When I made my 10 Changes for my health in 2012, one of my goals was to get rid of that awful, bloated feeling.
According to Women’s Health, 72 million women in the U.S. suffer from bloating or a general swelling in the abdominal area. Not only does it makes us feel miserable, it can also contribute to a temporary weight gain of 5-8 pounds. Talk about discouraging!
I’ve found ten steps that have helped me beat back the bloat on most days. I invite you to try these yourself, and let me know if they help you, as well!
Note: Consistent and painful bloating may be a sign of another health problem, so be sure to always check with your doctor.
- Avoid chewing gum. It’s a simple change, but it can make a difference. When we chew gum, we swallow air that can lead to bloating.
- Combine foods carefully. When you eat certain foods together, they can ferment in the stomach and digestive tract, releasing air that causes bloat. Eat proteins only with vegetables, eat fats and proteins at separate meals, and eat fruits by themselves. Breaking foods up in this way helps your system digest them more easily. Find a helpful graph on food combining here.
- Manage stress. Anxiety can lead to bloating, as when you’re anxious, you tend to over-breathe, taking in more air than you need. Anxiety can also stress the digestive system, put pressure on the abdomen, and upset hormone balance. In fact, the digestive system is particularly susceptible to stress as it tends to shut down in response to the “fight-or-flight” syndrome that occurs when we’re feeling threatened. I find yoga and meditation help me remain more calm and centered, but you can also turn to aromatherapy, calming music, or whatever works for you.
- Exercise. A daily workout helps your body naturally get rid of excess gas. It also promotes better digestion overall. If you add some crunches, twisting yoga poses, or Pilates moves to your weekly routine, you’ll gain even more benefits. The gastrointestinal tract is a muscle, so the more you work it, the more efficient it will be.
- Try digestive enzymes. As we age, our internal levels of digestive enzymes decrease. These are the tools our body uses to break food down into nutrients. Without them, our digestive systems become less efficient. I’ve found that adding enzyme supplements before a meal can help my stomach digest my food a lot better, reducing the risk that I’ll bloat up afterwards.
- Think about going gluten-free. I mentioned in my former post that my doctor-Dr. Frank Lipman-suggested I stay away from gluten because it can be hard to digest. Some people have celiac disease, which means they can’t digest gluten at all. I don’t have celiac disease, but I’ve found my stomach is a lot happier-and flatter-now that I’m avoiding gluten.
- Reduce the fat. Here’s another reason to cut down on the fat in your diet-it’s harder to break down. Particularly saturated fatty-foods like burgers, fries, ice cream, and the like, can slow down digestion, increasing the risk that you’ll experience bloat.
- Slow down. Wolfing your food down in a hurry is a sure-fire way to end up bloated. Fast eaters take in more air while they’re eating, increasing the air present in the stomach. Eating fast also overwhelms the digestive system, and it can’t keep up. Slow down and chew eat bite. Slower eating also helps reduce overeating, so you get two benefits out of this one trick!
- Skip the sugar-free sodas. Though they may have fewer calories, many sugar free sodas contain “sorbitol,” a sugar alcohol that can’t be absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. It sits in your stomach instead and ferments, causing gas. Full-sugar options may be no better, since the carbonation can trap gas in the belly. Choose lemon water or tea instead.
- Enlist the help of herbs. Many natural herbal teas can help reduce bloat. Try peppermint, ginger, dandelion, or fennel. My favorite combo: a full lemon, 2 tea bags of ginger tea and a bunch of fresh mint leaves. Make a pot and sip in the evening!
- Get colonics. These are a type of enema that cleanses the entire colon. Also known as “colon hydrotherapy,” technicians use warm water and to help remove toxins and waste buildup that can be harmful to digestion and general health. Some of the benefits to colonics can be improved digestion, reduced bloat, increased energy, and a better overall feeling of health and vitality. My favorite place to go is LYT in New York City. Always check with your doctor first.
Do you have regular bouts of bloat? Please share any tips you have for getting rid of it!
Picture courtesy Ohmega 1982 via freedigitalphotos.net.
“Beat the Bloating Blues,” Women’s Health, October 24, 2011, http://www.clickondetroit.com/lifestyle/good-4-you/womens-health/Beat-the-bloating-blues/-/4201430/3967894/-/14vba17/-/index.html.