The good news is, for most people, symptoms of bloating can be relieved with a few simple lifestyle changes. Here we look at 6 easy ways to get rid of a bloated stomach for good!
1. Get things moving
A great way to reduce bloating is to get your bowels moving1, and one of the best ways to achieve that is with gentle exercise1. When you participate in moderate intensity exercise, your body secretes hormones that aid in bowel activity3. What’s more, studies4 have shown that taking a walk after a meal helps with digestion, so if you’re struggling with a bloated stomach after eating, try taking a gentle 30-minute walk after lunch!
2. Eat Less Sugar
One of the lesser known causes of bloating is sugar malabsorption and sugar intolerance: in fact, a study by the Department of Gastroenterology at HUMT in Barcelona found that 72% of patients3 with abdominal bloating presented some form of sugar malabsorption5. The most common culprit is fructose; a common natural sugar found in fruit, honey and in highly processed food. When patients in the study were placed on a fructose-free diet, 81% reported improvements in bloating symptoms after just 1 month5! Cutting fructose out of your diet takes time and the cravings can be strong. You may find yourself reaching for ‘sugar-free’ alternatives to curb your appetite, but don’t! Sugar free foods often contain sugar alcohols which are not completely absorbed by the digestive system. This causes fermentation in the gut which in turn, leads to a build-up of gas, leaving you feeling bloated7.
3. Close your mouth!
A common cause of bloating is aerophagia – the presence of excessive intestinal gas from air ingestion8. That’s right, eating air! Every time you use a straw, chew gum, smoke or eat with your mouth open you could be ingesting extra air. This build-up of excess air can lead to a bloated tummy and you may find yourself burping more than usual. Unlikely suspects: interestingly, aerophagia can be caused by ill-fitting dentures which cause wearers to swallow air when eating and drinking9. So, if you are suffering, an easy remedy for bloating could be to get your dentures checked! One of the simplest ways to reduce bloating is to take the time to eat and drink slowly. Chewing and swallowing your food properly kicks off a healthy digestive process – not only will you gulp less air, but food will be broken down into smaller pieces and the enzymes in your saliva will have time to begin the process of digestion. Incomplete digestion can lead to bacterial overgrowth which causes a build-up of gas and a bloated abdomen. So take your time and keep your mouth closed while chewing!
4. Eat the Right Vegetables the Right Way
Vegetables are full of healthy fibre and nutrients, but some contain substances called FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols)10. These are carbohydrates that aren’t broken down and absorbed easily in the gut. Onions, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage all contain FODMAPs11. It’s also worth noting that cooking your veg makes them easier to digest12. The cooking process breaks down some of the insoluble fibre which can prevent further bloating. Steaming your veggies is a good way to cook them as fewer water-soluble vitamins are lost in the steaming process13.
5. Balance Your Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals that are crucial for regulating processes in your body, including water balance. Sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are all electrolytes that have an effect on water retention and bloating14,15. In modern society, we all consume far too much sodium and too little potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Increase your potassium, magnesium, and calcium intake: eat foods like bananas, potatoes, cantaloupe, spinach, mangoes, cheese, tomatoes, nuts, seeds and fish. Decrease your sodium intake: 1 tablespoon of salt has 2300mg of sodium; you only need 200mg a day to meet crucial bodily functions.
6. Balance Your Microbiome
Your gut has an incredible biodiversity of bacteria that work together to balance your digestive health. Shifts in this environment can cause digestive issues and bloating. Everyone is different; if you feel bloated all the time, you be feeling the effects of gas producing bacteria. The balance of gut bacteria can be affected by high sugar intake, poor diet, antibiotics, stress, and much more. An increase in beneficial bacteria in the gut can help balance your gut environment as the good bacteria crowd out the bad. A diet rich in prebiotic fibre will help you achieve this as it naturally feeds and stimulates the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut while suppressing the growth of harmful bacteria.
- The Mayo Clinic Staff 2020 ‘Belching, gas and Bloating: Tips for reducing them’
- Oettlé GJ Effect of moderate exercise on bowel habit. Gut 1991;32:941-944
- Oettlé GJ Effect of moderate exercise on bowel habit.Gut 1991;32:941-944.
- Franke A, Harder H, Orth AK, Zitzmann S, Singer MV. Postprandial walking but not consumption of alcoholic digestifs or espresso accelerates gastric emptying in healthy volunteers. J Gastrointestin Liver Dis. 2008 Mar;17(1):27-31. PMID: 18392240.
- Fernando Fernandez-Banares et al. 2006 Sugar malabsorption in functional abdominal bloating: A pilot study on the long-term effect of dietary treatment
- Fernando Fernandez-Banares et al. 2006 ‘Sugar malabsorption in functional abdominal bloating: A pilot study on the long-term effect of dietary treatment’
- Yale New Haven Health Hospital ‘Eat Any Sugar Lately?’
- Gerrit J.M. Hemmink et al 2009 ‘Aerophagia: Excessive Air Swallowing Demonstrated By Esophagel Impedance Monitoring’
- NHS 111 Wales Encyclopaedia – Flatulence
- NHS Live Well Eat Well – Beat The Bloat- Eat Well
- WebMD- Jeanie Lerche Davis , ‘Bloating: Always Uncomfortable?’
- Zia-ur Rehinan, M. Rashid, W.H. Shah,Insoluble dietary fibre components of food legumes as affected by soaking and cooking processes,Food Chemistry,Volume 85, Issue 2,2004
- WebMD – How To Keep Nutrients In Vegetables
- Caffiene Containing Beverages, TotalFluid Consumption, and Premenstrual Syndrome (Annette MacKay Rossignol and Heinke Bonnlander, RN), Am. J. Public Health, 1990, p. 1106.
- Nutrient Profiles – ‘The Roles of Potassium in the Body: Regulating Water Balance’ by Spirit Foods
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