As a holistic nutritionist, I cannot count how many women I have crossed paths with who suffer from chronic bloating. I have personally dealt with bloating for years, so severely, that it became the “norm” for me. Although some bloating is totally normal, chronic severe bloating is not. Our bodies bloat for certain reasons and getting behind the root cause is the only way to eliminate this uncomfortable condition. We all bloat for different reasons, however there are a few very common reasons as to why this happens. Let’s get the facts out of the way and then I’ll discuss some tips to beat the bloat!
What is causing my bloating?
- Food intolerances/allergies: Food allergies are actually not as common as one may think. Intolerances on the other hand, can be. And these intolerances can be from common healthy foods you would not be thinking twice about. Enter… cruciferous vegetables/ A lot of people have trouble digesting certain vegetables (especially broccoli, garlic, etc). Others may have trouble digesting dairy. Symptoms really are individualized to the person. However, this can lead to excess gas production which causes that painful “stuffed” feeling.
- Impaired digestion – This can mean a number of things. Most people aren’t aware of the importance of chewing your food properly. When we consume food too fast, we are swallowing air which is contributing to the buildup of gas in our intestines. This goes for eating too much as well. I know when I started my health journey I would pile a HUGE salad with grilled vegetables, protein, healthy fats – a “healthy” choice – however, I would eat the ENTIRE salad, even if I were satiated half-way through it. Too much food, even if they are healthy choices, is still hard on your digestive system all at once and can hinder digestion.
- Underlying health issue – Some people suffer from unknown conditions such as IBS. This is a more serious case that will need medical attention from a practitioner.
- Too many carbs – Excess carbohydrates can also be responsible for water retention. I’m not talking healthy carbs as in sweet potatoes, root vegetables, and whole grains – I’m talking refined carbohydrates (white bread, sugary bakery items, candy, soda). Simple carbs enter our bloodstream almost instantly.
So what are some tips to beat the bloat?
Okay, now that the science-y stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about some tactics you can use to tackle this uncomfortable condition once and for all. NOTE: This takes trial and error and there is not a “one size fits all” approach for everyone. You have to play around with your diet and techniques to find what works for YOU.
What has worked best for me thus far, is being extremely mindful of my eating habits. I make sure I do’t dish myself a massive portion of food. I’ll eat util i’m satisfied, but I don’t force myself to finish what is on my plate if I’ve reached satiety. Along with this, CHEW YOUR FOOD. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Some people may think they’re intolerant to vegetables, when in reality, they just don’t chew them enough. When we chew our food thoroughly, it breaks it down and our digestive systems don’t have to work as hard to do it. This has made a massive difference in my bloating. I will sit down without distraction, chew the CRAP out of it, eat slowly, and put my fork down between bites.
Drink WATER – This may seem counterintuitive when you’re bloated. However, the reason you may be retaining water can be due to dehydration or too much salt. Drinking water helps flush out water retention and detoxifies your body. I tell clients to aim to drink at least half of their body weight in ounces of water per day. No.. not coffee or tea. Straight up water. You can add tea’s and such in as well, but you must be consuming straight up H2O if you want to keep bloating at bay.
You may need to do an elimination diet. This means cutting out foods for 2-4 weeks and then slowly reintroducing them back in. This can be time-consuming but very effective. Usually, people will cut out the most common food allergies – soy, wheat, corn, dairy, sugar, peanuts & tree nuts, eggs, and fish. After the initial 2-4 weeks, you can reintroduce one food back into your diet at a time, keeping a journal as you do so to note any symptoms (if any) and how you feel. This is a great tactic at highlighting any sensitivities you may have.
Fasting – I know this one is controversial and may not work for everyone. I GET THAT. I don’t recommend this for anyone with serious health conditions, such as diabetes, or for those who have suffered through disordered eating. However, if you have the means to try intermittent fasting, I would give it a shot to see if you can reap any of it’s benefits. The benefits of giving your digestive system a break seem endless. Aim for a 12-16 hour fasting window. You do not have to do this everyday. Even a few times a week could be beneficial. Stop eating at 7pm and break your fast at 7am.
Exercise – MOVE YOUR BODY. I know for some, exercise can actually cause bloating. So if this is the case for you, ignore this tip as this is natural for some. However, moving our bodies helps flush out water retention and can get things moving properly in our GI tract. Walking, slight jogging, HIIT – they are all beneficial. I know that for me personally, when I’m experiencing chronic bloating for days on end, a good HIIT session will usually help do the trick for me in eliminating some of the bloat. I’ve also noticed that walking after my meals helps me digest and prevent bloat as well.
As I mentioned previously, take time to find what works for you! I know it can be frustrating, but it is worth the time! If you suffer from chronic bloat, gas, constipation, etc. and symptoms become severe, I highly recommend following up with your health care provider as this can be signs of something more serious.