. Other high fiber foods like blueberries and avocados help you to have regular bowel movements.
6. Identify which foods cause you discomfort
Use an app like Cara or Food Allergy Journal, a notebook or any note-taking app on your phone to track what you eat and help you identify your food triggers. Wheat (gluten), red meat, wine and alcohol, sugary foods including a lot of fruits (would you believe, apples!!), coffee, milk products, and processed foods are common triggers.
7. Have the self-talk
When it come s to our health and diet, we’ll do what we know isn’t good for us over and over again. It’s not all your fault. You don’t fall for the pizza, fries, pound cake, Takis, or [insert your guilty pleasure food here] just because you lack self-control. As a species, our eating cues have evolved where we no longer eat just because we’re hungry. Our brain, after eating tasty foods, associate them with feeling better. When you see (or even think about eating) your trigger food, the pleasure center of your brain is activated before your rational mind is. Suddenly, you forget that donuts are filled with sugar and that sugar is one of your trigger foods. With the self-talk, however, you can begin to break the association with pleasure.
Here’s what you do: After you’ve eaten the cake and the pain starts to kick, gently ask yourself, Was it really worth it? There’s no need for self-recrimination. Just face the fact that you were outdone by a donut and have the self-talk.
- Work your way back through your day… possibly all the way to the start of your day to find your vulnerabilities. Maybe you didn’t have breakfast or had a good night’s sleep the night before. Maybe you were having a stressful day and maybe you’re feeding an afternoon sugar-fix.
- Ask yourself what you could have done about any of those things that would have made you less vulnerable
- Ask yourself if there’s anything you could have done in the moment to stop yourself from eating the donut.
- Acknowledge how crappy you feel and answer honestly if it was worth it.
- Repeat this self-talk each and every time something you eat causes you discomfort.
All our actions take place long before we actually do them. With regular self-regulate, you reprogram your mind and become less emotionally vulnerable to your harmful foods. You will begin to remember the pain and discomfort before you remember the pleasure of eating them. Eventually, you will outsmart the donut!
8. Drink hot water after meals and more water in general
Hot water aids the digestive process and reduces constipation and belly bloat. Try to limit your use of laxatives and focus on regulating your digestive system. Drink more water in general. Dehydration will cause your body to hold on to water and gift you with a round belly.
9. Stop eating at least 2 hours before bed
If you’re hungry and need a snack, have a sodium-free soup broth, seaweed crisps, a slice of avocado, or caffeine-free tea. The less work your digestive system has to do while you sleep, the flatter your stomach will be.
10. Take probiotics
Probiotics help the gut promote good bacteria so eat probiotic foods like yogurt and take a probiotic supplement if you have gluten sensitivity, suffer from IBS or other digestive complaints. Results show probiotics also help other health problems. I highly recommend seeing your doctor and working with a nutritionist if you have a chronic digestive problem. The goal should always be long-term health, not popping pills that can mask more serious problems. Probiotics shouldn’t be taken if you have a weakened immune system and under certain conditions. Even when taking fairly safe supplements like probiotics, it pays to work with a pro. And definitely see one if you don’t experience any change doing things on your own.
11. Use natural digestive support
Apple Cider Vinegar provides great digestive support and will help more than just belly bloat. Enzymes like Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra taken before meals will prevent flare-ups. Ginger, fennel, peppermint, and dandelion root are other great herbs to have alone or in any combination. Make a tea or use the herbs in dishes. Betaine HCL has been shown to help some age-related digestive issues. Again, see a professional if you don’t get relief. And if you do get relief, for god’s sake that’s not a sign to keep doing the offending behavior!
12. Do digestive yoga poses
A 10-minute practice as often as possible (you know I’m really thinking, daily, right) will not only help to keep the bloat away, the practice promotes other mindful habits like healthy eating.
13. Do Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a daily eating pattern that’s become very popular, but what I’ proposing doesn’t need to be daily, but it should be done on a regular schedule. Once every two weeks — or at some set schedule — do a nutritious liquid diet for 2 days. A nutritious liquid diet is having green smoothies, juices, pureed soups, and other soft foods. Ideally, you should stay away from fruits! Soft foods pass through the intestine quickly and give other undigested foods lingering in your stomach, time to pass through. Eating this way regularly is another great flat tummy trick.
Good luck getting that flat stomach and becoming the type of person you want to be.
Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach by Danielle Capalino
The Bloated Belly Whisperer by Tamara Duker Freuman
Anne Matea is Vurb Magazine’s Beauty Editor and also a professional traveler. She is a Romanian native, currently living in Bucharest. Her vurbs include cooking and having friends over for long dinners and even longer conversations.