Dealing with Bloating

reading time: ca. 4 min

hello there, tummy lovers!

it's been a while since my last Dealing With... so I decided it was time for one today. even though we live in the golden age of the internet where everyone can speak their mind, there are some topics that nobody likes to address. they are "taboo", like sweating, contraception, callus, pooping, menstruation - you get the picture. and i get that. these are touchy subjects, most of them nasty to look at and not the most comfortable thing to talk about in your everyday life. but even though we try to push them to the back of our mind and pretend like they would never ever happen to us, these subjects are the ones that acquire our attention more than anything.

one of these topics is bloating.

a pesky topic that effects everyone (don't even try to deny it). bloating describes the swelling of your abdominal area, often including cramps and gas passing, creating an unpleasant tight, full feeling in your tummy. it is usually a sign of a poor diet or any form of stress*. it is a sign that food isn't being digested correctly by your body.

say goodbye to bloating!

of course we all want to feel comfortable in our own skin, whether it's at home, going out on a date, stretching out on the beach or just hanging out at a friends house. unfortunately i've noticed that i am more likely to suffer from bloating when i'm at someone else's house. am i the only one with that problem? i believe not. i guess, being out and about is always sort of stressful, whether mentally or physically, and since i have been travelling quite a lot lately (as a matter of fact i'm taking off for another trip tomorrow morning), i've been able to gather some more experience in terms of dealing with bloating. yeah. so let's get this party started:

How bloating can be avoided:

- chew slowly and often. eating too fast is one of the most common causes of bloating because we simply swallow air while gulping down our food. take your time. try to chew about 30 times with every bite. also it might help to try using your left hand while eating (or the right one, if you're left-handed).
- skip the fizzy drinks. carbonated beverages like soda or coke will fill our stomach with tons of tiny gas bubbles (as you can tell by all the belching), and so will drinking out of a straw, by the way. some of those zero-calorie sodas even tend to ferment in your gut if they contain sorbitol, which is found in most artificial sweeteners. so go for still water and non-carbonated juice instead. 
- avoid extremes. don't eat too fatty, nor too sweet, nor too hot, too cold, too spicy, and most of all not too much. 
- simply eat less. i'm sorry, but sometimes we are just overeating, therefore ramming up our poor tummy. for starters, try eating from a smaller plate to trick yourself into thinking you are still eating a full plate as usual, even though you're not. 
- smaller portions! eat several smaller meals instead of a few big ones, it will facilitate the activity of your digestive tract and keep your metabolism going. 
- reduce the consumption of wheat and dairy products. try pro-biotic yoghurt instead which will increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. also undergo a medical check in case of a gluten and/or lactose** intolerance - you might be lacking a specific enzyme. 
- generally, check for any food intolerances or allergies. (it might help to keep a food diary to see which foods make you feel uneasy and which make you feel good!) 
The most common intolerances are wheat and gluten (bread, pasta, pastries, pizza, cakes and cereals), alcohol, yeast (in muffins, beer and pastries) and processed dairy (cheese, milk, butter). Gluten in particular can inflame the bowel and make the stomach look bigger.
- avoid coffee and wine. don't let the fact that these are diuretics fool you. both alcohol and caffeine are very acid-forming in the body, leading it to hold on to excess water weight, creating puffiness and bloating. also, those irritants are harmful to your stomach lining.
- cut back on sodium***. since it acts as an excellent flavour enhancer, salt is hidden in most of the processed meals, so stay away from microwaveable or canned foods, frozen dishes with sauces, packet soups, instant puddings, pickles, crackers, chips, roasted and salted nuts etc. 
- instead of those high-sodium, high-fat****, sugary snacks, try snacking healthier. fruit, unprocessed nuts, dried fruit (unsulphurated), whole grain cookies... instead of refined sugar, use honey, agave nectar, coconut blossom sugar or stevia for sweetening.
- go easy on dried fruit though. although they are known to regulate bowel function and maintain a healthy digestive system, they can have a reverse effect by improper food combining. for example, do not eat fresh fruit and dried fruit at the same time! instead of passing directly through the stomach and digesting in the intestines like fresh fruits do, dried fruits have a much longer digestion-time. mixing both in one meal will cause gas build-up, a.k.a. bloating. better eat dried fruit only on its own.
- work out, as it can stimulate your gastrointestinal contractions, making digestion easier*****
- to ease cramping pain try and place a warm, not too hot hot-water-bag onto your tummy.
- eat potassium-rich foods like avocado and banana, cantaloupe, mushrooms, raisins, dates, beans, chilli, celery, oranges, carrots, cheese, spinach, potatoes, or - if you're feeling trendy - coconut water. potassium balances excess sodium and reduces water retention, minimizing your puffiness. 
- drink plenty of plain water or soothing drinks like mild green or white or lotus tea to relieve your system. don't drink the mentioned teas at night-time though since they have a stimulating effect, but go for peppermint, camomile, fennel, anise or nettle tea instead, which will help relax your digestive tract for a quiet sleep. to double the effect, add a slice of ginger to your green tea or peppermint tea! (do you struggle with drinking enough? here are some of my tips!) another good option, which i haven't had the chance to try yet, is bitter candy-tuft tea. chose tea that contains bitter constituents, since those are great for stimulating gastric juices and digestion.

please take into account that this is supposed to reduce bloating, not reduce your body weight. (you might loose some weight along the way though, especially by cutting back on salt, wheat and dairy, so be warned.)

another common abdominal problem is constipation. so not only does your stomach feel like a swollen balloon, but you can't even get the frickin stuff out that somehow got stuck in there! yep. happens even to the Queen of England, so don't fuss. 
here are a few quit tips on how to handle constipation:

How to get rid of constipation:
- drink lots of water
- drink lots of herbal tea
- stick to a high in fiber diet: whole grains, fresh unpeeled fruits, dried fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.
- sauerkraut juice
- plum juice
- move around as much as possible (i find that jogging helps best in those situations)
- eat dried fruit (especially plums, figs, dates and apricots), soaked in water
- drink plum water of dried plums, soaked in water overnight!
- milk sugar / lactose
- eat kiwi
- eat flaxseed (soaked in water) by itself or mix into a salad or the like
- start your day with a glass of hot water in the morning (on an empty stomach)

* "The gut is the second brain of the body; it's going to react to any kind of stress and anxiety that the body might be experiencing," King tells HuffPost.

** "If you can't break down milk sugar normally, then you'll finish the fermentation breakdown process in your colon and produce gas," says Brian E. Lacy, a professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University and the director of its GI Motility Laboratory. "Even if you always drank milk, as you get older, you produce less of the lactase enzyme, and that makes dairy harder to digest." 

*** Salt attracts moisture (just think about how salt shakers cake up when it's humid outside), so a higher concentration of sodium in your bloodstream will cause your body to hold on to water, leading to swelling.
Also, consuming too much sodium is a risk factor for high blood pressure which in turn can lead to stroke and heart disease.

**** "Fat is more difficult for the gastrointestinal tract to break down," says Chutkan. "So for some people, saturated-fatty foods like meat can trigger bloat because they slow digestion."  

***** "The GI tract is muscle," explains Chutkan. "It gets flabby if you're not exercising."
"Exercise can help to increase blood flow to various parts of the body, including the gut, so exercising on a regular basis -- 30 to 60 minutes every day -- might help with reducing bloating as well."   

There you go. That's it. Enough uneasiness for today.

Good luck ~


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