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Are you tired of walking around feeling bloated? You feel bloated in your belly when air or gas is trapped in your gastrointestinal tract. It can be uncomfortable, frustrating, and even embarrassing to experience on a daily basis. Sometimes bloating can be an internal feeling of feeling full in the lower abdomen while other times there is physical distension that is visible in the lower abdomen.
Small amounts of bloating and gas on an occasional basis are considered to be a normal part of digestion. If you experience symptoms of bloating on a regular basis, however, it is important to pay attention to the signs that your body is giving you. Imbalances in digestion are great reminders to check in with your body and to make sure that you are eating foods that support your health.
Causes of Bloating
Getting to the root cause of bloating can be confusing because there are many different causes of bloating. Most bloating is caused by the inability to break down certain types of food molecules like proteins and carbohydrates, or because of an imbalance of gut flora. Your gut bacteria constantly interacts with the food that you eat. Sometimes the interaction between certain foods and your gut bacteria can have an off-gassing effect, which can create gas and bloating.
Other contributors to bloating can include constipation, dehydration, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), candida (a type of fungus) overgrowth, food allergies, food sensitivities, and digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Here are seven ways to overcome belly bloating.
1. Take 3 Deep Breaths Before You Eat
Taking three deep belly breaths before you eat will help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which supports your body in shifting into optimal digestion mode. When you are in the rest-and-digest mode, your body is able to break down your food more effectively. If you are in fight-or-flight or stress mode, your digestive capacity decreases, making it harder to break down your food.
2. Slow Down Your Meals; Chew Your Food
Eating too quickly can contribute to significant bloating. Instead, eat slowly, taking time to chew your food so that your stomach does not have to work so hard to break it down. When your digestion is forced to overwork, it does not break down food as efficiently, which can contribute to bloating.
3. Avoid Overeating
Pay attention to your hunger levels before you eat and your fullness levels throughout your meal. If your stomach has too much food to digest at one time, you may experience bloating and discomfort along with belly distension.
4. Use Herbs, Spices, and Teas
Ginger, turmeric, and fennel have been used in ancient cultures for thousands of years to soothe digestive issues. You can use these herbs when cooking or drink them as a tea. Based on traditional Persian medicine, drinking ginger or fennel tea may help relieve bloating symptoms. While there are no medical studies that prove this, some people have found aloe vera juice to be soothing for the digestive tract.
5. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated will help to keep your bowel movements regular. Eliminating on a daily basis will help to decrease the chances of bloating. Avoid drinking water with your meals because it can make it harder to digest your food effectively, which can contribute to bloating.
6. Use Probiotics
Eating probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir will help to feed the good gut bacteria in your gut that support optimal digestion. You can also take a multi-strain probiotic supplement. By feeding the good gut bacteria, you are helping to balance your gut microbiome so that there are more good gut bacteria than bad gut bacteria.
7. Eat Enough Fiber
Keeping your fiber intake at the FDA-recommended 25 grams per day for adults will help with regular bowel movements, which in turn will help with bloating. Too much or too little fiber can contribute to bloating. If you are eating a whole-foods diet that includes vegetables and fruit, you should be able to get 25 grams of fiber in easily.
There are some foods that tend to be harder to digest than others. Start to pay attention to whether the following foods lead to bloating. Keep in mind that you might not notice the reaction immediately.
- Gluten-containing foods: Wheat, barley, rye, and oats; the most common places that you’ll find gluten are breads, pasta, crackers, pastries, cereal, and soy sauce
- Sugar: Can feed yeast in the gut and contribute to candida overgrowth
- Dairy: Milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, ice cream
- Cruciferous vegetables: Kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli (cooking these vegetables can help make them easier to digest)
- Beans/legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans, red, beans, white beans, etc.)
- Carbonated beverages
- Chewing gum
8. Keep a Food Log
Keep a food log and write down any symptoms that you have throughout the day. This can help you to track and identify the foods that might be contributing to your bloating.
Your food journal would look something like this:
What You Ate
Toast and peanut butter
Coffee with creamer
Using this food log is a great way to get in touch with how your body responds to certain foods. Due to bio-individuality (everybody’s body is different), there is no single way to approach bloating. Each person has a unique gut microbiome and responds to different foods differently. The food log helps you start customizing your approach to decrease your bloating symptoms
As you’re working with these seven tips, remember to also take note of other lifestyle factors that can influence digestion, including your stress levels, sleep habits, and exercise.
Your body wants to be healthy and well. Listen to what it is telling you about your digestive system and follow its lead in finding your sweet spot to avoid belly bloat.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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