How to Beat the Bloat
Why Bloating Happens and How to Prevent It
Today, people of all shapes and sizes will stare down at their waistbands, dumbfounded by a button so easily clasped just the other day. Bloating happens even to the leanest of people, but there are steps you can take to reduce bloating before it starts. Follow these tips to keep those skinny jeans front and center in your wardrobe.
What exactly does it mean to feel “bloated”?
A common misconception about bloating is that it’s always the result of eating too big a meal. To doctors, it usually means an excess of gas in the gastrointestinal (GI) region, causing abdominal discomfort and distension.
Causes can range from an imbalance of bacteria, to eating too much fiber, to not eating enough. When you take antibiotics, the bacteria responsible for breaking down complex carbohydrates may fail and produce gas. The most common causes of bloating, however, are swallowing too much air and eating too fast.
Causes of Stomach Distension
By paying a little closer attention to your eating habits, you can help prevent excessive bloating. Here’s a quick list of sneaky foods and habits that could be to blame:
Gum chewing. Your favorite breath-freshening pastime may be the number one cause for a straining waistband. When you chew gum, you swallow air which gets trapped in the GI system and extends the stomach.
Eating too fast. When you eat a large amount of food in a short period of time, your GI system doesn’t have enough time to digest and dispel. A backed up system means a buildup of gas and fluid, causing distension.
Drinking from straws. When you go to sip a drink from a straw, you first suck in a straw-length volume of air, which ends up trapped in your stomach.
Not enough fiber…or too much. Fiber is notorious for “moving things along.” When you’re backed up, excess gas in your GI track can’t escape, causing you to bloat. Next time you need a snack, reach for fibrous-skinned produce like apples and strawberries. Make sure to go easy on insoluble fibers like beans and lentils. Eating too much of these produces excessive gas.
Reducing Stomach Distension
While bloating is something that happens to everyone, there are steps you can take to minimize the symptoms or help stop them before they start.
Stretch it out. Incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle is the best long term solution to bloating, but for more immediate relief, try stretching your abdominal muscles. Lay on your back and pull one knee at a time toward your chest. This puts a little extra pressure on the abdomen to aid digestion.
Eat consciously. Not only does fibrous produce help aid digestion, but foods like potassium-rich bananas and high-water-content fruits, like watermelon, help flush out belly-bloating sodium. Papaya contains high levels of essential digestive enzymes that break down protein to aid digestion – so you look and feel less full.
When in doubt: hydrate. Your body needs water – a lot of it. Dehydration leads to constipation, which leads to bloating. And while it may seem counterintuitive to drink more water, when your body gets the hydration it finally needs, it lets go of the liquid it doesn’t. Be sure to drink at least eight, eight-ounce glasses a day.
Unfortunately, bloating is just a part of life. It usually isn’t cause for alarm, but if you’re suddenly experiencing foreign symptoms without any dietary changes, it may be worth checking in with your physician. By incorporating gut-friendly foods into your diet, remembering to stay hydrated, and listening to your body, you can help fight the bloat before it starts.