One of the most common problems or complaints I find with my clients – especially amongst female clients – is bloating. Bloating is not just something common to the ladies, however, and that distinctive uncomfortable sense of fullness is something we have all experienced at some time. This begs the question: How can I stop it?

The key to dealing with bloating lies in understanding what it is.

Bloating usually refers to the unpleasant sense of having swallowed an inflated balloon that is trying to pass as a whole through your entire digestive system. I have also heard it described as the feeling that your stomach is bigger without being fatter, if that makes sense – you look and feel heavier, but it occurs in isolation from weight gain. Having a distended belly – especially after eating too much – really doesn’t feel good, and can make you quite self-conscious as well. When bloated, your tummy can actually go from being flat (with a 6-pack) to looking a few months pregnant in the short time it takes you to eat your meal and finish desert!

So, what causes bloating?

Well, since it feels like you’ve swallowed an inflated balloon, the most obvious answer to that is gas. Yes ladies,

I have just informed the world wide web that you too have gas.

Gas itself can be caused by simple things, like eating too much and eating too fast. In doing so, too much air gets swallowed and it needs to go somewhere. It settles in your digestive system and, well, passes in one of two ways: either out the top, or out the bottom. If it doesn’t, it sits in your stomach area and builds up pressure, leaving you feeling truly uncomfortable.

Gas can also be caused by certain foodsthat we eat.

Some food types are prone to releasing more gas when consumed, such as beans and other high-fibre items (think beans, beans the musical fruit…), as well as broccoli, sprouts and cabbage. Allergies or sensitivity to certain foods can also lead to an unhappy digestive system, especially in relation to lactose intolerance, gluten allergies, and more serious illnesses such as celiac disease. Gastric Issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Gastroesophageal reflux could also be a cause and should be assessed by a specialist, if you suspect this to be the case.

Bloating may also have other causes not related to food, which could include such issues as chronic constipation, indigestion, smoking and excessive consumption of carbonated drinks and alcohol. High salt intake is also a common cause for bloating, especially in processed foods. Gallstones and liver disease have bloating as a symptom, amongst other things, and, in the unlikely event that the bloat doesn’t go away, you may want to take a pregnancy test too (the bloat may actually be a bump!). A major cause for bloating in ladies is hormonal fluctuations, where hormones such as progesterone and oestrogen lead to fluid retention which is particularly noticeable as PMS (sorry girls!).

And now for the big question –

how to relieve, and prevent, feeling bloated?

A first suggestion is to try to identify the foods that cause you to bloat. This may mean keeping a food diary for a while until you can identify a pattern or trend. Eating a little slower may help as well, and avoiding high-salt, processed foods is a really good place to start.

Exercise is a great way to help your digestive system process your last meal and “move things along” through stimulating your metabolism, which means the foods move through your digestive tract and don’t accumulate gas as readily. As such, eating smaller portions will also help: rather have more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day and try to eat whole, healthy foods instead of processed foods. Avoid accompanying your meals with fizzy drinks and too much alcohol, and also actively work towards quitting the cigarette habit.

Adding a probiotic to your diet is also a great idea, especially if you find you are sensitive to certain types of food.

If you don’t have a problem with dairy and yoghurt, incorporate natural yoghurt with live cultures into your diet as these naturally balance out your intestinal flora, keeping you regular and bloat-free.

When it comes to PMS and hormonal imbalances, the best advice to beat bloating is to eat potassium rich foods such as asparagus, bananas, tomatoes and melon, which help your body balance fluids. Opt for non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic drinks as well and ensure you get enough rest in order to minimise pre-menstrual bloating, and work in as much exercise as you can to help your body function at its best and process food and liquid optimally.

Here’s to a healthier, less bloatier you!

Leandri

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