As summer approaches and the unforgiving summer clothes make an appearance, I see an increase in clients coming to see me asking about bloating and how to get rid of it! If you are one of the few people that it does not affect, then you can look away now. However, in my experience it affects nearly all of us at some point (me included) with some surprising foods being the culprit.
Below are my top tips to reduce bloating:
Bloating provides a physical clue that the digestive system is struggling.
My first tip is to keep a 3 day food and drink diary and note down the foods you are eating and when the symptoms of bloating occur. Food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances can all lead to bloating. When we are intolerant to a food, our bodies produce antibodies to that specific food, so when we eat that food again, they produce symptoms of bloating, gas and stomach cramps. The most common food intolerances are gluten and dairy with apples, tomatoes and potatoes being high on the list as well. Food intolerances can appear gradually and long after a problematic food is eaten whereas a true food allergy will present itself almost immediately after the food is eaten.
Over the age of 30, our body can sometimes struggle to produce stomach acid strong enough to digest the food that we eat. This is why we hear the older population complaining that their food is lying heavy after eating a big Sunday lunch. Protein is digested in the stomach (the enzyme protease being responsible for breaking it down) and so as we age it can therefore prove more difficult to digest the large steak that we could easily eat before. To give our stomach a helping hand, we need to get our digestive juices flowing by drinking a glass of water with lemon juice an hour before a meal or have a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before meals. A raw bitter leaf salad of kale, rocket and spinach will also help as will eating pineapple and kiwi which are full of naturally occurring enzymes.
We could all benefit from increasing the levels of good bacteria in our gut.
Certain strains of bacteria produce the enzyme lactase which are important to help us digest lactose in milk. It is important therefore to introduce more fermented food into our diet such as sauerkraut, cottage cheese, yoghurt or kefir or take a good multi strain probiotic every day.
Diet drinks and chewing gum can all play havoc with our waistline.
Although low in calories, the fizzy bubbles can cause gas to get trapped in our stomach causing bloating. Perhaps a better option to choose is water flavoured with lemon or lime or some stomach soothing peppermint or ginger tea? Chewing gum can lead to swallowing air and can also stimulate your digestive enzymes to expect food and cause hunger. This has us reaching for those high calories, sugar laden snacks. Chewing gum contains sucralose, aspartame and cyclamate which the digestive tract cannot digest causing the familiar cramps and bloating.
There have been many studies around the link between stress and poor digestion.
This has all to do with how many nerves the gut contains. When we are stressed our body focuses on other more important tasks rather than digestion and so we struggle to break down and digest foods properly. Sitting at a table and allowing ourselves sufficient time to practice mindful eating is the key. Make it a rule to never eat in the car or in front of the computer and relax and enjoy your nutritious lunch!
Another key way to regulate bloating is to encourage regular bowel movements, by eating more soluble fibre. Soluble fibre from fruits with a high water content such as pears and berries or soaked flaxseeds encourage movement in the digestive tract , helping to eliminate the excess of toxins and hormones from the body.
All the points above will go some way into eliminating bloating. However if you think that the bloating is caused by a more serious underlying issue, it is advisable to seek medical advice to rule out coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Working with your doctor and supported by a Nutritional Therapist will be key to regaining your digestive health.