Bloated. One word describes it all. That sluggish, stuffed and heavy feeling at the end of the night after eating a large dinner, or one too many desserts, or just from eating the wrong thing. We’ve all been there at one point in our lives. No one, and I mean no one, likes to feel bloated.
Bloating can be a result of a few things, the first being over-eating. If we are constantly eating more volume than your stomach can comfortably hold, then Think of what happens to your washing machine when it is overfilled. It either comes to a stop or doesn’t properly wash your clothes because it cannot churn them properly. Your stomach works the same way. If you overfill it and eat till you are 100% full, your body does not have the room to properly churn and easily digest your food. The whole ‘Eat till 80% full‘ rule is a great guideline to follow and can prevent bloating in many instances.
The second cause of bloating is consuming large amounts of rich fatty foods. You might love your bowl of full fat cookies and cream ice cream, but sadly it doesn’t love you back. Fatty foods take the longest to digest which is why they keep us feeling satiated for longer, but eaten in too large a quantity, this can backfire on us and result in bloating. Consuming fats in healthy proportion to carbs and protein will keep your belly bloat free.
The third cause of bloating is eating too fast and this is the one I see many of my clients struggling from. Because of our busy and over-programmed lives, most of us are constantly running around, from work to pick up the kids, to after-school activities and sports. We take whatever opportunity comes our way to wolf down whatever snack or morsel of food we can consume in less than 5 minutes before racing out the door.
When we eat in this distracted manner, we don’t give our digestive system the cues it needs to start doing it’s job. In fact, the first part of digestion which many people are not aware of is called the cephalic phase. This occurs even before food gets to our stomach, and is activated from the sight, smell, thought, or taste of food.
Eating while doing other activities means that we skip this phase, and we usually also forget to chew our food properly as well, which is the mechanical phase of digestion. For our chemical digestion to work properly, food needs to be broken down first through proper chewing first. If either of these steps are missed, your digestion will suffer.
The fourth and by far the most common reason I see for bloating in my practice are food sensitivities and allergies. If we are continuously consuming foods that we are sensitive to, but are unaware of which specific food is causing the triggers, it’s a hard and long process to eliminate the root cause of our bloating. Keeping a food diary or an IgG food intolerance test can help identify which foods might be causing the issue.
The fifth cause I see for bloating is constipation. Constipation can cause stool to remain in the intestines, which results in stomach pain, cramping, bloating and gas. Constipation can have many root causes but the most common are a lack of fibre in the diet, an imbalance of gut bacteria in your digestive tract, not drinking enough water, hidden food intolerances and not being active enough.
Finally, there are certain foods that may naturally cause bloating in some individuals. These include dairy, gluten/grains, garlic/onions, alcohol, beans/lentils, certain raw vegetables, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, sugar and highly processed foods. The good news is that there are certain foods and supplements which actually help prevent bloating naturally. Below is a list of my favourites.
- Ginger Root – Ginger is one of the best foods for preventing bloating as it is a spicy root vegetable that stimulates digestive juices. Ginger has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-flatulent properties and reduces intestinal gas. It also acts as a muscle relaxant which helps soothe cramps and helps the intestines relax.
- Probiotic-Rich Foods – Kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and tempeh are all delicious examples of probiotic-rich fermented foods. Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria that assist with digestion and help prevent bloating.
- Water-Rich Vegetables – Cucumbers, peppers, carrots, leafy greens, apples, pears and watermelon are fantastic sources of fibre and are water-rich plans. Consuming foods that are hydrating ensures that you are consuming enough water during the day and the fibre helps move food through your digestive tract efficiently and smoothly.
- Herbal Teas- Peppermint and ginger teas are two of the best teas to drink when you are suffering from a bloated belly. Both herbs are natural analgesics, reducing the pain caused by cramping and bloating and they both act as smooth muscle relaxants for the digestive tract.
Best Supplements to Beat the Bloat:
- Probiotics – Probiotics are a fast acting and natural supplement that aid in restoring the bacterial balance in the gut. Most probiotics supplements will contain Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus Acidophilus, two strains of bacteria that have been proven to relieve GI symptoms, gas and bloating. Start by taking a probiotic with a bacteria count of at least 50 billion per day.
- Digestive Enzymes – Digestive enzymes act as catalysts in speeding up chemical reactions in the body. Essentially, they work to speed up the digestion rate of our food, breaking down the nutrients for easier absorption of vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. My favourite brand is Thorne’s Biogest.
- Magnesium – Magnesium helps to relax smooth muscles and thus can ease cramps and bloating. It also helps to relieve constipation which is a common cause of stomach distension and bloating. Try taking 1 tsp of Natural Calm with water to relax the stomach muscles and ease cramps. You can also try Epsom Salt baths for overall relaxation.
- Peppermint Oil – The whole leaf, the tea and now the oil – different forms of peppermint, but they all work wonders. Peppermint oil is the most potent form of the leaf as the oils are extracted and concentrated. When you’re feeling bloated, try using one or two drops of peppermint oil and rubbing it on your stomach. It will leave a fire/ice feeling, but you’ll quickly notice your symptoms of gas and bloating disappear. If you want a more potent potion, try heating up one cup of almond milk or non-dairy milk of your choice and add 2-3 drops of food edible peppermint oil for a relaxing night time potion.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – ACV is the one of the trendiest superfoods on the market at the moment- and for good reason! ACV helps to slow down the digestion of starches and carbohydrates, keeping our blood sugar levels in check and our energy levels stable. It also helps to control our appetite, helping us feel more satiated and helps us to digest and break down the foods that we do consume. ACV does have a bit of a sour kick to it, which kick starts our metabolism and digestion, breaking down our foods and helping us with proper elimination. Start by adding 1-2 Tbsp of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar to a glass of warm water in the morning or taking an apple cider vinegar shot before each meal to stoke your digestive fire and stop bloating in it’s track!
Note: There are also other, more serious causes of bloating. If you are concerned, please make sure to consult with a medical practitioner.