How to end bloating once and for all
What causes bloating?
Are your clothes feeling tight and uncomfortable? Are you bloated after meals or have embarrassing wind? Today we’re discussing what causes bloating AND how to fix it without sacrificing the food you love!
Why do I have a bloated stomach is a common question I get asked when people find out I’m a Naturopath. Apparently, I’m supposed to have a crystal ball (or similar witch doctor pharanaellia) that I can use to tell what causes bloating and how to get rid of it instantly.
Sadly, I’m not a witch doctor (a cauldron would be so much fun!), but I do have a thorough understanding of how the body works and with a few simple questions I can usually work out what causes bloating and I can tell you how to get rid of it.
Why do I have a bloated stomach?
You probably experience stomach bloating or water retention in one or more of the situations listed below. Luckily, these are predictable situations and there are practical steps you can take today to reduce what causes your bloating.
Let’s go through a few common scenarios and look at why you might be experiencing bloating:
Bloating after eating.
Having a bloated stomach after eating is relatively common but the reasons vary…
- Food sensitivities – fructose, lactose etc
- Sorbitol intolerance
- Over eating
- Too much fatty or rich food
Naturopathic medicine teaches us that all symptoms are connected – part of the whole picture of a person’s health. I have found this particularly relevant when treating digestive complaints.
Sometimes stomach bloating is accompanied by other digestive symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea, burping, wind or nausea. The usual diagnosis for this is IBS or leaky gut syndrome. If you have been diagnosed with IBS or think you might have it, follow the dietary guidelines below to relieve and reduce your bloating. If you’re ready to take it a step further, you can join my Leaky Gut Boot camp: 28 days to transform your gut health and find out what’s causing your bloating and sort it out properly.
Bloating with your period.
Premenstrual fluid retention is quite common and caused by increasing levels of progesterone that encourage your body to store water. To combat this, you can drink gentle diuretic herbal teas like dandelion leaf, green tea and nettle. Be careful not to overdo them as they can cause serious side effects like electrolyte imbalance and put extra pressure on kidney and liver function.
Bloating with flatulence.
If you find your bloating is more air-based and is relieved by flatulence (the nice word for farting) then the probable cause is carbohydrate maldigestion. Put simply, this means the food you’re eating is taking way too long to be broken down and digested in your stomach and intestines. Instead, it’s sitting there fermenting and fermentation produces gas… you know what happens from there.
The best way to resolve this type of bloating is three fold. Firstly, you can reduce the carbohydrates you’re consuming. Secondly, you can take digestive enzymes or apple cider vinegar to improve digestion and speed up your carbohydrate metabolism so it ferments less.
Thirdly, you can test the carbohydrates you’re eating to see if there’s one type in particular that you don’t process well. To do this you can use the low FODMAP diet. My Leaky Gut Boot campers go through this process and are always surprised at how they react to foods they never realised before! It’s an eye opener and once you know what your triggers are you can eliminate them from your diet and reduce your bloating and embarrassing flatulence.
Bloating during Pregnancy.
Bloating during pregnancy is also mostly caused by hormones – progesterone again and not a great deal can be done about this. Fluid retention during pregnancy is sometimes mistaken for bloating and often aggravated by heat or too much activity. If you are pregnant, please do not use diuretics unless instructed by your healthcare professional.
Bloating and stomach pain.
If you have bloating that’s accompanied by stomach cramping, dull or sharp pains or pain when you have a bowel motion, you should go to your GP and get checked out. It could be a range of digestive conditions that can be treated both medically and with natural medicine but you need to know exactly what you’re dealing with before you can resolve it.
How to get rid of bloating
Eat fruit separately
This might sound strange, but fruit is really supposed to be eaten on its own. It is a little known principle of food combining but one that should get some more air time, especially when it comes to relieving bloating. Principles of food combining are based on how long it takes to digest certain types of food and how much acid is required to break those foods down. You should try to keep fruit separated from other food groups as its a quick energy boost type of meal, with easily digestible carbohydrates that don’t require much stomach acid or time. Give it a try and you’ll notice you feel less bloated.
Chew your food properly
I know it’s not a food remedy but this is simply common sense. Chewing thoroughly and consciously is something not many of us do. However, it is a highly effective and very simple way of making sure we are only allowing small chunks of food into the stomach, where it is broken down further by our gastric juices (now there’s a yummy thought!). Bloating is more likely if we have rushed a meal and taken huge bites, not chewing properly and then expect our stomach to make all the effort. Put your tongue and teeth to work and get chewing!
Include herbs and spices when you cook
Fennel is a great natural remedy for wind and bloating. It stimulates digestion and promotes stomach acid which reduces bloating. You can chew on fennel seeds as some cultures do, use fennel tea or use fennel in cooking and salads. Almost every other herb and spice helps promote healthy digestion and relieve bloating, nausea and flatulence. Use them as much as you can!
Boost your metabolism
This remedy will take some time to see results but is well worth it. Bloating often occurs more frequently with carbohydrates so lowering your intake of these and replacing them with protein will provide many health benefits. Supporting our metabolism is like taking care of a fire. You want to stoke it with foods it likes and grow it into a big bonfire. As a bonfire, your metabolism can burn through food quickly and efficiently turn it into energy and in this process it will burn more calories and fat! When you’re better able to digest food with your bonfire metabolism rather than your tiny camp fire metabolism you experience very little bloating… unless you really overdo it!
Include probiotics and probiotic foods
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that assist with digestion and promote healthy immune function and metabolism. If your bloating is caused by poor digestion then these little guys can be super helpful. Increasing your intake of foods that naturally contain probiotics is also a highly effective and simple way of improving your gut flora to relieve bloating naturally.
Enjoy a cup of herbal tea
Herbal teas like Chamomile, Dandelion or Chai are just perfect for stimulating digestion and naturally relieving bloating. An added health benefit of these teas is that not only do they work on digestion, but they relax us and leave us feeling revitalised and refreshed. No, I’m not exaggerating, Naturopaths and many Eastern philosophies make a connection between the nervous system (our brain) and our digestive system. When one is “out of whack” often the other is as well. A simple, practical and effective way to treat this is through the digestive system and teas are an easy way to start getting some relief and some healthy results!
When stomach bloating is a warning sign
According to everydayhealth.com, you shouldn’t ignore stomach bloating that is accompanied by –
- Severe abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
- Bleeding from your vagina (not related to menstruation)
- Changes in weight (more than 10% of your body weight)
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, associated with liver dysfunction)
Because the bloating could just be a symptom of a more serious health problem it’s vital that if you are experiencing any of these additional symptoms that you go to your GP and get checked out.
Get rid of stomach bloating for good
By following these simple dietary strategies, you can relieve your bloating and you can even stop it from happening altogether if you can find your triggers and eliminate those from your diet.
Remember, you deserve a healthy gut.
Image credit: iStock photo