It‘s no fun feeling uncomfortable due to a bloated tummy. But before we go to far into this post, it’s important to note that it is normal to get a little puffed out from time to time, and it may just be a sign that you’re digesting your food. Whilst it may be annoying, it is part and parcel of a functioning body. It’s only when it is a persistent occurance that you may wish to take some steps to mitigate the problem.
Why do you get bloated in the first place?
I guess the first thing to look at is what bloating is… bloating occurs when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. It can also happen when the contents of your stomach move too slowly through the digestive system.
There’s a few reasons why you may become bloated:
Eating your food too quickly which causes you to swallow more air.
Eating higher quantities of food in one sitting than you‘re used to… yeah I’m referring to the all you can eat buffet, we’ve all been there… laying stretched out on the floor wondering why on earth it was a good idea to go back for the 100th roastie at Toby Carvery!
Eating rich foods high in fat (this includes both healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds, as well as the less healthy alternatives such as fried food, processed food and pastries) as they are digested more slowly.
Functional issues of the gut, for example a reduction in the production of stomach acid and important enzymes, which can be caused by high levels of stress.
Conditions such as irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) and coeliac disease.
Your menstrual cycle may also play a part in bloating - I certainly feel like I’ve been pumped up like gym ball a few days before I am due to start! Research suggests that changes in progesterone and estrogen levels cause water and salt retention, resulting in cells becoming ‘swollen’ with water and therefore causing that uncomfortable, bloating feeling.
So now we’ve touched on what can lead to bloating, the bit you’ve all been waiting for… how can we ease and prevent bloating? Well my lovelies, keep reading for my top 5 ways to ease that awful feeling.
My to 5 ways to ease symptoms of bloating
Slow down your eating (this goes for drinking too)
Eating or drinking too quickly increases the amount of air a person swallows, which can result in a build up of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. This means no more hurried meals or eating on the go (I’m sure there are a few of you guilty of that)… reconnect with your dinner table or take back your lunch break! Taking time out of your day to enjoy your meals can increase your awareness of how much you’re eating and increases the feeling of fullness and satisfaction, helping to prevent overeating.
By slowing down your eating it will also allow your stomach more time to start processing the food and gives it a much easier time of it. Imagine someone giving you 100 papers to mark in one hit, overwhelming right? Well that’s how your stomach feels when you hoof down a whole meal in 5 minutes and expect it to digest it!
Drink more water
I know, I know… it seems like whenever your personal trainer or health professional is providing advice on health and fitness, drinking more water always comes into it. Well maybe that’s because water is the fundamental element to the start of leading a healthier lifestyle… after all you’re body is made up of around 60% of the fine liquid (with the brain and heart made up of around 73%)!
Drinking more water instead of fizzy based drinks, reduces the amount of gas build-up in the body… goes without saying really, gas equals gas! Water can also help to rid the body of excess sodium. Don’t like the taste of water? (Does it even have a taste?) Why not add some cut up fruit or mint to give it a bit of flavour to make it more bearable and hit your minimum target of 1.5-2L a day.
Eat plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods
Eating pre and probiotic foods will help to support the building and maintaining of a healthy colony of bacteria to support the gut and aid digestion. When your body doesn’t have enough good bacteria (found in the pre and probiotic foods), bad bacteria can thrive and cause issues such as IBS, constipation, diarrhoea and bloating.
Prebiotic foods include things such as onion, garlic, leeks, bananas, asparagus, oats and apples. Probiotic foods include yogurt, miso, pickles, kefir and kimchi. If you struggle to get pre and probiotic foods into your diet, you can opt for supplements. Holland and Barret have a good range of supplements including their Gut Powered range.
Try incorporating yoga into your daily routine.
Yoga is great for relaxing the body and by relaxing your body, in particular your bowels and intestines, can help you pass wind, stretch the tummy muscles and kick-start the digestive system. Here are some yoga poses that can help you to relieve symptoms of bloating:
Lay on your back and bring your knees towards your chest (this one is also good for easing lower back pain, so could be a win win)! Hug your knees into your chest, the closer you can get, the better.
This pose is good for relieving pain from bloating by applying pressure to the lower part of the abdomen. To find this pose, kneel on the floor with your hips resting on your heels. Bend at the waist and reach your arms forward.
Standing forward fold
This is a simple pose that helps to relieve bloating by warming up the tummy and promoting circulation. Simply stand upright, take a deep breath in and as you exhale, bend forward at the hips.
Reduce your stress levels
Studies show that there is a relationship between your gut and your brain. Ever been worried about something and as a result you feel like you have a dicky tummy? Or on the flip side, excited about something and experience the feeling of ‘butterflies’ or an excited tummy? That’s because evidence is showing that the gut and the brain communicate with one another via a number of systems, such as hormonal and neural. High levels of emotional stress can stimulate a change in the neural systems which play a role in digestion.
There are a few ways to relieve stress, for example, meditation, listening to music, reading a book and exercising - you can take advantage of my free 7-day trial to gain access to home workouts, stretches and more.
Read my earlier blog post ‘what stress is doing to your body and how to reduce it…’ for more ways to reduce stress.