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Family gatherings, friend’s celebrations, and company parties can be a blast. But they can also be a recipe for digestive disaster. With the abundance of delicious foods, sugary treats, and more dehydrating beverages consumed than water, your belly might be churning with a feeling of gassy horror.
As your pant’s grip tighter around your stomach, you unbutton the button and untuck your shirt.
You think to yourself, “Why didn’t I wear that loose dress?”
Praying that no one sees your unbuttoned pants, you get up to try and walk off the bloated, gassy feeling.
You get engaged in a delightful conversation, but all you can do is smile with discomfort as your stomach churns and a bubble of uncomfortable pressure forms.
You just want it to go away but you realize that this happens so often. Not just at parties but in everyday life like after your favorite meals or while you are at work.
Bloating and gas are two of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms. It is not totally understood as to why they occur but there are some factors that play a large role in how much they present themselves. According to a research article in the Journal Of Neurogastroenterology And Motility, it says:
“Bloating is usually associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders or organic diseases, but it may also appear alone. The pathophysiology of bloating remains ambiguous, although some evidences support the potential mechanisms, including gut hypersensitivity, impaired gas handling, altered gut microbiota, and abnormal abdominal-phrenic reflexes.”
Even though there seems to be a multitude of reasons that bloating occurs, a large part is related directly to our digestion and our gut health. Hippocrates, coined as the father of modern medicine, says, “All disease begins in the gut.” And, I would say that that includes bloating and gassiness.
Let It Rip
The reality is that we just want flat bellies. Let’s be real —the average person is not going around saying “Hey, that is not good for my gut health.” But, the average person is more likely to say that she wants to fit into her skinny jeans without having to button them while laying down. The average person is also more likely to say that unexpected explosions of gas is super embarrassing!
Here are 5 of my favorite tips to not only gain a flatter belly, but to also take care of your gut health and digestion:
Slow Down Your Eating
In a world of never-ending to-do lists and obligations, it can feel like we are constantly rushing from one thing to the next.
Often, meals are eaten in a hurry — while driving in your car, in 15 minutes before your next client walks through the door, while running the kids around to after school activities. The problem is that eating quickly usually means swallowing some air along with your food, which can contribute to that uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. It also means that you are mindless in your eating.
True digestion starts in the brain and when you are not connected to your food, all the processes required for proper digestion are not triggered.
- Put your fork down between bites.
- Think about chewing each bite. Tune into what you are eating and taste the foods and the textures. Be involved in your eating.
- Eat smaller meals if you don’t have time to eat more slowly.
- Sip, don’t gulp water during your meal.
Eat Fermented Foods
A large part of gut health is the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome. Not only does a healthy gut microbiome help with digestion of your food, but it also helps with keeping a strong immune system and central nervous system. Research suggests your gut bacteria are tied to your probability of things like diabetes, obesity, depression, and colon cancer.
Not only are fermented foods an excellent way to increase the healthy gut bacteria, but they increase the bioavailable of nutrients in your foods — meaning, your body can better absorb the nutrients from your foods. Another benefit? According to the NTA (Nutritional Therapy Association), fermented foods have also been shown to reduce phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that can wreck havoc on your gut health.
- Eat a serving of fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, or any fermented veggies most days.
- Get sneaky by putting them on salads or as a topping for your burger.
Hydrate, Without The Carbonation
Drinking water is probably the last thing you want to do when you feel like your belly is about to explode.
But, it is important to stay hydrated throughout the day. With proper hydration, your body can better transport nutrients through your digestive tract.
Ditch the sodas and other carbonated beverages. Not only can they be full of sugar, but they also will add gas to your system and increase bloating.
- If you need to dress up your bottle of water, add a few slices of lime or lemon or cucumbers. You can also add fresh fruit to mix it up.
- Carry quick electrolyte and/or mineral packs to add to your water for flavor and to help your body better absorb the water. Try Trace Minerals “Power Pak” or Nuun brands.
Go For A Walk
Movement is important to beat the bloat for two main reasons: It reduces stress and it stimulates digestion. Get off the couch because feeling bloated and sluggish is no reason to skip your workout or moving your body.
You can move gas quickly through your system with a little huffing and puffing.
- If you suffer from slow digestion, a 15 minute walk after each meal would be a great way to improve digestion.
- Turn on some loud music and dance the bloat away.
- Play tag with the kids.
- Do some yoga or light activity if walking feels like too much for you.
Be Aware Of What You Eat
This sounds so simple, but it is often quite overlooked.
You probably are already aware that sugar and a lot of fried foods can cause an upset, gassy stomach, but did you know that it goes beyond that? I like to believe that there are 3 main areas to be aware of:
- If you have any known or suspected food intolerances, that could trigger gassiness and bloating. It also can irritate the gut and cause further damage.
- Decrease the amount of sugar you consume because sugar is directly related to inflammatory problems and digestive distress. If you just took down two scoops of rocky road ice cream and thought, “Ugh! Sugar gives me gas,” you may be on to something. Some people have trouble digesting certain sugars, like lactose and fructose, or have underlying digestive imbalances from Candida or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). If you’re in one of these groups, sugar can leave you with bloating and painful gas, even hours after eating it.
- Processed foods can cause much discomfort. Processed foods not only contain allergens for many, but they also often contain high levels of sodium and refined wheat and grain products. When your intake of excess sodium is too high, your body may start to retain water. This often happens because our bodies are trying to dilute salt to maintain a balance of electrolytes. Refined wheat and grain products are quite irritating for some people, worsening if you have an allergy or if your gut health is already not strong.
- Take a serving of digestive bitters right after a meal. One to try is Urban Moonshine.
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods as often as you can.
- Consume 1 Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar to help normalize your stomach acid pH levels.
- Decrease the amount of sugar you eat daily. Also, limit the amount of artificial sweeteners you consume.
- Journal your triggers to see what might be causing you digestive distress.
As you can see, beating the bloat is not always about eliminating, rather incorporating foods and activities that will improve your mental and physical state.
Remember to love yourself first. Being self-critical can contribute to that little thing we call stress, which isn’t doing anyone any favors!
Seo, A & Kim, Nayoung & Oh, Dong. (2013). Abdominal Bloating: Pathophysiology and Treatment. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility. 19. 433-453. 10.5056/jnm.2013.19.4.433.
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