15 Ways to Prevent or Alleviate Bloating
Occasional bloating and digestive discomfort is normal, and happens to all of us from time to time, as a result of excess gas production. It can be painful, causing a "stuffed" feeling and make your stomach look larger. Food allergies and intolerances are common causes of bloating with lactose, fructose, eggs, wheat, and gluten among the most common culprits, and should be discussed with a doctor. But, if you have ruled out allergies and intolerances, and still experience occasional bloating, here are a few tips to help you alleviate and possibly even prevent uncomfortable bloating.
Enjoy a cup of peppermint tea
Not only does peppermint tea taste great and bring on a feeling of calm and relaxation, but peppermint also relaxes the gut, which may relieve intestinal spasms as well as bloating and discomfort. Next time you feel uncomfortable and bloated after a large meal, try enjoying a cup of peppermint tea to ease discomfort. Also, taking peppermint oil capsules or using peppermint oil (diluted with a carrier oil) right on the stomach, may also alleviate abdominal pain and bloating.
Limit carbonated drinks
The fizz in carbonated drinks (yes, even just sparkling water) can cause gas to get trapped in your stomach and cause bloating. Try water or teas with natural flavours instead (lemon, lime, cucumber, etc.).
Limit or avoid boxed nut milks
Boxed nut milks are typically made with numerous gums, emulsifiers, thickeners, and poor-quality oils that are very hard on the gut and can easily cause digestive distress and aggravate intestinal problems. Instead, try making your own, or purchasing cleaner alternatives made only with nuts and water (Elmhurst is a great brand available at Shoppers, Whole Foods, naturamarket.ca).
Avoid "sugar-free" foods
The sugar alcohols in artificially sweetened foods and drinks can cause bloating because they are not completely absorbed in the digestive system. This can cause fermentation to occur in the intestines resulting in gas production that can cause digestive discomfort. So, read food labels and ingredient lists and keep an eye out for sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, etc.
Cook your vegetables
Rather than eating your vegetables raw, try lightly steaming, sautéing, or roasting them, which will break down some of the harder to digest fibres making them easier on the digestive system. Alternatively, you may need to limit or eliminate some of the hardest to digest vegetables such as onions, broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts if cooking them does not provide relief from bloating.
Pre-soak beans and lentils in water
Soaking beans and lentils for 2 to 3 hours (or ideally, overnight) before cooking and consuming them makes them easier to digest, and less likely to cause bloating. Soaking will release some of the beans' difficult to digest phytic acid, which will be discarded when you drain them to prepare for cooking. Soaking will also help beans and lentils cook quicker.
Don't eat foods that give you gas
If there are certain foods that you know will end up giving you gas or cause bloating, try limiting those foods or avoiding them all together. Some high-fibre foods including beans, lentils, and some whole grains, as well as some fatty foods, can all cause bloating as they slow down digestion.
Reduce salt intake
Not all bloating is a result of gas. Too much sodium can cause your body to retain water, which can result in a swollen, bloated feeling. So, try to stick to a low-sodium diet, staying away from high-salt foods, and be mindful of how much salt you are adding to your meals.
Eat smaller meals more often
Instead of consuming three large meals per day, try eating smaller meals more often. This can help avoid the bloated feeling that often follows large meals, as well as help control blood sugar, manage hunger, and provide nutrients to the body throughout the day.
Try some anti-bloat foods
Incorporating certain foods into your diet can help reduce and even prevent bloating and gas. Some examples of such foods include: celery (contains a compound that acts like a diuretic which will helps with water retention and bloating); ginger (anti-inflammatory, and contains the digestive enzyme zingibain, which helps break down protein); turmeric (calms inflammation); yogurt or kefir (great source of probiotics promoting gut health); papaya (contains the enzyme papain which aids digestion and the breakdown of protein); pineapple (contains bromelain, a digestion-promoting enzyme); and, cucumbers (contain quercetin, which can help reduce inflammation in the digestive system).
Don’t eat too fast and chew thoroughly
Rushing through your meal and not chewing your food thoroughly can lead to swallowing too much air, which can result in bloating. If you do not chew your food properly, your digestive system won't be able to break it down, and undigested food takes up more space in your stomach resulting in bloating. So, sit down, relax, take your time, turn off distractions, and enjoy your meal.
Drink plenty of water
You should aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, to promote efficient digestion. However, for some people, drinking at meal times might be contributing to bloating and digestive discomfort. So, instead, try to drink a glass of water 30 to 60 minutes before a meal, or 60 minutes after a meal to aid digestion and allow your body to absorb the nutrients from your meal without being diluted by water.
Include fermented foods and take probiotics
A significant contributor to bloating can be the gas produced by the bacteria in the intestines. A good balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut can help to prevent excess gas production and improve digestion. Probiotic fermented foods to add to your diet to support beneficial bacteria and gut health include yogurt, kefir, tempeh, miso, kombucha, and sauerkraut, to name a few. As well, taking a probiotic supplement may help improve the bacterial environment in your gut, which in turn may help reduce bloating and gas production. As everyone's gut bacteria is different, the type and quantity of probiotic supplement taken should be determined in consultation with a doctor.
Try taking digestive enzyme supplements
Taking digestive enzymes can help your body break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, which will help avoid bloating and gas, and they are especially useful if you have an enzyme deficiency (diagnosed by a doctor who can then determine the type and quantity of digestive enzyme required). The best time to take digestive enzymes is about 30 minutes before a meal that typically causes you to feel bloated, or right as you start eating.
Move your body
Exercise can assist with releasing trapped gas and easing bloating. Try going for a walk following meals to ease or avoid bloating. Gas pain can also be reduced by jumping rope or going for a light jog. Certain yoga poses including child’s pose, happy baby pose, cat-cow, torso twists, and squats can also help relieve gas and reduce bloating quickly.