Read last week’s article on the causes of bloating, to get an idea of what could be the cause if you are suffering with bloating on a regular basis. This week’s article contains strategies to help reduce bloating. Sometimes it might be a case of trial and error, so you may need to try more than one solution until you find the right one for you.
1. Reduce Stress
Stress slows down your digestive system. If you think stress could be contributing to bloating or other digestive symptoms, try the following:
- Eat in a relaxed environment whenever possible
- Avoid eating on the move or at your desk
- Don’t read or watch TV while eating – eat mindfully focusing your attention on the food
- Get moving – exercise reduces stress and improves digestion
- Read more advice on stress reduction here
2. Get Your Digestion Moving
If you are feeling blocked up or things are not moving as quickly as they should, try this:
- Drink 2 litres of water a day – essential to keeping things moving.
- Increase your fibre intake – 7 fruit and veg per day, plenty of wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds
- Include soluble fibre – oats, barley, rye, apples, pears, chia seeds, flaxseeds
- Avoid refined carbohydrates – white bread, white rice etc.
- Get moving – movement is essential to help the muscles of the gut contract.
3. Do You Have Low Stomach Acid?
Low stomach acid may be a cause of incomplete protein digestion and bloating. If you think it might be an issue for you, follow these steps:
- Try to have 5-10 minutes of calm before meal, smell and look at your food, as this sends signals to your brain start producing stomach acid ready for the incoming meal
- Chew your food thoroughly (aim for 30 chews per mouthful)
- Drink hot water with lemon and ginger in the mornings to stimulate your digestive system
- Take 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water before meals
4. Produce More Digestive Enzymes
If you are not producing enough of these important enzymes, you will not be digesting your food properly. Try this and see if your symptoms improve:
- Include pineapple, papaya, fennel, ginger and cayenne pepper, which increase levels of digestive enzymes.
- Avoid raw food, which is difficult to digest, stick to cooked veg, soups and stews instead of salads to allow the digestive system to rest and replenish enzyme levels.
5. Know Your Food Intolerances
You can try to identify problem foods on your own, or ideally work with a nutritionist if possible:
- Keep a food diary for a few weeks to identify links between particular foods and your symptoms
- Avoid suspect foods for 3-4 weeks and see if symptoms improve
- Speak to a nutritionist for further advice and help
6. Feed Your Gut Bacteria
If you think yours may be out of balance, try feeding the good guys by doing the following:
- Include natural live yoghurt daily, which contains probiotics (good bacteria). Try soya or coconut if avoiding dairy.
- Add some fermented foods to your diet such as sauerkraut
- Add prebiotic foods, which feed the good guys – artichoke, asparagus, onions, garlic and chicory
- Reduce your sugar intake, as sugar feeds the bad guys
- Click here for further information on supporting gut bacteria
Here is my ‘day after’ plan to follow after a day (or two!) of overindulging:
On Waking – warm water with lemon & grated ginger – stimulates the digestion
Breakfast – Cleansing Smoothie: ½ avocado, ¼ cucumber, 1 large handful of spinach, 1 handful of blueberries and a large slice of papaya. Cleansing and nourishing, high in antioxidants and the papaya aids digestion.
Mid-morning – an apple – the soluble fibre helps clear out your digestive system and keeps you full
Lunch – vegetable soup – giving your digestive system a rest from solid food to help it recuperate
After Lunch – take a 20-30 minute brisk walk – aids digestion and detoxification
Mid-Afternoon: Beauty & Go Detox – cleanses your body and digestive system and flushes out toxins
Dinner – salmon, 2-3 tbsp cooked brown rice and broccoli with coriander, lemon juice and ginger
After Dinner – take another brisk walk
Bedtime – peppermint tea
Over the day – 2 litres of water
- Papaya – contains the enzyme papain which helps digest proteins in your digestive system, also has a mild laxative effect
- Pineapple – like papaya contains enzymes which aid digestion
- Live yoghurt – contains probiotic ‘friendly’ bacteria. Try coconut or soya if dairy is a problem
- Asparagus – a natural diuretic, meaning it helps reduce water retention. Also a prebiotic, feeding those good bacteria.
- Ginger – a great digestive aid, soothes the digestive system and relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract, which can relieve bloating
- Cucumbers – known for reducing puffy eyes, they can do the same for the stomach! Rich in quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that helps reduce swelling.
- Water is essential to keeping things moving through properly and also (oddly!) reduces water retention
- Brown rice – easiest to digest of all grains, non-irritating to the gut
- Peppermint tea – relaxes the muscles of the gut and helps dissipate gas
Beauty & Go Detox – contains cucumber to reduce puffiness, digestive aids artichoke and dandelion and detoxifying spirulina. The combination of ingredients helps flush out toxins, improves digestion and reduces bloating. Drink 1 daily for the best results.
- Eating too fast – this reduces the effectiveness of your digestion, which starts in the mouth with enzymes in saliva and the breaking down of food by chewing
- Fizzy Drinks – the gassy bubbles lead to bloating
- Artificial Sweeteners – cannot be absorbed, so pass into the colon where they cause bloating
- Salt – leads to water retention, which makes you feel more bloated
- Fruit for pudding – eating fruit at the end of a meal can cause bloating, so enjoy at the start of the meal or between meals as a snack
- Probiotic shots, drinks and flavoured yoghurts – these are full of sugar and sometimes artificial flavourings, so stick to live, natural preferably organic yoghurt
Bloating is one of the most common digestive complaints, and all of us will have experienced it at some point. As opposed to simply feeling full after eating a large meal, with bloating your tummy feels very full, distended, tight and uncomfortable and it can be accompanied by tummy ache. The way it feels and looks is distressing if you suffer regularly and it may be an indication of an underlying imbalance or the need to improve your diet. Here we look at the most common causes of bloating and next week in PART 2 of this special post, we will look at the perfect solutions.
Common Causes of Bloating
When we are under stress our body diverts its energy towards dealing with the perceived threat or cause of that stress. Traditionally, for our ancestors this would have involved something like an attack from a wild animal. The body therefore primes us for fight or flight (to fight the animal or flee to safety), diverting energy towards the muscles so you can run, the heart to pump more blood around the body and so on. It has to get this extra energy from somewhere and so it shuts down what it deems to be any non-essential functions for the time being. This includes the digestion (and the immune system, which is why we are more likely to get ill when under stress).
This may have been advantageous when stress was short-term event, but nowadays with stress often a part of our every day lives, we can end up with an under functioning digestive system. This can result in not absorbing as many nutrients from our food, not digesting food thoroughly and you guessed it niggling complaints such a bloating, and even IBS (Irritable bowel sindrome).
2. SLOW DIGESTION
When things are not moving through as quickly as they should be, it will almost definitely cause bloating, possibly accompanied by headaches, fatigue and general feeling of toxicity. Common causes are simply not getting enough fibre in your diet and dehydration. Another cause is poor gut motility, which is when the muscles of the colon are not contracting well to push everything through. Lack of activity will make this worse as movement helps the muscles contract.
3. LOW STOMACH ACID
If you feel full after eating only a small amount of food and find your food is ‘repeating on you’ in the form of burping, you may not be producing enough stomach acid. Stomach acid is vital for digesting protein, so another clue is finding animal protein like meat and eggs difficult to digest. If we don’t produce enough stomach acid, we get incompletely digested protein passing into the intestines where it ferments producing gas and causing bloating, inflammation and pain.
4. LOW DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
Enzymes are produced by the cells lining the stomach and intestines and are another essential part of the digestive process, breaking down carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Stress, infections and food intolerances can all contribute to low levels of enzymes and the consequences are similar to that of low stomach acid – incompletely digested food particles (this time fat and carbs as well as protein) passing into the large intestine. Here, once again they cause irritation, fermentation and bloating.
5. FOOD INTOLERANCES
Food intolerances are not as common as widely believed, but there are some people who do genuinely suffer. Most people from Asian descent for example, lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose in milk. An intolerance is not the same as a food allergy, when a serious and immediate reaction occurs after eating problem foods. With an intolerance, it can take up to 48 hours to feel the symptoms which are more insidious, including things like fatigue, bloating and headaches. The most common food intolerances are to wheat, gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) and dairy.
6. IMBALANCE IN GUT BACTERIA
A healthy colon is populated with billions of bacteria, which are support our health and digestion. When these bacteria become out of balance and harmful bacteria are allowed to thrive, we get problems. This is another top cause of bloating, which in this case will occur especially after eating. Your chances of a bacterial imbalance are increased if you have taken antibiotics, which unfortunately kill the good bacteria as well as the bad ones.
Simply eating and drinking too much can lead to a bloated uncomfortable stomach the next day. Although this is not a health problem in itself, it can still feel unpleasant and is good to get back on track as quickly as possible. Next week will include my simple recovery plan for the ‘day after’, to help you do just that.
Next up: how to reduce bloating and get a healthy, happy, flat tummy back.
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