9 tips to reduce stomach bloating
Why do you get bloated and how can you prevent it?
Feeling bloated after eating a big meal isn’t uncommon, but why does it happen and how can you prevent it?
As a nutritionist, I regularly hear patients ask about abdominal bloating as it’s something we all experience at some point throughout our lives. Not sure what bloating is? The best way to describe it is that feeling of gassiness or being swollen in your stomach; it can cause discomfort and even pain.
But although the occasional bloat is normal, especially after eating rich foods, there are ways to prevent it.
Here are my biggest tips to help reduce bloating:
1. Manage your stress
Did you know that intense stress or anxiety plays a big part in how the stomach and colon operate? More and more research is being released about the link between your gut and your mental health, so it’s important to work on ways to reduce your stress levels.
It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to managing your stress, but a good place to begin is by following a guide like this five-day stress less challenge from the Black Dog Institute.
Some other simple ways to manage your stress include running a warm bath, reading a book, sipping on herbal tea or laying on your back and putting your legs up against the wall for 10-15 minutes before bed (making an ‘L-shape’ with your body). If your mental health is a concern, there are a number of free programs available. Check out this article: 6 ways to get help for mental health – without having to pay a thing!
2. Consider reducing your intake of garlic and onion
Both garlic and onion are part of a group of foods called FODMAPs, which are short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the gut. These short-chain carbohydrates occur naturally in many foods and can result in symptoms like bloating and diarrhoea. The good news is, if you do react to these foods, you don’t have to go without entirely! Try replacing white onion with the green part of a spring onion and opt for garlic-infused olive oil instead of whole garlic.
There’s a range of different recipes you can make that don’t rely on garlic and onion for a flavour kick. If you’re looking to cut-back, try this one-pan satay chicken recipe that uses spring onion instead of white onion.
Did you know that the stretching and twisting motions in yoga can help relieve distension and abdominal pain? Simple movements such as cat-cow, child’s pose and downward-facing dog can all be beneficial for digestion.
Making stretching part of your daily routine is also a great way to set you up for a more productive and energetic day. Take a look at fitness expert, Cassey Maynard’s morning stretch routine for beginners to find out more!
4. Rule out lactose intolerance
An intolerance to lactose (a natural sugar found in dairy products) can be related to a deficiency in the enzyme ‘lactase’, which helps to breakdown lactose. Those with a lactose intolerance often experience symptoms like abdominal pain, distension, gurgling noises, increased gas and loose stools. The extent of an intolerance depends on the amount of lactose consumed and the sensitivity of the individual’s gut flora. If you experience any of the above symptoms, chat to your health practitioner about further investigation and management options such as a reduced-lactose diet.
If you’re ready to remove cow’s milk from your diet, take a read of this road-test of plant-based alternatives to help you decide which milk is best for you.
5. Reduce intake of artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners can be found in chewing gum, mints, jelly, yoghurt and many products which are often labelled ‘sugar-free’ and unfortunately consumption of these foods is growing due to their low-calorie content. These sweeteners are actually quite high in FODMAPs, and have the potential to act as a laxative and cause gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort. So, instead of the artificial sweeteners, enjoy natural sweeteners such as cinnamon, fruit and small quantities of dates and honey.
6. Consider a good quality probiotic
Probiotics play a beneficial role in intestinal function as they protect against harmful bacteria that may lead to disease. These probiotics help enhance the function of the intestinal barrier, regulate bowel movements and reduce other Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms such as abdominal bloating and distention. Chat to your health practitioner about a brand and dosage that includes a strain to suit your individual needs. It’s also important to empower yourself with the knowledge of how bacteria functions within the gastrointestinal tract.
7. Slow down at meal times
It’s not only what you eat, but also how you eat that plays a huge role in the development of bloating! Eating quickly, gulping down food and forgetting to chew thoroughly can all contribute to bloating and gas. Aim to always sit down to enjoy your meal, remove distractions (such as technology) and chew thoroughly, putting your cutlery down every few mouthfuls.
8. Be mindful of excess fibre and increase intake slowly
Adequate fibre intake is essential for regular bowel movements among other health benefits, and may help to alleviate certain IBS symptoms. However, it can increase gas production and bloating if consumed in large quantities. Daily fibre intake should range between 20-35g/day. If you are new to including sources of fibre into your diet, enjoy smaller portions and gradually build up the frequency.
Fibre-rich foods include beans, lentils, chickpeas, bananas, apples, dark-coloured vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. For more information on the benefits of fibre, check out this article by Dr Sandro Demaio: Why fibre should be on your shopping list.
9. Enjoy a nature walk
Low-intensity physical activity can help those who are prone to bloating. Enjoy a nice walk around the block with your partner or friend, or pop in the earphones and listen to an uplifting podcast as you get some fresh air.
If you find that bloating becomes painful or if you have concerns about your health, it’s best to make an appointment with your GP to get personalised advice and a treatment plan.
For more healthy eating advice, check out The Check Up’s nutrition page questions.
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Founder of JSHealth, author of two best-selling books and accredited nutritionist, Jessica Sepel is passionate about taking a balanced approach when it comes to food. Jess believes we need to give up diets to overhaul our relationship with food and advocates for moderation, mindfulness at meals and healthy body image.
Check out more articles by Jess, including the delicious and healthy recipes she’s created exclusively for nib.