Bloating. It’s a curse! Am I right? There are several factors that cause bloating, Over indulgence in highly processed foods, and contradictorily; starting a healthy diet full of fibre, fruit & vegetables can initially cause bloating until your body adjusts to it, constipation, & if you’re anything like me monthly hormonal changes for some women (Lucky us, as if it isn’t bad enough already!) are some of the most common factors that cause bloating among numerous other possible reasons. The good news is there are a few steps you can take to reduce this pesky discomfort even if you only have a few days left to fit into your party outfit. I’m attending a Hen Party tomorrow that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks & the last few days I’ve been struck by the dreaded bloat, the curses of be-damned on it anyway! What do you have to do to catch a break around here?! Ugh It’s so typical the minute you have some event coming up Ta Da! Bloat makes its dreaded entrance. A lot of people mistake bloating for weight gain and are at a loss to explain why the scales aren’t budging even though they’ve done everything right. Some of the symptoms of bloat include an uncomfortable distention of the stomach & a visibly rounder tummy area that may be hard to the touch, pain & discomfort, an uncomfortable feeling of fullness even if you haven’t eaten & excess wind. Bloat is exactly what it says on the tin, it’s bloating from excess water that your body is retaining or excess air in your intestine that is why you feel uncomfortable. Any gain in weight due to bloating is the water weight you are carrying and not a true weight, which is why it is so important to look over your weight loss journey as a whole and on a monthly as well as a weekly basis. I know only too well how disheartening those weeks can be when the scales tells you bad news only for the next week to drop the water weight & have a lovely nice loss at the scales if you can see past the bloat & keep the healthy regime going despite it and not give in and cave because of it. Here are my top tips to eliminate bloat that I have tried & tested over time & you should see results in as little as two or three days if you implement a few of them into your normal routine.
- Cut out Fizzy Carbonated Drinks including Flavoured Water.
This is quite possibly the quickest & easiest way to eliminate bloat if you drink a lot of diet drinks. This causes excessive bloating due to the bubbles from the fizz getting trapped in your stomach. Artificial Sweeteners are also known to cause bloating & diet drinks are full of them. Stick to plain or fruit infused still water that you can flavour yourself with slices of fruit to banish the bloat.
- Drink Plenty of Water.
A natural extension of tip number 1. Now this at first might seem contradictory to your anti-bloat mission “surely drinking more water will bloat me a lot more?” you might think. Au Contraire, quite the opposite is true. In survival situations the Human Body can survive longer without food than without a source of water so it’s natural inbuilt survival instinct is to conserve water for future use when not available. In short terms the less water you drink your body is going to think “water, great, haven’t had that in quite a while & I don’t know when I’m going to get it again so I’ll hold on to a load of this lot just in case”. It will hold on to all water no matter what the source to avoid dehydration, water from fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee basically wherever it can get it as this is a basic human survival instinct that the body is designed to do. When you drink plenty of water regularly your body gets used to the continual supply & flushes it straight through your system to expel toxins knowing, in its infinite wisdom, there’s plenty more where that came from based on recent habitual consumption. It might take a day or two for this to kick in if you’re really not used to drinking water as at first your body will hold on to it thinking that’s all it’s getting but once your body knows it’s a regular source & expects it, it will start dispelling it and using it for the functions that it is meant for improving overall health.
Adding fruit slices to water for anti- bloating works two fold. The fruit first & foremost makes the plain water easier to drink especially when you’re not used to it and are accustomed to more flavoured drinks therefore you will drink more of it. Secondly the fruit has natural much needed vitamins & minerals that infuse through the water for added health benefits. Water also helps you keep fuller for longer so you are less likely to overeat aggravating the bloated feeling. Try a glass of hot water with a slice of lemon upon awakening & a small glass of cold water before & after each meal to keep you fuller for longer. If you have recently switched to a high fibre healthy diet that your body is not used to the fibre can cause constipation which, in turn, contributes to bloat, drinking plenty of water will help digest the high fibre content. Try for as much water as you can aiming for approximately 2 litres a day but whatever you can manage is definitely going to help. Plus water is the absolute best thing for your skin condition bar none! Your body is composed of 60% water on average after all.
- Eliminate all Salt.
I know, I know! This one pains me more than anyone & I find this one very effective but personally very, very difficult, I put salt on most things. This one is worth it. A few days without adding salt to your food makes a world of difference to that bloated feeling. Sodium contributes massively to water retention or your body holding on to water this includes sodium based products such as soy sauce, fish sauce, teriyaki sauce etc. Try & make meals from scratch as much as is reasonably possible as processed food can be very high in salt & make sure to check breakfast cereals etc. for salt content. This is quite a quick way to eliminate bloat even though I find it the hardest it’s only for a few days after all!
- Avoid Chewing Gum/Sucking Hard Boiled Sweets/Using a Straw or Eating too Fast.
You ingest so much excess air when you chew gum, suck on sweets or use a straw because of the constant air intake every time you chew or swallow. Sugar free gum & sweets also contain artificial sweeteners which contribute to bloat too. Kick the habit for a few days & you’ll find yourself less windy & less likely to build up excess air in the gut that causes the uncomfortable bloat. Similarly eating too quickly causes you to take in a lot more air than usual while swallowing which can get stuck in your intestines so try & slow down a bit, take your time & chew your food well. Avoid eating on the go or eating while standing up, sit where possible & take time over your meal & you should see a difference.
- Reduce Carbohydrates & Swap White for Brown Varieties.
Read the above carefully, it says ‘reduce’ not cut out, I would never ever endorse cutting carbohydrates out altogether as it’s far too strict & your body needs carbohydrates for natural functions, you would be far too weak & it’s not sustainable to your diet long term. What you can do however is reduce the amount you eat & switch out white carbs for whole wheat brown varieties which are much less likely to cause bloating as they contain whole wheats & grains as opposed to refined processed white carbs. Try & avoid white bread, pasta and rice altogether and opt for brown varieties instead. Also if you can reduce your portions of carbs that will help for example if you have a main carbohydrate with every meal try having one meal without one, perhaps fruit & yoghurt for breakfast or meat & vegetables for dinner without potatoes, pasta or rice. Try having a slightly smaller portion of carbohydrates than you would usually have too.
- Foods to Avoid: Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Broccoli, Onions, Legumes such as Beans, Peas, Lentils, Kidney Beans etc., Lettuce, Apples, Watermelon, Pears & Processed Foods.
Cabbage, Kale, Broccoli & Cauliflower are all cruciferous vegetables which contain a certain sugar that remains undigested in your stomach which will ferment & cause gas which in turn will build up & cause the all too familiar pain of bloat. You will know this is you’ve ever indulged in too much cabbage & suffered bad wind as a consequence. Beans & other legumes are similar. It’s an age old adage that beans give you wind & that is true basically for the same reason as the cabbage family – indigestible sugar that the bacteria in your gut eventually ferments & that causes a build-up of gas. If you can’t expel that gas it accumulates & causes that uncomfortable distended feeling. Apples, Watermelon & Pears are among the foods that also have indigestible carbohydrates & sugars & it’s best to avoid them just while on your anti-bloating quest as these are very healthy foods under normal circumstances. Processed foods are full of ingredients your stomach finds it hard to digest there are additives & preservatives & a lot of salt in some ready meals or other processed foods. Try giving them a wide berth for a few days and see if you can notice a difference.
- Drink Peppermint Tea & Eat Potassium Rich Foods.
Peppermint tea has long been used to aid digestion & alleviate cramps & spasms in the tummy it helps food & air to pass through your digestive tract more easily avoiding build-up of air & bloat. Have a warm cup of peppermint half an hour before your main meal of the day to help the whole digestion process along. Potassium is a massive help to eliminating water retention as it counteracts the effects salt & sodium have on our bodies helping to release water & avoid that bloated feeling. Potassium rich foods include, Bananas, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Tuna and Grapefruit. Try upping your intake of any of these to eliminate the water from your system.
- Fit in Some Gentle Exercise.
You may not feel up to exercise if you are experiencing discomfort but if you are able to, a short gentle walk after eating will aid digestion & make you feel better overall.
- Avoid Spicy Food.
Hot & spicy foods release & increase the production of stomach acid which can irritate the bloated feeling & make you feel even worse. Avoid chilli & other hot seasonings, also vinegar may have the same effect on your stomach. Keep note of any foods you eat and how you feel after eating them to see what foods you might be sensitive too and which might regularly cause bloating.
- Eat Little & Often.
Avoid large meals as much as possible and eating a large meal late at night in particular. Take your time over your meals. Instead of 3 main meals & 2 snacks why not try having 5 smaller meals instead over your pro point daily allowance say if you’re on for example 26pp a day have 4 meals of 5pp & a 6pp meal throughout the course of the day. This will help your metabolism to keep fired up too which will have a knock on effect by helping with fat burning alongside aiding the bloat.
- Avoid Stress/De Stress
Stress is an awful infliction on our health. It affects us in more ways than you can even imagine. It takes its horrible toll both physically & mentally & is one of society’s most unavoidable ills today. It is difficult with all of our busy family, work & social lifestyles & nonstop on the go schedules with phones, social media, TV and other constant disturbances eating into our free time. It’s hard to even take 5 minutes to de stress but it is essential to our health & wellbeing & we should make a conscious effort to do it. Think about it, where do you feel stress? In your head, yes, but physically? That’s right, your stomach! You get that knotted up tense feeling in the pit of your stomach & an agitated sick kind of feeling when under extreme stress so of course that is going to impact the effect of bloating & discomfort. Even if you don’t feel stressed you might surprise yourself. Pick 5 minutes of uninterrupted free time (just before bed or before sleep might be a good time). Remove any phones or possible interruptions & know those 5 minutes are yours alone, lie down on your bed or couch. Now relax your shoulders make a conscious decision & let go of the tightness there, continue to relax your jaw, legs, arms & stomach & be conscious of how tense these actually were previously. Focus on your breathing try & block out any infiltrating thoughts about your day or your current to do list just for those 5 minutes & breathe in steadily & deeply hold for 5 seconds & then slowly breathe out. Listen to your breath as a distraction from those invading thoughts & your mind racing with the day’s activities & woes. I know it sounds like hippy dippy, airy fairy stuff but believe me it works, what have you got to lose by giving it a try? Plus you get 5 minutes to yourself just for you which is a rarity in this day & age!
Well there they are, my personal tried & tested tips & what I find personally works best for me on my anti-bloating quest. I hope they can help you too. If you have persistent & extreme problems with constipation, trapped wind or water retention always speak to your Pharmacist or GP for advice. Remember everybody is different & do what works for you. These unfortunately, are not things I can fit in to my lifestyle every single solitary day, life is simply too fast paced & busy for it to work fulltime for me but I do some or as many of these tips as I can for a week or a few days on the run up to an event like a wedding or a party I’m attending if the dreaded bloat has struck or I’m aware it’s due to strike and it really helps. I find a few days really makes a difference to my stomach which is well worth the effort as my peace of mind is greater & my self-confidence is much higher when I feel better in that special outfit and the tummy is a bit flatter than the panic induced state it spun me in a few days earlier! I hope you find these tips useful.