Foods that can cause bloating
There are certain foods that are more likely to blow you up than others, so it’s worth trying to avoid them, initially, to give yourself a head start in beating the bloat. A disastrous lunch that is the downfall of many a svelte stomach is simply a sandwich with a fizzy drink and/or coffee – a very common combination nowadays too.
Bread is a well-known inflator of an otherwise blameless abdomen, so instead try soup with oatcakes or rice cakes, a baked potato, or a dip with crudities. These are lower in gluten and generally less processed options.
Another classic error is finishing your lunch with a healthy piece of fruit or fruit yoghurt. Although you might assume this is a healthy habit, if you are prone to bloating then fruit will only start fermenting in the pool of strong acid your stomach has produced to deal with your lunch. You’ll then risk bubbling and boiling all afternoon.
My advice is to have fruit on its own for breakfast or as a snack around 3pm when your lunch has gone down and you aren’t just about to have your tea. Stewed fruits can also be a gentler option and make for a nice breakfast.
On the subject of fruit, fibre needs to have a mention when we talk about bloating. We certainly need sufficient fibre to help keep our digestion regular and protect against constipation, but interestingly, going overboard can also cause problems, especially if you are prone to bloating or not used to sufficient fibre in your diet. Watch out for fad diets which can involve drastic increases in your fibre intake, or any which involve cutting whole food groups out – again, dramatic changes may not be gratefully received, so take your time and implement positive changes gradually.
Generally, including more fruit and vegetables should be beneficial, although some people who are particularly sensitive, may find that managing their FODMAP intake can be helpful. The extra potassium content, on the other hand, is nearly always useful and can help protect against unwanted water retention.
Other food fads to watch out for include massively increasing your protein intake. Protein takes a little more digestive power to breakdown, especially whey protein which comes from milk. This may be particularly taxing on your digestive system, and I often recommend opting for gentler, plant-based proteins instead.
8 ways to ease bloating
As well as the foods you eat, there are many other simple rules that you can follow to help ease digestive bloating and minimise the amount of internal inflation you experience. Follow my guide below to help manage your symptoms:
1. Chew each mouthful very thoroughly
Although it sounds ridiculously simple, it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds and I can bet you don’t often give chewing much thought. Going forward, try to give each mouthful at least 20 chews to see if you notice a difference in your symptoms. This may feel tortuous at first but if you bolt your food downit’s much more likely to turn gassy lower down, so it’s worth a little jaw action to help reduce the risk.
Happily, the more you chew, the less likely you are to overeat. There’s plenty of research to show that if you chew your food well and take your time, instead of absorbing your food by osmosis on the run, your appetite will be satisfied sooner.
We also have reason to believe that chewing your food better and giving your digestive system a head start could help to protect against some of the adverse reactions associated with food sensitivities. By taking the time to chew you can help spur your stomach into action, allowing it to secrete sufficient gastric juices, which in turn will help stimulate the secretion of bile and pancreatic enzymes further along the line. More digestive power means we’re much less likely to experience uncomfortable symptoms.
2. Separate drink from food
Make the effort not to guzzle lots of liquids alongside your meals. People guilty of not chewing often swill their food down with drinks instead of taking the time to eat properly – this is a big no-no. Large quantities of liquid will overfill your stomach, making you more prone to reflux, plus you’re much more likely to experience digestive symptoms if your food hasn’t been broken down properly in the initial stages.
Top Tip: After drinking, leave 10-20 minutes before eating. After a meal, wait 20-30 minutes before drinking again.
3. Take your time
The aim for many of us should be to make meal times more relaxed. Try to ensure that you are in a state of calm when eating rather than eating on the run or typing with one hand whilst cramming in a sandwich with the other!
If you are stressed whilst eating, the adrenalin you’re producing will switch off your digestive system, and symptoms are much more likely to crop up. So, choose your lunch companion with care – if you have a lot of stressful business lunches this may be one reason for your digestive discomfort.
Taking time to relax, both at the dinner table and beyond, is super important for supporting your digestive system. Your digestive system works optimally whilst your parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest system’ is more active. This means during the night when you are (hopefully!) relaxed, but also at other points during the day when you aren’t rushing around. Doing gentle stretches and relaxing exercises such as yoga can help support your system. However, that’s not to say that slightly more movement isn’t also beneficial. Moving more with exercises such as brisk walking, jogging or swimming can help to gently massage your gut into action and can certainly be beneficial, as long as you’re doing them apart from meals of course.
Talking of timings, it’s also worth mentioning meal timing. If you suffer from bloating regularly it’s worth considering when you’re having your meals and how much food you’re consuming in the one sitting. Skipping meals, for example, can mean you’re more likely to overeat later in the day, which unsurprisingly can put extra pressure on your digestive system. Try eating regular meals, and maybe try eating more earlier in the day rather than being tempted to fill up on more sizeable meals later in the evening.
4. Go wheat-free
Why not try reducing your intake of wheat for a few days to see if it makes a difference to your symptoms. Opt for a non-wheat based cereal such as porridge, rice pops, millet flakes or cornflakes for breakfast, then soup with oatcakes for lunch, or a baked potato with tuna or egg mayonnaise.
If you feel you can’t do without pasta, try spelt or rice pasta instead of the usual type, as this is more digestible. This is readily available throughout health food stores and even most supermarkets nowadays.
5. Say no to coffee
If you can, try to keep coffee out of the diet completely, even decaf, and don’t have more than 2 cups of regular tea (decaf or otherwise) per day, as these often blow you up badly.
The caffeine content is these popular brews is bad enough (and can soon add up if you’re a bit of a tea or coffee junkie), but actually teas and coffee also act as diuretics which can play havoc with your fluid balance; more water retention can actually be an unwanted side effect in many cases.
Try herbal teas instead, such as Golden Rod or Fennel, which can help to reduce fluid retention instead.
6. Ban the fizz
You may like fizzy drinks, but your tummy certainly doesn’t; and this goes for both the sugar and artificially sweetened versions of fizzy juice. Both ingredients can cause havoc, not only with your blood sugar levels, but also the balance of bacteria in your gut which is thought to be one of the most common culprits behind unwanted bloating. Then, on top of that, you have all the extra gas found in these drinks, which unsurprisingly can leave you feeling all bagged up.
Instead, as much as possible, try sticking to plain, still water or flavour your water with fruit or veg slices such as lemon, lime, or cucumber. If you aren’t managing to already, up your water intake to between 1.5 and 2l, and I can promise you your waistline (and most likely many other systems of the body!) will thank you for it.
7. Cooked and warm foods are best
Eat cooked and warm foods in preference to cold and raw food, as these foods are gentler on your system and easier to digest.
Don’t take notice of all the advice you often see to eat things as raw as possible – this really isn’t good for a sensitive gut. Stew your fruit rather than eating it raw, and add warming spices such as cloves, cinnamon and ginger to make it even more delicious. Have vegetable soup rather than a cold salad or at least add warm elements to mix through your salad if that’s your go-to for lunch.
8. Sit up!
Many people are prone to hunching over their food and then wonder why they experience reflux or burping. Your stomach needs space to contract and to let those all-important digestive juices to flow freely.
Concentrate on keeping your shoulders back and head held high whilst eating, and you’ll soon find that your food has a smoother ride through your digestive tract.
Remedies to help?
Take herbal bitter remedies such as Dandelion or Artichoke before meals to help support your digestion. The bitter taste these herbs provide will help to trigger the proper production of digestive enzymes, which ensures you break your food down efficiently so it doesn’t boil up on its way down!
These bitters work very quickly and aren’t contraindicated with any medications. You can find them conveniently captured in our Digestisan oral drops, making them easy to take before each meal. This remedy also contains a spot of Peppermint, a traditional remedy used to promote some calm throughout the digestive tract.
Always take the tincture 5-10 minutes before your meals, in only a small splash of water (approximately 5-10mls), for best effects and a happier tum.
Originally published on 09/11/15, updated on 06/03/19