An introduction to lifestyle habits and bloating
Although what you eat can certainly contribute to bloating – click the link for some top tips, you might be surprised to know that other dietary and lifestyle habits could be having an influence too. For example, the way we eat is hugely important, and it can have a surprising influence throughout the entire length of our digestive system. Habits such as smoking and alcohol shouldn’t be overlooked either as these may have physical effects on the stomach and digestive system, whilst stress levels and exercise may also have a different kind of influence – chemical.
In many cases there isn’t just quick fix to bloating but instead a number of different contributing factors should be taken into account. Small changes to your lifestyle could make a big difference to how you look and feel and may just help to get that bloating under control once and for all!
People often don’t consider how they eat at all as they happily wolf down their latest meal. But actually, we’ve come to understand that eating habits could have a significant influence on a number of symptoms, including bloating. Let’s give some of these factors some thought:
- Chewing – If you don’t chew your food thoroughly you risk struggling to digest food properly further along the line, (or your stomach has to work super hard), both of which can give rise to indigestion and bloating. Aim to chew each mouthful at least 20 times and avoid drinking water with your meals as this will only dilute your digestive juices which we need!
- Eating too fast – Eating quickly and a lack of chewing often go hand in hand. However, there’s more to it than that, nowadays many people are eating quickly because they are on the move or preoccupied with something else. Either way, it indicates that you are in a more stressed state, and we know that when we are stressed our digestive system isn’t working optimally. Take some time to eat your dinner properly, sitting down and actually start to enjoy your food which is another added bonus!
- Posture– Much like being on the move, if you are sitting hunched over your desk eating your lunch, or on the sofa in front of the TV, your digestive system won’t be happy. If your stomach is all crumpled, your digestive juices won’t be flowing freely and you are at a much greater risk of suffering from indigestion and bloating. Sit up straight during mealtimes and see if you notice a difference.
Alcohol and smoking
Although this may seem obvious, it is often the case that people aren’t aware just how detrimental alcohol and smoking can be to their digestive system. Alcohol can cause bloating for a long list of reasons; it can put the liver under pressure which can in many cases give rise to constipation, it can contribute to dehydration which can result in water retention and it can cause bloating both directly (many drinks contain gas or are taken with mixers) or indirectly by upsetting the balance of bacteria in your gut – phew!
Then smoking – not only can the act of smoking cause us to swallow air but the nasty chemicals in cigarettes can also affect the functions of sphincters in and around the stomach. We know that this can give rise to indigestion and heartburn with which bloating is a common side effect.
So, what’s the solution? Stop smoking and work on reducing your weekly alcohol intake to help support your digestive system going forward.
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Although not an obvious link, we’ve come to understand some of the effects stress can have on the digestive system.
We know, for example, that stress can reduce our stomach acid. This can create stomach related issues such as indigestion, heartburn and bloating initially. But actually, over time, we know that it may also affect the bowel. If food isn’t properly broken down in the stomach this can create problems further along. If the gut isn’t happy, bloating isn’t uncommon.
We also know that stress can also have a more direct effect on the gut – especially in cases of IBS. This means altered bowel movements and bloating can often become apparent quite quickly if stress is heightened. Then, not to forget that chronic stress is thought to contribute to weight gain around the middle which will only add to those bloating woes.
So, aim to manage the stress in your life – relaxation techniques including stretching and breathing exercises, meditation and even relaxing with a good book and some music can have some surprising effects. If stress is significant, it may be time to talk to your doctor.
We know that exercise can help with bloating for a number of reasons so it might be time to try and move a little more. We literally do just mean a little more! Even small changes in your activity levels can make a big difference for the following reasons:
- Helps to reduce stress – Exercise helps to release feel-good hormone like chemicals called endorphins which can help to lift our mood and relieve stress. Taking part in regular, gentle exercise – one of which you enjoy of course, could certainly have a positive impact.
- Helps to support sleep – Exercise can not only help support your digestive system and mood but it can also have a positive impact on your sleep too. During sleep your body is in ‘rest and digest’ mode which means it’s your digestive system’s time to flourish. We also know that sleep deprivation can cause chaos with blood sugar levels which can also give rise bloating, so best to get enough shut eye to help keep everything ticking over nicely instead!