Stomach bloating usually comes with the feeling of a puffy and uncomfortable tummy. It can often occur after a big weekend or over the festive season after eating too much, but can also be caused by certain foods. If you regularly experience bloating you should see your GP, who’ll be able to rule out if the cause is anything serious. But in most cases a sensible diet and lifestyle, as well as a little observation, can go a long way towards addressing its root causes.
A sensible diet and lifestyle, as well as a little observation, can go a long way towards addressing the causes of bloating
Lack of fibre and constipation
A crucial component to any diet, it is recommended we have 30g of fibre a day, buy most Brits average only 20g according to the British Heart Foundation, which explains ow many os us suffer with digestive discomfort on a daly or weekly basis. Fibre helps food transit through the body and a lack of fibre causes constipation.
London Nutritionist Lily Soutter agrees: “Fibre is our gut’s best friend and the primary fuel for our good gut bacteria. Fibre rich foods include whole grains, beans and pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.”
The solution: Increase your fibre intake. Swap out white flour and pasta for healthier alternatives and include slow carbs like oats in your diet. You should aim for the daily recommend amount of 30g of fibre a day, but if you’ve been well below that for some time, reintroduce fibre slowly, or you might make your bloating worse.
Easy swap: Crisps, croissants or biscuits for high-fibre oatcakes topped with a scoop of nut butter.
Nutritionist Cassandra Barns said: “Fibre in our diet is vital for a healthy gut and helping with regular bowel movements. When it comes to grains, the less processed they are, the better. Nairn’s Rough Oatcakes are a great choice as they’re made with coarse, wholegrain oats and are high in soluble and insoluble fibre.”
Easy swap: Fruit juice for a fibre-rich smoothie
Although fresh juices have their merits, they strip all the fibre from the fruit and vegetables they use, and leave you feeling unsatisfied and wanting food shortly after. They can also cause havoc on the gut if they are too high in fruit sugars. Opt for a filling smoothie instead, and incorporate fibre-rich foods into the mix.
The experts say supplementing with a good quality superfood can be a handy trick to get all the goodness in, and to try a serving of Sense for gut health.
Poor gut health and inflammation
The BBC reported that only 43 per cent of the cells that make up our body are human. The rest is our microbiome – bacteria and other organisms. These microbiomes have a huge impact on our immune system and digestion. But that balance can be disturbed by a diet of processed food, or something unavoidable like a course of antibiotics when we’re sick.
The solution: Make sure your diet regularly includes probiotics – beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Your go-to should be fermented foods with live cultures. For example, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kefir and kombucha are teeming with beneficial bacteria that will sort you out and slim you down.
Easy swap: Cola for a bottle of kombucha
Cassandra said: “We’re learning more and more about the importance of the ‘friendly’ bacteria and other microbes that live in our gut. They’re thought to influence our immunity, mood and weight, as well as our digestion of course. Traditional fermented foods such as kombucha can be a key way to maintain the healthy bacteria in our gut – in fact, some research suggests that they’re much more effective than taking probiotic supplements for this purpose”.
To reap the probiotic benefit, be careful to only select unpasteurised kombucha with active cultures, like Equinox Kombucha.
Dehydration and fluid retention
If you had one too many drinks the night before, your body might be holding onto water for fear of not having enough. To avoid fluid retention, make sure you’re always sipping on something, especially in hot weather. This, paradoxically, will communicate to your body that it’s okay to let go of some water.
The solution: Drink more water If you find yourself forgetting to hydrate, you can download an app to remind you at regular intervals throughout the day.
Easy swap: Coffee for herbal teas like peppermint or fennel, and water, water and more water.
Food sensitivities and allergies are another culprit for bloating. Many people have reaction to gluten, eggs and lactose, but eat all three regularly. It might be worth eliminating them from your diet one at a time to see if this helps.
The solution: With the free-from market exploding, there are tons of gluten and dairy-free alternatives to experiment with. Reduce the quantity of other foods that are known to cause bloating.
Easy swap: Normal beer for gluten free lager
If you want to eliminate or reduce your gluten intake, an organic beer that’s specifically designed to be safe for those on a gluten-free diet is a great option. Celia Lager is one example.
Easy swap: Cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli for spinach and rocket
You can get too much of a good thing: ingredients you may want to limit without eliminating from your diet entirely. Cruciferous veg such as broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts have lots of vitamins and cancer-fighting compounds known as glucosinolates – but they cause wind, so avoid in the 24 hours before a beach outing, first date, or job interview.
Easy swap: Full-dairy chocolate for dairy-free alternatives
Avoiding lactose isn’t as difficult as it used to be: there are loads of amazing nut milks in every supermarket, and now you don’t need to limit yourself to mouth-puckering dark chocolate either.
Cassandra said: “Cacao itself is actually a super food – it’s high in minerals such as magnesium and, particularly in its raw form, is rich in antioxidant flavonols too. And if you go for a dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao, it’s relatively low in sugar. OMBAR’s 90 per cent raw cacao bar gives you a little lift without the sugar rush.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, but our bodies will respond by flooding us full of the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to a gain in belly fat and an increase in bloating. Additionally, eating in front of a screen can mean we gulp our food, introducing unwanted air into our stomach. Lily said: “Desk jobs can result in a sedentary lifestyle which can hinder digestive health.”
The solution: Small changes to our routines can have a huge effect on our stress levels. Exercise is a great stress reliever, and can help sort out gut issues too said Lily, “Movement is a key factor for stimulating peristalsis (muscle contractions) within the gut which can help to move everything along. If you regularly suffer from bloating, try getting up off your desk and walking around the block or try regular stretching throughout the day.”
Easy swap: Easy swap: Lunch “al desko” for a quick stroll
Every hour, remember to get up from your desk and move around. Introducing even 10 minutes of exercise a day can have a powerful effect.
Easy swap: Late nights for lots – and we mean lots – of kip
Make sure you get sufficient sleep – aiming for at least seven to eight hours. If you have trouble dozing off, try limiting your phone usage before bed or keeping to a routine.
If a gut condition such as IBS is causing your bloating, there are five things that could be triggering it.
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