If you find that you’re consistently filled with hot air after eating, you may want to make a change in your diet habits, which is the primary approach3 to dealing with an intermittent fluffy belly. Obviously, avoid the foods that you are sensitive to. Try doing so in conjunction with other strategies to reduce bloating for the best outcome.
EAT SMALLER MEALS
Large portion sizes are sure to make you feel stuffed. Eating less at a time not only lets your waistband fit after your meal, the smaller volumes are better digested. Add a healthy snack between meals to keep your energy levels up and prevent hunger.
WATCH THE FAT
Since high-fat meals stay in your gut longer and can make you feel uncomfortably full, pare down on the heavy loads such as cheese, regular ground beef, butter, and fried foods. Keep smaller servings of healthy plant fats that contribute to good digestion like olive oil and avocado.
Take your time eating to prevent getting air trapped in your system. Chewing thoroughly also gives your body a better opportunity to digest heavy or fibrous foods. Plus, by eating more slowly you’re apt to consume less before you feel satisfied. Try chewing each mouthful into the consistency of applesauce before swallowing and putting your fork down between bites.
PASS ON THE GUM
Both the extra chewing/swallowing involved and the sorbitol content of sugar-free gum are belly bloat offenders. Instead, consider a mint spray to freshen breath.
Banish salt-induced bloat by limiting high sodium foods like frozen foods, processed/packaged foods, condiments, and restaurant items. For best water balance, you also need to counteract the salt by getting plenty of potassium — avocado, winter squash, bananas, tomatoes, and potatoes are good sources.
DRINK MORE WATER
It may seem counterintuitive, but one way to prevent water retention is by drinking more fluids and eating water-filled foods. Getting enough good old H20 helps flush out sodium, keeps cells hydrated and promotes proper digestion. Watermelon and cucumbers are not only watery, they contain anti-inflammatory compounds to fight swelling.
Managing stress with bio-feedback (paying direct careful attention to your body) has proven useful in reducing abdominal distention.10 Chamomile tea is known to help ease the feelings of anxiety. Try whatever stress reduction strategy works for you!
Leave out the milk, yogurt, cream, and cheese if these milk products are to blame for your bloat. Not sure? Try a week without them and see if you feel better-eating dairy-free. Be sure to get other sources of calcium and vitamin D, though.
This belly bloating sugar alcohol is used as a substitute in sugar-free foods and is found naturally in fruits. As an alternative to artificial sweeteners, reach for sugar-free food sweetened with stevia extract.
GO EASY ON FRUIT
Apples, peaches, and pears, oh my! Between the fructose and sorbitol content, raw fruits may need to be reduced. Try smaller servings or choose less gas-forming produce such as strawberries, bananas and mandarins/clementines.
Taking FODMAPs out of the diet often significantly improves GI symptoms4. Restricting sugars can reduce bloating5, allowing the gut to rest and repair. If you can’t pin bloat on other causes, try eliminating sources of these natural sugar derivatives for a while and adding them back in, one item per week, to find which you tolerate. In addition to foods mentioned previously, high FODMAP sources include artichokes, cashews, honey, high fructose corn syrup, ice cream, mushrooms, pistachios and products made from wheat, barley and rye.
…Or at least spread it out during the day. High fiber foods like beans and cruciferous vegetables (like kale and broccoli) contribute to gas production. Since they are so chock-full of nutrients it’s best to include them, but in smaller amounts and well-cooked to ease digestion. Choose less gas-forming produce like baked potatoes, carrots, and zucchini.
By getting your gut bacteria healthy, the use of probiotics may reduce bloating, though the type and dose vary widely so it may take trial and error to find a formulation to suityou.2 In a recent study, Bifidobacterium bifulum or Lactobacillus plantarum lead to bloating relief in some patients with irritable bowel syndrome,3 a condition that includes several GI issues.
Physical activity can stimulate the smooth muscles that move gas through your body. Exercise may improve intestinal gas clearance and reduce symptoms of bloating.2 Researchers in Spain found that mild physical activity and upright position speed gas transit and reduce bloating and abdominal distention.3 Additionally, Yoga, with its stretches and twists, may be helpful for digestion.
CONSUME NATURAL ENZYMES
Certain fruits help to banish bloat! Papayas and pineapple contain enzymes (papain and bromelain, respectively), which help break down proteins in your GI tract and ease digestion. Combine a little of these with higher protein meals; for example, pineapple rings with ham, or papaya salsa with salmon, chicken or beef.
SIP ON TEA
Strong teas help stimulate your large intestines to get rid of waste. Debloating teas made with spices like cinnamon and ginger also help clear out your system. Mint tea can help soothe your stomach and chamomile tea calms tension. Plus, by drinking tea you get added hydration that your body needs to fight water retention.
ADD NATURAL REMEDIES
Some plants are your friends when it comes to busting a bubble belly. Herbs that soothe the digestive tract (called carminatives) include allspice, anise, basil, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, ginger, lemon, nutmeg, peppermint, sage, and thyme. Parsley, peppers, red leaf lettuce, olive oil, and sage have an anti-inflammatory action to fight belly bloat. In addition, fennel seeds help you flush out excess water and may quiet digestive issues.
ASK A PHARMACIST
Sometimes diet and exercise are not enough to keep you from feeling months pregnant due to gas. There are several types of prescription medications that gastroenterologists use for patients with bloating.2 In addition, various over-the-counter supplements (usually taken before meals) can help prevent uncomfortable gas before it starts.
If you experience pain, moderate to severe bloat on a regular basis, or with other symptoms, it may be caused by an underlying condition and you should seek medical attention.
*Stomach distention: Built-up pressure in the stomach. Swallowing air, carbonated beverages and the breakdown of certain foods such as melon, apples, onion, cucumber and bell peppers cause more air to be trapped in the stomach. Belching and burping release this excess air. Some foods help you to burp more easily. Peppermint is one such stomach soother, as is oregano oil and cinnamon. Other suggestions are to ‘fight fire with fire’ by drinking carbonated water to force a burp and to massage the area just below your ribs in a gentle upward motion.
- Understanding Gastrointestinal Distress: A Framework for Clinical Practice. B Spiegel et al. American Journal of Gastroenterology, March 2011. 106(3): 380–385.
- Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating: Hope, Hype, or Hot Air? BE Lacy, SL Gabbard and MD Crowell. Gastroenterology & Hepatology, November 2011. 7(11): 729-739.
- Bloating and Functional Gastro-intestinal Disorders: Where are we and where are we going? P. Iovino, et al. World Journal of Gastroenterology, October 2014. 21; 20(39): 14407-14419.
- The FODMAPs Approach — Minimize Consumption of Fermentable Carbs to Manage Functional Gut Disorder Symptoms. Kate Scarlata, RD, LDN. Today’s Dietitian, August 2010. 12(8): 30
- Small intestine bacterial overgrowth: clinical strategies. A Siebecker. September 17, 2011. Webinar
- Digestive tolerance and postprandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses after consumption of dairy desserts containing maltitol and fructo-oligosaccharides in adults. F Respondek, et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014. 68: 575-580.
- Do fluctuations in ovarian hormones affect gastrointestinal symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome?Heitkemper MM and Chang L. Gender Medicine. 2009;6 Suppl 2:152-167.
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms Before and During Menses in Healthy Women. MT Bernstein, et al. BioMed Central, Women’s Health, 2014. 14:14.