‘I feel really bloated.’
‘I can’t wear that, I’m too bloated.’
‘It’s water retention.’
‘I get really bloated before my period!’
Ever said anything like that?
You are not alone. Every woman has suffered from bloating and there are so many factors that can contribute to it which are hard to distinguish. As a result, many of us just put up with it and accept it as part of life.
Some possible causes are poor diet, stress, poor gut health, or extensive use of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
However, if you are constantly bloating, it is worth having a look. If you ignore it, it could interfere with food assimilation. If you are not absorbing all your nutrients from your diet, this will lead to deficiencies, feeling tired and lack of energy and potential health problems.
Let’s look at some factors that can cause bloating:
• Poor digestion
• Food intolerances
• Eating too fast and not chewing food properly
• Reflux (GERD)
• Irritable bowel disease
• Liver disease
• Uterine, ovarian, pancreatic or stomach cancer
• Certain medications
How to deal with it
I would suggest you look at your diet first. Are you eating as well as you could be? Do you suffer from bloating after eating certain foods?
Too much over indulgence in sugary foods, alcohol, processed foods, fizzy drinks, full fat dairy and very rich foods can cause digestive issues.
Carbonated drinks can cause too much gas in your system. If you are drinking fizzy drinks regularly, then think about cutting them out and go for a naturally carbonated drink like kombucha.
Avoid salty, sodium rich foods – so much of packaged and processed food contains too much salt and this can lead to water retention. It’s hard to avoid everything but you can start with cutting out the obvious ones like crisps and overly processed foods. If you have eaten some salty foods, then make sure you drink lots of water after.
Avoid certain trigger foods
There are certain foods which can trigger bloating, so try cutting out the following and see if it makes a difference: cabbage, onions, brussel sprouts, beans and lentils. These foods are healthy, so introduce them back in slowly and see if you can identify which one causes the problem. Once your digestion improves, you may find that you can eat them again without the bloating.
Here’s a tip! When cooking bean dishes use a strip of dried kombu seaweed. It helps to predigest the enzymes that cause bloating and wind.
Are you gluten intolerant?
Gluten intolerance is a common cause for bloating. Certain people find gluten hard to digest and the problems range from a mild sensitivity to total intolerance such as Celiac disease. There are lots of allergy tests you can try if you want to find out. Or try cutting out gluten for a few weeks and see how you feel?
There are a good deal of gluten-free products around that you don’t have to miss out on some of your favourite foods. And grains like quinoa, millet, spelt and kamut make a great alternative.
Keep a food diary and make a note of how you feel after every meal.
Foods to include in your diet
Make sure you are eating a balanced diet, with the rainbow on the plate – this means a variety of fruit and veg of different colours – I wrote a blog on it a few weeks ago. Avoid too much white potatoes, too much rice and pasta.
Eat more radicchio, fennel, young green celery, and watercress. These really help the digestive system. Also include root ginger when cooking.
Eat bananas and foods rich in potassium like avocados, oranges, spinach, broccoli, sweet potato, tomatoes, lentils, and almonds. They prevent water retention by regulating sodium levels in the body and can reduce salt-induced bloating. Bananas are also a superb source of fibre, which can relieve or prevent constipation.
Replace some of your coffee and tea intake with herbal teas. Fennel, peppermint and dandelion teas are great for digestion – if you are feeling bloated after a heavy meal, a warm herbal tea will help.
Stay hydrated! I will never tire of stressing the importance of drinking water. Water is essential for digestion. The body needs water in order to digest solid food and absorb nutrients. You can add fennel, ginger, aloe vera or dandelion to your water to aid digestion and alleviate constipation.
Another tip is to drink 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (organic with the ‘mother’) in a small glass of water about half an hour before your meal. Like other fermented foods, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar contains healthy bacteria which will help your digestion.
Do you look after your gut?
You may need to boost your good bacteria with a good probiotic and include some fermented foods in your diet. Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, live yoghurts, kombucha and kefir are very good for the gut.
Try to reduce stress
When the body is stressed, your digestion becomes compromised, hence not absorbing all of your nutrients and this will lead to bloating.
Magnesium is very good for stress. I did a blog post a few weeks back. Some magnesium-rich foods to include in your diet include almonds, brazil nuts, lentils, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds.
If you have tried everything and you are still getting bloating then it is worth checking with your GP that you don’t have a more serious health condition.
If you have any questions or need some help with digestive issues then please do get in touch.