Bloating seriously sucks. It's uncomfortable, it's embarrassing, it makes eating and wearing clothes a challenge, and most importantly—it is a sign that your body is in distress. It has become such a common bodily phenomenon, though, that many accept it as a regular state of being
My friend, that is no way to live. So let's talk about how to kick bloat to the curb.
First of all, what is bloat?
Bloating is not fat! It is inflammation in the body—particularly the stomach, digestive tract, and gut—caused by digestive distress and water retention. It is beyond just being full, or having eaten too much (although that can also cause bloating).
And why do we do it? Well, all sorts of reasons.
—Eating too fast. This can wreak havoc on your digestive system. It's stressful for your body to try and process excess amounts of food at one time, and eating without properly chewing all of your food is taxing on the body.
—Food intolerance. Dairy is a big one here, because it's one of the hardest foods for people to digest. Processed foods comprised of unnatural ingredients are also really difficult for the body to handle. The body was never designed to process chemicals. It was designed to absorb and process the nutrients from real foods, so that it could distribute those materials where they are needed for sustenance and energy. Processed foods slow that process considerably, forcing the body to work overtime.
—Alcohol. We've all been there, myself included. Who drinks seven beers and then wakes up feeling like a unicorn the next day? Moderate amounts can sometimes have a positive effect, because of the fermentation (ideally, red wine), but alcohol consumption should be kept in balance and accompanied by lots and lots of added hydration.
—Dehydration. When we don't give our bodies enough of the things they need, they get nervous and hang on to what little reserves they have left, water included. Not drinking enough water can, in fact, cause bloating. Water gets our system moving, it flushes out all the stuff we don't need, and keeps everything running smoothly. One of my favorite tricks for staying regular each morning? Waking up and having a big glass of water first thing. (Before your coffee!)
—Hormones. Ladies this affects us far more than it does men, but it's also why a balanced, hormone-friendly diet is key—especially around our periods. Unfortunately this is also the time when we want to live on a steady diet of potato chips and reality TV, so I know how much it sucks, but nutrition can go a long way towards keeping PMS-related bloat at bay. Lee From America has a beautiful chart on her website of optimal foods for each stage in your monthly cycle.
—Stress. This is murder on the body, and it causes all sorts of inflammation, which is why getting enough sleep, eating well, getting solid amounts of exercise, meditating, and keeping things cool, calm, and collected is key to a rockin' bod.
—Carbonated beverages. As a former voracious Diet Coke addict, I feel your pain. But soda is not doing you a single favor. Not only does it not contain a shred of nutritional value, it is one of the greatest contributors to excessive bloating.
—Poor digestion. When our digestion isn't working well, that's when everything goes haywire. It's our digestive tract that breaks down everything we put into our bodies, helping it to absorb and assimilate nutrients. So when things aren't nutritionally sound (junk food), or they're hard to digest (dairy), our systems can seize up under this pressure. Eating prebiotic (optimal foods for nourishing good bacteria) and probiotic foods (filled with good bacteria, often fermented) really help to support digestion. As always, the more plants you dine on, the better.
What else can you do to reduce bloat?
—Drink ginger and turmeric tea, both of which help reduce inflammation and soothe digestion.
—Eat regularly, and don't overeat.
—Take digestive enzymes or supplements.
—Get consistent exercise.
—Incorporate more blended meals into your diet, like smoothies or soups. This is a beautiful way to get ample nutrients while giving your digestive system a break.
—Sleep! Sleep, sleep, sleep. You need sleep.
Do you have some questions about how to incorporate these tips into your life? Shoot me an email and let's chat!