After a meal, do you ever feel like someone has blown up a balloon inside your belly? That horrible bloated feeling is actually a very common and uncomfortable problem that affects many of us! People often refer to this bloated feeling as a ‘food baby’ or blame it on intolerances to dairy or gluten, but there are a range of reasons why you could feeling bloated.
We’ve rounded up some of the most common reasons why you might be bloated and have given you some natural remedies to help you banish the bloat!
Steer clear of air and gas
Bloating is often cause by an excess of gas in the abdomen. Whilst you need some gas to help digest your food, if you have too much gas in your belly then this can cause a build up of gas in your intestines.
If you chew gum, drink fizzy drinks or drink through a straw then you are more than likely increasing the air that goes into your stomach, causing a swollen belly!
This of course includes sparkling mineral water which is a healthier option to sugary soft drinks, but still results in all those bubbles getting stuck in your belly and its high salt content means you body will retain more water.
If you find your stomach feeling bloated after a meal, try drinking a tea with peppermint, fennel or anise as these will help to reduce gas and acid reflux. Either buy a ‘digestion’ tea from the supermarket or soak fresh fennel seeds, anise or peppermint leaves in some hot water for 1-2 minutes and then remove before drinking.
Chew, chew, chew your food
Whilst you shouldn’t be chewing air, you should be making an effort to really chew your food!
Taking the time to chew your food and eat slowly will help to reduce the intake of excess air that goes into your digestive system and it will also mean your intestines will have an easier time digesting your food.
Eating slower has also been proven to reduce over eating as it takes up to 20 minutes for the brain to recognise when you are full.
Of course, eating smaller meals more often will help to reduce bloating as your stomach will be able to more efficiently digest smaller portions of food. Eating five to six smaller meals a day can also help control blood sugar levels and manager hunger which means you’re less likely to get ‘hangry’ and feel the need to engulf your meal.
Foods that bloat & FODMAPs
Remember this rhyme? “Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot!”. Well don’t laugh… beans and lentils contain indigestible sugars and in order to break these down your stomach bacteria ferments these which causes bloating and gas.
Beans and lentils are part of the FODMAP group of foods (fermentable oligo, di, mono-saccharides and polyols) which are not in and of themselves ‘bad foods’ but they may contribute to excessive gas production and bloating for certain people. Replace beans with quinoa or another type of grain or try lightly coloured lentils, or black beans which are more digestible than normal beans and lentils.
Other foods that contain FODMAPs include cabbage, broccoli, brussel spouts and cauliflower. Whilst cooking these vegies may make them easier to digest, try replacing these with sweet potatoes, zucchini and spinach if you think they are irritating your belly.
Of course as with most ‘healthy diet’ recommendation, reducing your salt intake, artificial sweeteners and fatty, highly processed foods (deep fried chicken we’re looking at you) will also help to reduce bloating.
Salty foods cause water retention whilst artificial sweeteners and fatty foods take a lot longer to digest and leave you feeling uncomfortably full or ‘gassy’.
Foods that will help with you bloating include probiotics which can be found in foods and drinks such as yogurt, miso and kombucha. Also, foods that are rich in potassium such as bananas, avocados, cantaloupes and pistachios can help to prevent water retention. If you are feeling bloated then try snacking on some watermelon as it helps to flush out belly-bloating sodium.
Keep yourself regular!
Constipation is another culprit that can cause severe bloating and can often leave you feeling really uncomfortable. To keep yourself regular then ensure you are:
Eating a diet high in fibre (i.e. lots of foods high in soluble fibre such as barley and oats and non-FODMAP vegetables and fruit as mentioned above),
Drinking about 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day (not in huge gulps which make you ingest huge portions of air!);
Ensure you are doing regular exercise to help boost your metabolism and get your body more efficient at processing your food!
Check it out
If you think you’re eating slower, smaller portions and have reduced FODMAPs in your diet and you are still suffering from a protruded belly then you may suffer from a food intolerance, coeliac disease or irritable bowl syndrome. It’s not uncommon for adults to identify allergies to foods that they have eaten their whole life because a change in their body or their situation.
If your bloating is getting in the way of you enjoying your life then you should visit your local GP and check to see whether they can help you identify the bloating culprit!
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