We have all been there, jumping up and down, wriggling, sucking in our breath till that button pops shut, on our otherwise perfectly fitting trouser. Once it’s done, panic sets in! How would you explain it? Something that fits you just a week back now clearly doesn’t!
Well, before jumping to the obvious conclusion, i.e. weight gain, think about bloating! Yes, good old bloating caused by gases. Bloating not only makes you look out of shape but is also accompanied by a lot of physical discomforts. People normally mistake bloating for fat or water retention, but it’s just gasses causing temporary distension, that everybody faces from time to time.
Please remember that the stomach is not a place where fluids accumulate normally unless it is a complication of any liver or kidney disorder.
There are very easy ways to keep bloating at bay and to feel great:-
- Ditch the seat after you eat!
Basically what we are saying is, always be physically active and especially right after eating. Physical activity helps the air (gas) bubbles to pass quickly through the digestive tract, in turn causing the discomfort of bloating to disappear. According to a German study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease walking helps move food through the stomach more quickly. And when stomach empties faster the gas easily passes to the large intestine faster, releasing the stress. So indulge in 30-45 minutes of physical activity every day. Some exercises that further help to relieve bloating are energy pushes, any cardio exercise, sit-ups, crunches, seat twists and shoulder stand.
- Eat slowly, the food isn’t running away.
When we eat our food quickly, we are more likely to swallow air which can cause stomach gas and abdominal bloating. Eating slowly doesn’t allow room for such a thing to happen. Post dinner if we lie down immediately, the air bubbles in our stomach cannot escape by burping and hence may be sent in the opposite direction to cause bloating and flatulence. Try to eat slowly, relish your food and help the food to be digested properly.
- Hydrate that body!
If you feel bloated, drink plenty of water! It’s an easy quick-fix! Water is a natural way to help reduce toxins and flush out your intestines. It also helps to maintain the sodium balance in your body.
- There is such a thing as excess air!
Most people don’t know, but we usually swallow air while eating or drinking food. This air can cause bloating and distension. Drinking carbonated drinks like colas and beer releases carbon dioxide as soon as it reaches your tummy causing distention. Drinking with a straw or gulping down liquids and drinking alcohol is likely to introduce extra air into the stomach. Try slowing down when you drink. Other culprits like chewing gums, sucking on hard sweets, talking while eating, smoking cigarettes and breathing through the mouth all add up to the excess air. So, try to avoid these if you are suffering from or are prone to bloating.
- Limit Sugar alcohols:
Sugar alcohols which are said to be safe alternatives to sugar are mainly found in sugar-free foods. These sugar alcohols tend to reach the bacteria in the large intestine, which digest them and produce gas, thus causing bloating. So, it is sometimes a good option to indulge in sugar, than opting for their substitutes.
- Beware of your own allergies!
Food allergies and intolerance to lactose, fructose, gluten and egg allergies are fairly common. When you consume food that you are intolerant to, it can lead to gas production, bloating and may be accompanied with other uncomfortable symptoms. You can try avoiding some of these to see if bloating subsides, but if it still doesn’t help please see the doctor.
- Be pro pro-biotic!
Several studies have shown that pro-biotics can help reduce the gas production as well as bloating. Pro-biotics (good bacteria) found in cultured milk products such as yogurt, effectively reduce bloating. These foods are safe when used appropriately and have no side effects. So they are worth a try.
- Pay Attention to the food labels!
Make it a habit to read food labels, as processed foods are high in sodium and low in fiber, both of which contribute to bloating. Look for products which have no more than 500 mg or less of sodium per serving. Opt for foods which claim to be sodium free, low in sodium or very low in sodium.
We have already mentioned that certain foods can lead to bloating, but consumption of certain food combinations can also lead to abdominal bloating.
The basic premise of food combining is that different types of foods, such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, are broken down and processed in different parts of the digestive tract. This means that the length of time it takes to process each type varies.
Avoid eating proteins and starches in the same meal.
When foods high in carbohydrates are eaten with heavy proteins, the carbohydrates spend longer than they need to in the stomach. This causes these foods to ferment, which leads to the build-up of gas and a bloated belly. This means that carbohydrates like potatoes, beans and legumes like lentils, mung beans and chickpeas and grains like rice, oats and quinoa, should be eaten away from proteins like nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs and fish, meat and poultry.
Instead: Consume dairy products or proteins with greens as they are best digested together.
Eat fruits separately
Fruits contain simple sugars that get digested very fast. But when combined with a protein or starch, it may get digested slowly as proteins and starch takes long time to get digested. For example: do not have orange juice together with an egg or baked beans, or avoid strawberries with oats for breakfast.
Instead: Try to not have fruits with any of your major meals (breakfast, lunch or dinner). Opt to have them as mid meals, so that it gets digested easily.
Avoid overloading proteins in the same meal
If you are having a meal loaded with proteins, it results in the depletion of digestive juices which in turn hampers the digestion of food. As we have discussed that protein takes long time and energy to get digested, so when we have meals loaded with proteins, it may stay in the stomach for quite a long period. For example: having non-vegetarian preparations along with pulses or combining shakes with a cheese sandwich.
Instead: Plan your meals with a single source of protein. For example, if you are having non-vegetarian preparation, try to avoid pulses. Rather combine your proteins with non-starchy veggies, as they are safe to combine with any kind of foods.
Never Eat Dessert After a Meal
Now I’m not saying you should eat dessert before your meal, however eating dessert after a meal is a sure recipe for disaster. When you eat dessert after a meal, it gets trapped in your stomach with the rest of your meal where the sugars ferment and almost always cause gas and bloating.
Depending on the severity of your bloating and discomfort, you may want to follow these food combining principles. Becoming more aware of the food combinations you will learn what is right for your body. Each person is unique and different and certain food combinations may not cause issues while others will be the key to solving your gas and bloating distress.
If none of these remedies provides you relief, we would recommend you to seek a doctor’s help. There is always a possibility of some chronic and/or serious medical condition, and diagnosing digestive problems can be complicated.
However, in most cases bloating can be rectified by incorporating simple lifestyle changes mentioned above. We hope that the information provided to you has made you more aware of the causes of bloating and helps you to beat that bloat and untrap the gas!
Rashmi extensively educated herself in the field of nutrition to create awareness amongst people. Being in this field for 9 years, she believes that having the body that you always wanted is to nourish it with love, understanding and care.