Bloating can affect anyone of any size. Even if you don’t have weight to lose, you may experience bloating in the tummy that leaves you with a rounded abdomen instead of a flat one. This is a common problem and one that could have several different causes (which we discussed last week). Because bloating can be a result of several different factors – and often a combination of more than one factor, you’ll have to do a little detective work to figure out what works for you. How do you do this detective work? You try different things until you find what your body likes.
We can’t tell you exactly why you’re bloated and exactly what to do to stop it, but we can give you this list of tried and true tricks. Incorporate a few of these tips at a time until you find the perfect solution for you.
- Avoid gas-causing foods. Although any foods can cause bloating, there are some foods that are known offenders. These foods include soy, gluten, dairy, beans, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. While we’re not suggesting that you avoid broccoli forever, it can be helpful to reduce your intake or only eat it when you can throw on those sweatpants and lounge around for a few hours after your meal. Sugar alcohols, like xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol, are also gas-causing offenders. These sugar alcohols became popular during the low-carb movement because they don’t contain any carbohydrates. However, if you overdo it, you may be left with bloating and diarrhea. Avoid them as much as possible.
- Figure out if you have food intolerances. Unfortunately, there is no magical way to figure out what foods you may be intolerant to. There is a type of food sensitivity testing available, called IgG testing, but these types of tests aren’t always reliable. The best way to figure out your own food intolerances is to follow an elimination diet. An elimination diet involves removing the most common food intolerances from your diet for at least 30 days, and then reintroducing them slowly to figure out if you have a reaction (like bloating) to a specific food. If you do, you know that your body cannot tolerate it well. The only drawback to this is that sometimes you may have an intolerance to food that is not typical. In that case, it can take a little more detective work.
- Chew slowly and deliberately. It’s not just what you eat that can cause bloating, it’s how you eat. Digestion officially starts in your mouth, so make sure that you’re chewing your food thoroughly and taking some of the burden off of the rest of your digestive system. Eat only enough food to make you feel satisfied, not so much that your stomach is overstuffed and you’re left feeling bloated and lethargic.
- Take digestive supplements. There are two types of supplements that are very helpful for digestion and reducing bloating: probiotics and digestive enzymes. Probiotics replenish the bacteria in your gut and digestive enzymes provide you with the substances you need to break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
- Drink water. Dehydration is a leading cause of bloating, so if you’re not drinking enough water, increase your intake. The current recommendation is to consume at least half of your body weight in ounces every day. This means if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be taking in 100 ounces of water per day. If you have a hard time keeping track of your water intake, there are free apps you can download to your phone to track your intake for you. Plant Nanny is one of our favorites.
- Get enough sleep. You probably don’t realize how much sleep affects your digestion. Proper digestion uses up a lot of energy, and if your body doesn’t have enough energy due to lack of sleep, your digestion will suffer. Make sleep a priority and make an effort to ensure that you’re getting at least 8 hours per night.
- Movement is excellent for digestion, so if you’re bloated, especially if your bloating is a result of constipation, move your body! Exercise helps move gas around the digestive tract and helps reduce constipation.
- Relieve your stress. Chronic stress can do a number on your digestive system and can lead to bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. If you’re always stressed out, it would be highly beneficial for you to engage in some stress-reduction activities. Some of our favorites are meditation, yoga, and journaling.