Today’s topic is the dreaded tummy bloat… I’m not talking about the puffiness we feel around our periods, or when our tummy grows throughout the day; that’s normal woman stuff! I’m talking about chronic bloating, and bloating after eating. Bloating is a symptom of digestive distress and indicates an imbalance in the gut. Today we’ll go over what happens inside when we bloat, what causes it, and ways to beat it!
Bloating is built-up gas in the digestive system. There are two kinds of gas that affects us; gas in the stomach, and gas in the large intestine (colon). Gas in the stomach comes from swallowing too much air when eating or drinking and is released when we burp. It is the built-up gas in the large intestine that causes the bloating with uncomfortable symptoms like gas, an enlarged abdomen, and tightness/pressure. This gas forms when bacteria ferment carbohydrates (sugar, fiber, and some starches) that aren’t digested in the small intestine. There are also medical conditions that cause intestinal gas such as: chronic intestinal diseases (IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s), SIBO, and food intolerances.
How to BEAT IT
Identify and eliminate inflammatory/reactive foods
Start becoming aware of how you feel after you eat. Is there a specific time of day/meal that you always get bloated after? What foods are you consuming in that meal? The most common foods that can trigger an inflammatory reaction like bloating are refined sugar, dairy, and gluten. If you’re not eating those things already, try and isolate whatever food you think is causing your bloat. Then, consume it on it’s own and see what happens. PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL IF YOU HAVE ALLERGIES. I cannot speak to allergies or serious food intolerances as I am NOT a doctor! This is just my advice based on my own personal experience and research! Other common foods that can cause a bloating reaction are eggs, nuts, and legumes, however, too much of ANYTHING can make you bloat a bit.
Be aware of your fiber intake
I applaud you all for eating fruits and veggies! Eating the rainbow is the best way to nourish your body with antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Eating colors really does make you feel brighter! However, too much fiber can give you some belly bloat and gas. If you are new to eating lots of fruits and veggies, your body will take sometime to adjust to the fiber it so desperately needed, but it will settle. I found that when I was eating a strictly plant-based, diet, I was ALWAYS bloated and uncomfortable. But when I started incorporating more healthy fats and animal protein into my diet, it subsided! I do notice that certain veggies like cauliflower and peppers give me some bloating and sometimes citrus does as well! I still eat these foods sometimes because I enjoy them. It’s just important to be aware of what foods don’t react so well with you!
Slow down and breathe
“Slow down” was a phrase I heard at almost every meal growing up. I would vacuum my food into my mouth. I always LOVED to eat! It never used to bother me until I got a little older. My old ways as a human food vacuum would always result in me feeling super bloated. Part of that is because when we eat very quickly, we swallow lots of air. Also, eating quickly doesn’t give the digestive enzymes in our saliva and gut a chance to do their jobs. When we keep shoveling food in, they get overwhelmed, causing gas, bloating, and some tummy bubbles. Slow down and SAVOR your food. I know it’s hard. I have to make a conscious effort to chill out every time I eat. Check out my post on mindful eating for a deeper understanding of the importance of how we eat.
Stress or digest
This advice comes from some research, but mainly from personal experience. Stress is the major trigger to impaired digestion for me. I used to always be stressed about food. I did not have a healthy relationship with food or a healthy mind-set, and every meal would bring so much pressure to my belly even though I was eating really clean! Part of this is because I was probably eating too fast, but the hormones that get released when we are stressed manifest in our bodies in different ways. I heard this in a lecture a while ago, and the speaker said, “We can either stress OR digest, we cannot do both.” The gut is the body’s second brain. Make meal times a self-care practice.
A happy, healthy gut microbiome
Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria and is often referred to as the second brain. A healthy gut is essential to our well-being. Through eating fermented foods daily like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, miso, kombucha, whole-milk grass fed yogurt, and tempeh, you feed your gut bacteria food to help them keep not just your gut health, but overall health in balance. Try starting with just 1 tbs a day, and see how much your tum will love you! I am also a big advocate for taking a daily probiotic.
These are some of the basics of the common bloat. I know a lot of us gals use the term “bloated” to describe our belly being full after we eat, but this is normal! Your stomach should expand a bit when you eat. If you have chronic bloating, I would recommend keeping note of exactly when your symptoms arise. Notice if it always happens after eating a certain type of food and talk to a Gastroenterologist about getting tested for a food allergy or intolerance. Most bloating can be cured through diet and lifestyle shifts, but consult your doctor if you have had these symptoms over an extended period of time and changes in diet aren’t working. Don’t let bloating get you down. I know it can be pretty annoying sometimes, but your body is just trying to send you a message that it needs some help. Awareness is half the battle! Just beginning to take notice of what is going on in your body and how you feel will propel you to your most vibrant health. <3