Tips to Beat the Bloat

Bloating is a common issue for many people, and it isn’t always easy to discover the source of it! It’s frustrating to not be able to fit into your favorite jeans or to experience stomach pain out of the blue. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to reduce bloating and other digestive issues, as well as prevent it from returning.

First, let’s talk about some of the top foods that contribute to bloating.

Top Foods That Cause Bloat

If you’ve ever had days where you feel you could float away on a wisp of wind because you are so full of gas, there’s a decent chance that one of these ingredients made it into your diet. If you suspect that food may be a cause of your bloating, keep a detailed food diary and pay close attention to the foods listed below.

  1. Gluten. Breads, pastas, and cakes are loaded with gluten. This is one of the top causes of bloat we see in our practice.
  2. Dairy. Did you know that more than half of the adults on planet Earth are lactose intolerant? To be exact, 65% of the world’s population can’t digest lactose. If you regularly experience stomach pain, nausea, bloating, or loose stools after consuming dairy, it’s worth looking into lactose intolerance.
  3. Sugar. Sure, you might love a good gourmet cookie with extra icing, but so do the bad bacteria in your stomach. When your diet contains a lot of sugar, it can lead to an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in your gut. This can lead to nasty digestive symptoms, including bloating.
  4. Sugar alcohols. To meet the needs of picky palettes and those concerned about calories, food companies have begun to utilize numerous sweet, low-calorie ingredients that don’t always sit well in everyone’s stomachs. Sugar alcohols can pull water into your intestines and even be fermented by hungry bacteria, causing bloating, diarrhea, and gas. Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, erythritol, maltitol, mannitol, and sorbitol are often listed among the ingredients of common food items like chewing gum and sugar-free ice creams, so always be sure to check the ingredients list if you suspect something you’ve eaten has made you feel a little funky.
  5. Carrageenan. This is a food stabilizer often found in ice cream and non-dairy yogurt. It’s used to create a thick, creamy texture and can often cause gut inflammation and other intestinal problems. If you experience digestive issues after consuming foods or beverages with a creamy consistency, check the ingredients list for carrageenan.
  6. Cruciferous vegetables. Typically regarded as healthy veggies, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that are vital to good health. Unfortunately, they all contain a starch called raffinose that can lead to the production of methane gas in your digestive tract. However, some people have no difficulties at all with foods that contain raffinose! This is why it is so important to monitor your reaction to certain foods by keeping a food journal. If you’re currently ramping up your vegetable intake, start out with a small amount of cruciferous veggies, and build up the number of daily servings and amount per serving over time.
  7. Fermented foods. Hold up – put down the kombucha! If you’re consuming a whole bottle of kombucha in one sitting or eating a lot of pickled foods, you might experience some bloating. Fermented foods, as delicious as they are, often contain added sugars that make your gut’s microbiome go wild. Paradoxically, they also create gas as the probiotics within the food or beverage kill harmful bacteria.
A bottle of kombucha sitting next to a houseplant

Other Culprits

Sometimes, the cause of your bloating has nothing to do with what you eat or drink at all. How you’re eating, when you’re eating, and internal physical factors can all play a role in the bloating that you experience. Let’s explore!

How You’re Eating

Many of us eat on-the-go while juggling fifteen tasks simultaneously. We talk on the phone while sending messages on a tablet, taking notes, and balancing a cup of coffee precariously in one hand, just hoping that it doesn’t spill and ruin our favorite shirt. The problem here? When you multitask like this, you are activating your fight-or-flight response. The digestive system functions at its best when we are rested and not stressed out. When the brain is preoccupied with other tasks, it may not communicate properly with your digestive system. This can prevent food and liquid from being broken down properly. It can then sit in the gut, resulting in uncomfortable bloating and gas. 

To avoid activating your fight-or-flight response while eating, take the time to actually sit down at a table and relax. An added benefit? When you eat mindfully, you might actually taste your food before it goes down! Truly experiencing the food you eat can even help you to feel more satisfied and lose weight more efficiently.

When You’re Eating

If you’re like most people, you consume your largest meal at night. However, your digestive tract’s muscular contractions are connected to your circadian rhythm. After a long day and a big dinner, you may find yourself laying back on the recliner or in bed, preventing gravity and movement from easing the transit of food through your body. The longer food sits undigested, the more likely it is that you’ll feel bloated.

This is an easy fix, though! Eat your largest meals earlier in the day when your digestive system is most active, prepare a light dinner such as a bowl of soup, and follow a snack curfew 2-3 hours before bedtime.

Leaky Gut and Food Sensitivities

When the gut is hyperpermeable, small particles of food can enter your bloodstream. This can cause inflammation and wreak havoc on your body. The immune system may then produce antibodies to attack these foreign invaders in your bloodstream, which may trigger food sensitivities. One symptom commonly caused by food sensitivities is bloating! Unfortunately, until you heal the leaky gut, you may continue to experience some unpleasant symptoms. Chat with a functional health practitioner (that’s us!) to learn how to eliminate your leaky gut problems.

Bacterial Imbalances

When your gut’s microbiome is out of whack, bloating might seem like the least of your problems. An imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in your body can lead to chronic diarrhea, bloating, and a host of other health issues. Some even say that the bacteria in your gut have a profound effect on your mental health! However, diagnosing an imbalance in your gut’s microbiome can be a tricky process best left to a practitioner.

Conclusions

Bloat doesn’t have to be something you must live with. Taking careful steps, such as monitoring your food and beverage intake, being mindful of how and when you eat, and seeking out the help of a qualified functional health specialist can improve how you’re feeling. It might take a bit of time to figure out what changes truly help you the most, but it is a process that your body and your favorite pair of jeans will thank you for!

For more healthy tips, join the conversation on our Facebook group, Integrative Health and Nutrition for Chronic Conditions. We post live videos, guides, and other useful information to help you elevate your health and wellness!

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