Being bloated, unfortunately, is not fun. You often feel heavy, lazy and reluctant to wear tight-fitting clothes when your belly is distended. Thankfully, bloating can be reduced with careful diet changes. We’ve collaborated with an expert on nutrition to give you tips to cure that bloat that keeps following you around. Read on to find out andkeep yourself healthy and happy.
1. Identify the irritant and reduce your intake
The first thing you should do is find out what’s making you feel bloated. If you’re feeling the bloat in your upper stomach, it’s most likely something you ate. Susan L. Holmberg, a certified nutrition specialist, says that it’s not always obvious. “It might not be what you ate now – it could be what you ate two days ago,” she says. “Honestly, people don’t remember what they eat. Keeping a food diary is a great idea to keep track of possible irritants. The most common causes of bloat include gluten, berry, soy, egg, peanuts, artificial sweeteners and sugar.”
Grains and gluten are often the cause of bloating. If you constantly feel bloated, try reducing your grain intake and see whether it goes away. Most importantly, avoid processed foods with high sugar content.
Constipation and PMS can also cause bloating of the lower stomach. Make sure you’re going to the bathroom at least once a day. It’s important to keep your digestive system moving so there’s nothing backed up. While some of the bloating that results from PMS is unavoidable, follow the same tips below to lessen its effects.
2. Drink lots of water
As your mom always said, water is the cure to everything! As soon as you feel bloated, increase your water intake. While it might make you feel more bloated at first, the water will keep your digestive tract moving and your stool soft – which in turn will reduce your bloat in the long-term.
Monica Perez, a sophomore at Florida Atlantic University, reminds you that retaining water will exacerbate your bloat as well. “As for bloating, cut down on your salt intake because you retain more water when you eat salty foods,” she says. Great advice! Skip that bag of potato chips and head for a bottle of water instead.
3. Eat foods with probiotics — and not unwanted sweeteners
Probiotics are popular nowadays for their digestive benefits – and for good reason. Your body contains many kinds of bacteria that must remain in balance to keep your stomach healthy and happy. Unfortunately, stress and the things we eat can disrupt our bacteria, causing bloating and other maladaptive digestive problems. Probiotics restore the good bacteria that’s necessary for your body and can definitely lessen your bloat.
While yogurt is a great source of probiotics, it can often come with unnecessary sugars. Those same sugars can, unfortunately, make you bloat. If you’re feeling a little heavy in the stomach, maybe skip that strawberry yogurt you eat every morning and take an unsweetened variety.
Holmberg also gives an alternative to yogurt. “Eat fermented foods,” she says. “They could be kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi – anything that is naturally fermented.” Kombucha is a great example of a fermented drink as well – and is readily available at your nearby supermarket. She notes that you can take probiotics in supplements, but it’s better to find them naturally. “If you would like to take supplements, it’s best to find a professional brand that needs to be refrigerated and has at least ten to fourteen different types of bacteria,” she says.
Besides eating probiotics themselves, you can also eat foods that help your body create its own probiotics. These foods, which contain prebiotic fibers, include vegetables like jicama, radishes, onions, and carrots.
4. Take a digestive enzyme
If you find a certain food is causing you to bloat whenever you eat it, you might not have the enzyme that breaks down that food in your body. For example, lactose intolerance is quite common — and sometimes, people don’t even know they have it.
“Many people become lactose intolerant over the course of their life,” Holmberg says. “When people are lactose intolerant, they don’t have the lactase enzyme, which dissolves the sugar in milk.” If you’re bloating often because of dairy products, you can start drinking milk with the lactase enzyme added — that way, your body can degrade the sugars in the milk. It’s harmless and inexpensive to see if you’re intolerant to a certain food. Speak with your doctor if you suspect you’re intolerant and they’ll definitely provide you with specific enzymes that can help cure your bloat when you eat that food.
5. Don’t neglect your workout routine when you’re bloated
Working out is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re bloated, but it can help more than you think. “During my worst PMS, I went to the gym anyway,” Holmberg says. “I’ve had some of the most memorably good workouts when I had PMS. Movement at all will help mediate the symptoms of bloat.” Even if you feel like curling up and staying in bed when your stomach is heavy, get out and keep moving. In turn, it will help keep your digestive system moving as well.
Unfortunately, many of these methods take a while to implement. If there’s that party you’ve been looking forward to tonight and you really want to feel better within a day, Holmberg gives you a simple trick. “Drop all the starch and carbs out of your diet and take a walk,” she says. “Natural diuretics like watermelon and asparagus will help as well.” By losing all these heavy foods and getting your body moving, you’ll begin to feel better immediately. Over the long-term, take a look back at the previous steps to eliminate bloat permanently. Good luck, collegiettes!