Belly bloat is not a good look, is it? It’s not just a bad look, sometimes it can be awfully uncomfortable. Since we’re always looking for a permanent fix, not just temporary relief, this guide to beating belly bloat focuses mostly on prevention.
Listen to your gut
Our GI tract is a complex and dynamic group of microorganisms very much like the microorganisms that live on the ocean floor. The various microorganisms in our gut act and interact with each other. Heartburn, constipation, bloat, pain, and discomfort happen when the interaction isn’t great. These are all signs that our gut is not happy with what we’re feeding it. Like you, it wants to be happy.
Your diet and even your thoughts, create interactions in your gut and elsewhere. With too much acidity or without the right enzymes, bloating, gas and other symptoms might occur. Other things could be causing your symptoms, of course, those just two examples. Paying close attention to your symptoms is the first step to fixing them.
With 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. And check out the books I recommend at the end to further your gut education. Once you learn a little, investigate some more, become informed and hack the crap out of your biology.
Common causes of belly bloat
- unhealthy bacteria in the stomach,
- not enough exercise and movement,
- how you eat and what you don’t eat,
- sensitivity to the foods we eat, and
- age-related changes.
The following tips should cover you for the above issues and will help IBS-related symptoms. If you experience little to no relief, 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. I put GI education in the must-have life skill category, along with communication, finance, and general health. I can’t overestimate how helpful it is to educate ourselves and be on it when we notice a problem.
What to do to beat belly bloat
1. Get up and move
I know, 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 crappy. Follow a FODMAP diet for 1-2 weeks to get the worst of your symptoms under control, then start walking! 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. Practice mindful eating where you become conscious of each bite, chew slower, take more breaks during meals, and eat less.
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. Flax powder is a great item to keep in your cupboard at all times. Use it to make hot cereal or to sprinkle on cold cereals. It’s great on salads, in smoothies and in lots of other dishes. And add high fiber foods like blueberries, avocado, oatmeal and couscous to your diet.
6. Identify which foods cause you discomfort
Use an app like Cara or Food Allergy Journal (or even a note-taking app already on your phone) to track what you eat and help 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
We’re always pushing it and doing what we know isn’t good for us, aren’t we? We all do it with one thing or another. Take you and sugar, for example. You know that sugar irritates your stomach and cause discomfort but when you first see the donut, that’s not the first thought that comes to your mind. The pleasure center of your brain is activated before your rational mind. It reminds you how GREAT donuts taste. Suddenly, you forget that donuts are filled with sugar, one of your triggers. Or you remember just a second before, but you decide it’s worth it, or whatever. After you’ve eaten it and the pain kicks in, do you ask yourself, Was it really worth it?
Instead of self-recriminations, face the fact that you were outdone by a donut and have the self-talk.
- Acknowledge the power of the subconscious and learn to outsmart it.
- Ask yourself what you could have done to stop yourself from eating the donut.
- Work your way back… 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.
- Acknowledge how crappy you feel and answer honestly if it was worth it.
- Repeat each and every time you knowingly eat something that causes you discomfort and bloat.
All our actions take place long before we actually think and do them. When you become aware of this, you’ll start to self-regulate and become less vulnerable to triggers. In the future, when you’re confronted with a donut, the repeated self-talk will help. You will remember sooner the pain and discomfort, better understand what’s happening and choose better. If not the first or third time, you eventually will outsmart the donut. You are that powerful!!
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.
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