Belly bloat is not a good look, is it? Not just a bad look, sometimes it can be downright uncomfortable. With all the food sensitivities going around, this problem is getting out of control. As with most problems, prevention is usually more helpful than the cure so these 12 tips focus mostly on prevention.
To beat belly bloat, we need to understand our gut a little better and heed the signals it sends — heartburn, constipation, bloat, pain, and discomfort are all signs our gut is not happy with what we’re feeding it, and we need to change some things.
We know that our GI tract is a complex and dynamic group of microorganisms, much like the microorganisms that live on the floor of the ocean. And like the bottom of the ocean, the various microorganisms in our gut act and interact with each other. One thing you feed it, and even thoughts you think, create interactions elsewhere. Missing enzymes and acidity means it can’t break down our foods properly. What this all means is this, we should educate ourselves about our gut a lot more than we have done so far. A place to start is keeping a food journal to write down what you eat and the symptoms you feel during, 30 minutes, 90 minutes and the day after. You need to become your own researcher which will likely lead you to the cause(s) of your stomach upset and digestive woes.
For now, let’s look at some of the most common causes of belly bloat. Yours may be different or among these.
- unhealthy bacteria in the stomach,
- not enough exercise and movement,
- sensitivity to foods we’re eating, and
- age-related changes.
Here’s what you can do to beat belly bloat:
1. Get up and move! I know, after a big meal it’s the last thing you want to do. You’re uncomfortable and if you ate the wrong foods, you’re probably feeling lethargic on top of it. Daily exercise and movement before you eat is the way to go. A habit of many of my European friends is to walk after dinner. This may be a good habit to get into. It might be just the time to walk the dog, to spend time with your partner, or take some time to clear your head.
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. Practice mindful eating where you’re conscious of each bite, chew slower, take more breaks during meals, and eat less.
3. Wait at least 15 minutes before and after meals to drink liquids. Drinking water and other liquids with food disrupts the digestive process and causes gas and bloating.
4. Eat smaller meals more often. Instead of eating three meals a day, try having 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. Flax powder is a great item to keep in your cupboard at all times. You can use it to make hot cereal or sprinkle on cold cereals. Great on salads, in smoothies and loads of other dishes. Also, add other high fiber foods like blueberries, avocado, oatmeal and couscous to your diet.
6. Identify which foods cause you discomfort. Keep a food journal on your phone or in your purse to help you identify your food triggers. Common ones are wheat (gluten), red meat, wine and alcohol, sugary goods, coffee, milk products, and processed foods. Wait? Processed foods… are we still doing that?
7. Have the self-talk. This story is as old as time… we’re always pushing it and doing what we know isn’t good for us. Take you and sugar, for example. You become aware that sugar is one of your biggest stomach irritants but when you first see the donut, it’s not that awareness that first takes over, it’s the pleasure centers of your brain that does. It reminds you how g-r-e-a-t donuts taste and you forget that sugar is in there (a lot, actually!) and that sugar is one of your triggers. It only after you’ve eaten it and the pain kicks in, do you ask yourself, Was it really worth the discomfort, tight jeans, and the extra cellulite? This is when you should face the fact that you’re an adult who was outdone by a donut. Have that self-talk, but without the guilt shame and recriminates, please. Those are never helpful. Instead, acknowledge and each time, ask yourself what you could have done to prevent it and work your way back… possibly all the way to the start of your day. You see, all our actions take place long before we actually think and do them. When you become aware of this, you self-regulate and do it in a compassionate, awesome way that’s sure to stick.
8. Drink hot water after meals. It aids the digestive process, reduces constipation and belly bloat. Try to limit your use of laxatives and focus on regulating your digestive system.
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 a probiotic or eat probiotic foods like yogurt. Probiotics help the gut promote good bacteria.
11. Use natural digestive support. Apple Cider Vinegar, Betaine HCL and enzymes like Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra taken before meals will prevent flare-ups.
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 lends into to other mindful and healthy eating habits.
Habits and routines are the cure, the path to wellness, and the vehicles that will take you anywhere you want to go.