Perhaps you’re like me. If so, you have two sets of clothes: ones you wear when you are bloated and ones that are comfortable when you are not. That is, pants, skirts, and dresses you can tolerate when you are feeling bigger than a house and those that look and feel good when your stomach is back to normal.
Or maybe this has happened to you once too often: you are enjoying dinner out somewhere and you suddenly want to unbutton your pants because your stomach feels like it’s about to burst? Time for a quick trip to the ladies room!
Help! What’s happening?
Why does everything I eat make me feel bloated and give me indigestion?
Bloating, indigestion, belching, heartburn, flatulence, constipation, acid reflux—all of these digestive issues have played havoc with my life. Based on the number of women who write to me asking how they can beat bloating and other digestion problems, I know I am not alone. As a nutritionist, I am both fascinated and sometimes perplexed by these challenges, and I am driven to find answers, both for myself and for all of you!
That’s what this blog is about, and my hope is to provide you with enough tools so you can take a big step toward ending these digestive problems. So let’s keep those pants and skirts buttoned up and find out how to prevent and beat and treat bloating and other digestive issues naturally.
Sometimes I feel so bloated I imagine I could float up about the room—except I also feel so weighed down by the feeling at the same time! What’s causing this problem? Bloating can be caused by or triggered by a wide variety of situations:
Eating foods to which you are allergic or intolerant—and you may not even know which ones those are if you have never been tested! For example, an intolerance to lactose (found in dairy products) is a common cause of bloating. I believe there are five foods you should significantly reduce or avoid in your diet that will help eliminate bloating: soy, caffeine, gluten, corn, and dairy. I talk about these five foods and some great substitutes for each of them in my blog, “These 5 Foods Hurt Me, Are They Hurting You?”
Eating processed foods, which contain an endless number of synthetic ingredients—artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, artificial sweeteners--that can cause bloating
Eating certain foods, especially cruciferous vegetables (e.g., Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and beans. However, the good news is there are ways to reduce this symptom when preparing these healthy foods so you don’t need to eliminate them from your diet.
Insufficient levels of digestive enzymes. There’s a special relationship between stomach acid and digestive enzymes that needs to occur for good digestion to take place—and to avoid bloating! You need enough stomach acid to produce the necessary digestive enzymes that break down large molecules into smaller ones so they are easier for your body to absorb.
Zinc deficiency—bet this cause of bloating is new to you! I always knew zinc is an important mineral for health, but its role in digestion and bloating is important to understand if you want to beat bloating.
Presence of certain medical conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn, and indigestion. Bloating also can be a symptom of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, celiac disease, and small bowel bacterial overgrowth.
Use of certain medications, such as antibiotics, birth control pills, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen, aspirin), and steroids. If you are using any of these medications, whether they are prescription or over the counter, you should talk to your healthcare provider about some possible alternatives.
Beating and treating bloating naturally
Okay, now that you know the main reasons why you’re experiencing bloating, let’s talk about how to beat and treat it. Often merely changing your eating and nutrition habits are enough to reduce or nearly completely eliminate bloating from your life. Why do I say “nearly completely eliminate”?
Because gas is natural byproduct of the digestive process. Everyone produces gas; in fact, 1 to 3 pints daily! But you can effectively reduce it so you will not look or feel bloated!
Here are some suggestions for beating and treating bloating, starting right now!
Reduce or eliminate the 5 foods associated with food intolerance. I highly recommend you adopt this tip right away. Believe me, it works wonders! If you didn’t already click on the link to the explanation of these five foods and their great alternatives, do so now!
This one tip could be all you need to beat bloating!
Each of these five foods has qualities that make them difficult for your body to digest properly and/or they disrupt your digestive process.
Prepare “bloating” foods in a different way. It’s no secret that beans, lentils, and cruciferous veggies (e.g., cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts) can cause gas and bloating. That’s because they contain a lot of oligosaccharides, which are complex sugars people have great difficulty breaking down. However, you can beat bloating in beans, broccoli, and other gassy foods by following these tips:
For beans, soak them overnight and discard the soaking water. This eliminates about 80 percent of the gas-causing substances. Then cook the beans in fresh water until very soft. If you use canned beans, rinse with water and cook them extra as well. Also add some fresh ginger or cumin, because these help with digestion.
For cruciferous veggies, you can add turmeric to the cooking process to help with the gas.
Enjoying any of these gassy foods with probiotics—either in the form of fermented vegetables (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchee) or a probiotic supplement also can help with bloating.
Avoid processed foods. Many food additives are associated with digestive problems, especially mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol as well as polysorbate 80, food dyes, guar gum,, xantham gum, potassium benzoate, inulin, and modified food starch. Whenever possible choose fresh, natural, unrefined foods, and organic if they are available.
Get more digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are produced along the digestive tract (e.g., in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine), where they promote and speed up the breakdown of foods. Enzymes called proteases break down proteins into amino acids, while lipase break down fats into fatty acids and amylases break down carbs into monosaccharides (small sugars).
You can help your body get more digestive enzymes by eating more foods that contain these enzymes naturally, or by taking enzyme supplements. Foods that are high in digestive enzymes include:
Pineapple (which contains digestive enzymes called bromelain)
Papaya (contains papain)
Bananas (amylases and glucosidases)
Raw honey (contains various enzymes)
If you take a digestive enzyme supplement, choose one that contains several different enzymes for proteins, fats, and carbs so it will address all of your digestive needs.
Address a zinc deficiency. You should first find out if you have a zinc deficiency, which can be detected using a blood test. Although the recommended daily intake of zinc is 6 milligrams for women, many supplements provide up to 30 mg, which is considered to be a safe amount. If you are low in zinc, you should include more foods rich in this mineral, such as oysters, chickpeas, lentils, squash and pumpkin seeds, and cashews.
Treat medical conditions. If you think you may have a digestive disorder that is contributing to your bloating, talk to your doctor. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis so you can most effectively treat your condition. Here are just three common ones that you may be experiencing. However, you should always consult a healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms.
Indigestion. Do you know that uncomfortable gassiness, bloating, or burning sensation in your upper stomach while or after you eat? You may even experience nausea or chest pain, or your abdomen may be distended and hard. These are symptoms of indigestion which, surprisingly, is caused by abnormal functioning of digestive sensory nerves and not by what you eat. However, food can trigger the symptoms.
Heartburn. Unmanaged stress is a huge cause of low stomach acid. When you don’t have enough stomach acid to digest your food properly, you can experience a burning sensation in the center of your chest or throat. This happens when the acid in your stomach rises up into your esophagus. If you experience heartburn several times a week, you may have GERD (gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease; see “GERD”), but you can have GERD without having heartburn. Other symptoms of heartburn can be pain that is worse when you lie down or bend over, and a bitter taste in your mouth.
GERD. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive condition that affects the lower esophageal muscle ring (sphincter) located between the esophagus and stomach. It occurs when this sphincter becomes weak or does not relax correctly, which allows stomach acid or food to rise up into the esophagus and throat. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn.
Consider medication alternatives. If you believe one of your medications may be causing your bloating, talk to your doctor about taking an alternative drug. Even better, discuss whether there are natural remedies you can take in place of the medication.
Try healing teas and beverages. Several herbs and other natural foods are highly valued for their ability to help eliminate bloating and other digestive problems.
Fennel: This herb relieves bloating and stimulates digestion. It contains oils that are effective at clearing intestinal gas. To make fennel tea, crush one teaspoon of fennel seeds, steep in boiled water for 5 minutes, strain, and enjoy several times day as needed.
Ginger: The oils in the root of the ginger plant has properties that can eliminate gas and bloating. To make ginger tea, peel and slice a one-half inch of fresh ginger root, steep it in boiled water for 5 to 7 minutes, remove the ginger, and enjoy several times a day as needed. Add lemon if desired.
Chamomile and peppermint: This combination can help blow bloating away! Combine 1 Tbs dried peppermint leaves and 1 Tbs dried chamomile flowers and steep in 16 oz of boiled water for 5 to 6 minutes. Strain and enjoy several times daily as needed.
Lemon and water: Sipping on lemon juice and water is a great way to beat bloating. Lemons are a natural laxative and diuretic, and when they are added to water, they help lower the amount of salt in your body, thus reducing bloating. Start your morning with lemon and warm water and sip on it throughout the day.
Magnesium: This mineral can help reduce fluid retention and expel gas. It also eases constipation by relaxing the muscles in your intestinal tract. Add 200 milligrams of magnesium (available in powdered form) to a glass of water or take a 200-mg magnesium tablet or capsule.
Are you ready?
Okay sisters, the fight against bloating is on! Are you with me? Once you begin to make dietary and nutritional changes, you will experience results. Let us know how these tips are working for you.
Wishing you much love and wellbeing,