Bloating isn’t a popular topic of conversation, but it has more than likely been on your mind at some point or another. If you experience chronic bloating, you’re probably looking for answers, because you spend a lot of time feeling lethargic, heavy, and crampy.
And if you’re not bloated at least occasionally, I hate you.
Frankly, the emotional cost of belly distention can be even worse than the physical symptoms: worrying that you’ve suddenly gained three pounds is a total bummer. Having to wear looser clothing and being ashamed of your body can play havoc with your self-esteem and general well-being.
Bloating is caused by the buildup of air in your digestive track. Most commonly bloating results from swallowing air/gas and eating foods that are hard to digest. Or if we have a shortage or absence of particular enzymes that aid digestion, eating certain fiber, sugars, and starches can cause belly bloat.
It’s a damn pain. Especially when you’re working hard toward a lean, muscular physique.
Obviously I’m not a doctor and if you have chronic bloating it’s a good idea to see one. But if you’re looking for solutions for temporary bloating, read on.
Bloating and Clean Eating
In my twenties and early thirties I had to lie down in agony after every meal. My digestive track would balloon up to the size of a six-month pregnancy – the pain was wicked. I was also in the habit of eating whatever I wanted – fast food, beer, frozen dinners, tortilla chips. It never occurred to me that food was causing my problem. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but only because the doctor couldn’t explain my symptoms.
It wasn’t until I adopted clean eating that the pain and bloating stopped. Bam. My system simply cannot hande foods with long ingredient lists. Nowadays, I eat foods in their most natural state. When I’m bloated I take action to find out why. I may not have severe, chronic distention anymore, but managing my digestive health is an ongoing process.
If you suffer from chronic bloating and haven’t cut back on processed, refined foods, start reading up on how to eat clean (see all my articles here). If you already eat clean and suffer from bloating, you’re probably frustrated. I’m going to help you banish the bloat and help you get back to that happy tummy place.
Causes and Fixes for Bloating
If you’re chronically bloated, systematic sleuthing is better than flailing about willy-nilly with your diet. Experiencing bloat after every meal can mean your digestive track is really out of whack; it also feels confusing and frustrating.
Since diet is usually the cause of bloating, there’s only one way to find the cause: remove the food you’re suspicious of.
I did say remove, not reduce the food. If you think gluten is causing your bloating (for example), then do not eat gluten for several days and see what happens. If you notice less bloating within a day or two, that’s great. But stick with it for a week to be sure. This is not to say the removed food is definitely the cause of your digestive woes; time will tell. If you feel bloated again after removing the food then it’s time to eliminate another possible culprit (like dairy). This process is usually straight-forward, so give it a try.
Obviously, if you’re bloated immediately following a meal, you can assume it was caused by what you just ate.
Foods that Cause Bloating
In general, the following foods can be hard to digest. Eat them in moderation (or not at all) if you suffer from bloating.
- Processed, prepackaged foods: Anything with a long ingredient list and that you don’t have to cook from scratch can be a culprit.
- Beans and lentils: (duh!) Eat them with digestible grains such as rice or quinoa or try Beano.
- Wheat: You don’t have to go completely gluten-free if wheat irritates your digestive track; experiment with reducing gluten.
- Vegetables: Potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus… these have complex sugars and starches that are harder to digest.
- Fruits: Bananas, apples, and pears are the biggest culprits (peel fruits to make them more digestiable).
- Dairy products: Cheese, milk, yogurt, whey protein powder, and ice cream are common bloat-inducers. Try using Lactaid with dairy or cutting back.
- Salty foods: We all know eating cans and cans of high-sodium soup (or whatever) can cause bloating, right?
- Fatty foods: Rich, fatty foods take longer to digest. Avoid foods like gravy, heavy restaurant meals, and desserts.
- Carbonated beverages: Air bubbles can lead to bloating (and artificial sweeteners too).
- Artificial sweeteners: Avoid these. Gum and hard candy not only cause you to swallow air but they may contain artificial sweeteners, to say the least.
Other Causes of Bloating
Whew, that’s a dang long list of foods, isn’t it? It’s not even the whole story, either… you can get bloated from these things too:
Low-fiber diet: If things aren’t moving along well for you, slowly increase your fiber. But remember: fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. If you don’t start increasing fiber slowly (and drink a lot of water), you’ll find yourself in a lot of digestive pain.
Drinking from a straw: Swallowing air comes with drinking from a straw, so cut back on this if you’re bloated a lot.
Stress and anxiety: We each handle stress differently, and for some of us it manifests in physical symptoms. Decrease your stress. ‘Nuff said.
Eating too fast: I’m not one to scarf down food but if you are, slow down.
Eating too much: Surely we’ve all eaten a huge meal and felt totally bloated afterwards. You know the answer – don’t eat so much in one sitting. It’ll help if you slow down, too.
Have you ever had problems with bloating? Please tell all below… we’re all friends here.
This article originally appeared on workoutnirvana.com.