It happens to us all – you enjoyed a burrito or gulped down a soda or something else indulgent. Now your tummy looks fuller than it should and you may even feel kinda yucky, too. Belly bloat.
While belly bloat can occur for other reasons, it often boils down to the foods we choose, how we’re digesting and simply the air we’re swallowing. Don’t ignore it.
“It’s really important to pay attention to bloat, especially when it either comes on suddenly or is prolonged with pain,” says Dr. Niket Sonpal, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Board Certified in Internal Medicine specializing in gastroenterology, digestive health and nutrition. “It is possible to develop an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine which gives that distended belly and full feeling,” explains Dr. Sonpal.
Luckily, the discomfort caused by bloating is a fixable issue. Watching the choices you are making and the way your body is reacting to them is key.
According to Sonpal, here are some foods to steer clear of when it comes to banishing the bloat:
You’ve got to know by now that foods like soft drinks, sweets, desserts, and white bread are not conducive to a healthy diet. Simple carbs are processed into the bloodstream very quickly and have little nutritional value other than the energy they add to your body. When there is an overflow of energy being stored in your body versus what you are burning you begin to gain weight and feel bloated.
Limiting pasta or bread to a once per week treat can really make an impact when addressing bloat. These foods are like sponges when it comes to water. When you cut starches, you’ll notice bloat minimizes pretty quickly.
Sugar substitutes and faux sweeteners
Here’s the catch, you may think you’re doing the right thing by opting for “fat-free” or “sugar-free” food options that say they are “derived from real sugar.” These kinds of sugars are actually low-digestible carbohydrates, Sonpal says. Our bodies metabolize them differently due to their chemical structure leaving them hanging around in our small intestine, and leading to bloat.
Raw cauliflower (and other uncooked cruciferous vegetables).
Cauliflower has become the “it” vegetable because it takes on the flavor of anything it’s mixed with. We see recipes for cauliflower mashed, cauliflower pizza, fried “rice,” and even mac and cheese; all created with cauliflower as the main ingredient. When cooked, these vegetables are great sources of nutrition and fine side-dish substitutes for pasta, rice, and potatoes. However, when cauliflower is chopped up and eaten raw along with kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, you can expect bloating to occur. Cooking is key!
If you want to reduce water retention, which always leads to a bloated stomach, then cut out the salt. In fact, if you have a lunchtime meal, you can significantly reduce the bloat and puffiness simply by avoiding salty foods for the remainder of the day. People who are mindful of their salt intake, prepare their own foods and avoid things like canned soups, chips, bacon, sausage, and lunch meats will look and feel leaner.
What to eat to control bloat
What’s not to love about bananas. You can grab one on the go, they are high in potassium which is another thing that rids water retention.
They’re known to reduce swelling, given they contain the flavonoid antioxidant, quercetin. Cool crisp and delicious, they’re a salad ingredient, but also work solo as a snack. Have you added cucumber slices to your water yet? Try that.
Chunks of watermelon are low calorie and filled with water (over 90%) and very low sugar. This refreshing fruit is soaked with nutrients. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. There’s even a modest amount of potassium.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and kombucha. These high probiotic, bacteria-friendly fermented foods are key to maximizing digestion and maintaining a healthy gut.
Water and green tea
Since carbonated beverages contribute to bloat, stick to water and flavored teas. Sipping on these beverages throughout the day keeps the digestive system moving. When you deprive your body of water, your body will hold on to the water already in your body. And that causes what? Bloat!
A few more tips to tackle belly bloat:
- Drinking from a straw
It’s the sucking-in-air part when you use a straw that causes trouble. Too much can fill YOU up with air and cause bloating.
- Sleeping right after eating
Many people get drowsy right after a meal. It’s best to go for a walk or do something that gives you a bit of energy and helps your body process your meal. Going to bed right after eating cripples your digestive process, slowing down the breakdown of your food.
- Eating too rapidly
If you find yourself struggling with bloating, watch the pace at which you eat. This can help reduce the amount of air you intake while enjoying the foods you love. Take your time and savor each bite.