Many people are all too familiar with that feeling: the pressure in your lower abdomen and that swollen sensation as your belly threatens to Hulk-smash out of whatever you’re wearing. Being bloated is no fun.
We get bloated for different reasons. Sometimes it’s water retention prior to and in the initial days of our menstrual cycles, as cramps leave some of us reaching for a hot water bottle and a sleep aid. Other times it’s what we eat or even how fast we eat it.
Bloating is almost always the result of excessive sodium consumption (why women should lay off the chips in the days before and during their periods) — which makes your body retain water and swell up — or the result of gas. Oh yes, the burps and/or the good ole windy-pops.
It’s bad enough to feel uncomfortable because of swelling, but to have the farts, too? Our bodies sure are evil sometimes. The good news, though, is that we’ve done a roundup of what to eat or drink, what not to eat or drink, and even what exercises to do to help ease that bloated feeling.
Now eat (or drink) this
Feeling bloated? Drink some water. Even better, squeeze some fresh lemon juice in it. Drinking water is going to help you flush out excess sodium you may have consumed.
Have some ginger tea. If you can’t handle the taste, then you can’t go wrong with peppermint tea, which has been lauded for its tummy-calming properties since the beginning of time — well, since the first person who overate gave it a shot and discovered its powers to prevent writhing-in-pain-itis. Seriously, though, ginger and peppermint are gas-reducers.
According to Women’s Day, studies have shown that an enzyme in papaya may aid digestion, which of course means all that gas won’t accumulate in there and make you bloated. The article also recommends asparagus, which can be quite tasty grilled; fiber, which helps those poor souls who are bloated as a result of constipation; and black licorice root.
Nutritionist Joy Bauer recommends oranges and grapefruits, red grapes, cucumbers, and watermelon. All that water and juicy goodness is not only tastier than sticking with plain water but also helps keeps things — ahem, gas — from bottlenecking your digestive track and leaving you feeling miserable.
Stop eating so much of this
Sodium is the enemy. So if you’re the type who depends on frozen meals, processed foods, and canned soups and vegetables, well, you better start paying heed to the nutrition labels and consider cutting back as much as possible.
According to Prevention, if you’re feeling perpetually bloated, you may need to cut back on those carbs. It’s always the carbs, isn’t it? The article explains that muscles store a carbohydrate called glycogen, and each glycogen carb stores 3 grams of water. If you don’t exercise to eliminate the water your muscles are retaining, well, you’ll find yourself in Bloat City.
WebMD cautions against consuming too many sugar-free or low-sugar drinks and desserts. The artificial sweeteners used in these products contain sugar alcohols that are very difficult for the body to digest, and can lead to bloating. Other sweeteners — such as Equal Classic, Splenda, and Stevia — are easier to digest.
Carbonated drinks and gum-chewing can also lead to bloat. Gum is especially bad because if it’s sugar-free, it may have those artificial sweeteners that can make you feel bloate. Additionally, the act of chewing it can make you swallow air (go figure), which can make you gassy and — bingo! — bloated.
And of course we have the gassy vegetables and legumes that sometimes leave us feeling like we’re putting on a fireworks display in the toilet. The idea here is to not stop eating them — they are still good for you! — but simply watch your portions and make sure you don’t consume a tray of raw broccoli on the same day you indulge in a cheesy black bean burrito with three diet soda chasers. And if you cook that broccoli rather than eat it raw, it won’t make you nearly as gassy.
The culprits are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, onions, beans, lentils, and peas.
Bringing in reinforcements
Beano helps you digest those gassy vegetables and legumes if you take it right before you chow down. Probiotics are supposed to help, too. But that's yogurt, so if dairy is causing your misery, look into getting probiotics in supplement form.
Take a walk, have a stretch
Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Believe it! Being active will help you, erm, eliminate all that excess gas, which may be embarrassing at first, but in the long run it will help prevent it from accumulating in there in the first place. It need not be the latest cardio kickboxing workout, either. Taking a brisk walk will help just as much as doing time on that stationary bike that’s collecting dust in your living room.
You can even try a bit of yoga in the privacy of your own home. Hey, you don’t want to inflict your human soundtrack on everyone else, right?
Don’t use a straw. Yeah, it’s tricky if you get one of those extra-large, super-duper flavored coffees loaded with extra whipped cream, but if you’re on the verge of lactose intolerance, that drink is going to make you bloated, so skip the drink, too.
Slow down. Stop hoovering your food down your gullet, and chew slowly and thoroughly. Eating quickly means you’re swallowing extra air, which will make you gassy and leave you feeling miserable, embarrassed or both.
It might be dairy or gluten, so get thee to your doctor if you find that you are constantly bloated. That way, you can get to the bottom of things and get your digestive system back on track.
— Vivian Gomez, HellaWella
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