By Debra Soufleris, B.S., DTR
Belly bloat happens to all of us from time to time. One day you wake up to a nice flat tummy and the next day it looks like you swallowed a basketball. So, what gives?
Belly bloat is actually very common and happens for many reasons. One of the most common reasons is the build-up of gas in the abdomen, causing the tummy to distend and look much bigger. For some people, it can also cause pain and discomfort. One thing’s for sure, nobody likes it when you can’t button your skinny jeans or put on that little black dress. Instead of calling it a night and resorting to sweatpants and Netflix, follow these simple tips to stop bloating in its tracks.
Most of the time, it’s caused by the foods we eat and our hectic fast-paced lifestyles. Overdoing it on high fiber beans, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, or consuming too many artificial sweeteners when your body isn’t used to it can be the issues.
In some cases, it can be due to a food sensitivity or GI condition. Common culprits include dairy or gluten; perhaps you consumed more than your body could handle. Recognizing your own tolerances is critical, so listen to your body.
Other, lesser-known reasons can be gum chewing, eating too quickly, drinking carbonated beverages, or drinking from a straw, all of which creates excess gas in the tummy. Even a lack of sleep can disrupt hormone production, which affects our digestive enzymes. Knowing your triggers is an important first step in eliminating the dreaded belly bloat.
Certain foods and spices are excellent for getting rid of bloating quickly. Things like lemon water, cayenne pepper, ginger, peppermint, turmeric, rosemary, pineapple, coconut water, green tea, dandelion tea, apple cider vinegar, asparagus, cucumber, kiwi, fennel, parsley, and papaya—just to name a few.
These foods have certain properties that can help soothe the digestive tract, so you experience better digestion and less inflammation. Many of these foods are high in potassium and water content and contain important digestive enzymes that help break down and digest food particles so they don’t trap gases and cause bloat. Add them to a smoothie, sip them as a tea, or toss them in a salad.
Most foods that come in a package—think processed foods— contain a fair amount of sodium. Salty foods can cause dehydration, which contributes to bloating. Ever notice your water retention getting out of hand after eating a salty fast food meal? Chinese take-out is notorious for this, but so are many other foods. Cured meats, canned foods, processed snacks, many condiments like soy sauce, and even bread fall into this category.
It’s always best to cook at home so you are in control of the ingredients that go into your meals. Cooking with fresh herbs and spices is a great way to reduce salt—and still, add plenty of flavor. If you’re at a restaurant, ask for the condiments and sauces on the side, and just use a small amount. You can also ask the waiter for no salt to be added to your dish, and then add a pinch on your own.
I guarantee it will be much less than the cook would have added. Don’t worry about being embarrassed or sounding too demanding. Most restaurants are used to this since so many of us are more mindful about what we eat. Let’s not forget: these restaurants need you to be a repeat customer, so making you happy is their goal.
Foods that are high in potassium, help balance out any excess sodium and help ease bloat due to water retention. Some good sources of potassium include avocado, banana, sweet potato, pumpkin, tomato, any leafy green, orange, and cantaloupe.
Here’s an easy stomach bloat remedy smoothie recipe to help you banish your bloat:
Fast-Acting De-Bloating Tropical Smoothie
½ cup coconut water
¼ cup kiwi, diced
¼ cup pineapple, diced
¼ cup papaya, diced
Handful of spinach
Handful of ice
Add ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper to taste