Between rooftop soirees, weekend brunches and beach barbecues, the summer season is filled with good company, laughter, and delicious food. Unfortunately large amounts of good food often go hand in hand with the discomfort of bloating. Bloating can cause distention of the abdomen and dull to sharp pain. One in 10 Americans suffer from it regularly, which happens because of a few common reasons:
• Gas in the digestive system is made up of swallowed air and resulting gas from digestive bacteria in the gut. If the gastrointestinal tract does not move it through your digestive system efficiently, gas builds up and leads to bloating. Swallowed air is usually from drinking carbonated beverages, eating too quickly, drinking through a straw, chewing gum, or sucking on candy.
• Stomach acid is needed to help digest protein and stimulate the release of other digestive enzymes essential for digestion. If you have low stomach acid, it will be more difficult to digest protein rich foods such as eggs, fish and meat. Partially digested protein makes its way into the lower bowel, resulting in inflammation of the stomach and bloating.
• Digestive enzymes released by stomach acid and cells lining your small intestine and pancreas are needed to digest protein, fats and carbohydrates. Low levels of digestive enzymes create similar consequences to that of low stomach acid. Undigested carbohydrates, fats and proteins enter the lower bowel, leading to fermentation, inflammation, and the pain of bloating.
• Thousands of micro-organisms and probiotic bacteria help to digest your food and keep your digestive system protected from disease and decay. Among this population resides potentially harmful organisms like yeasts, bacteria and bacteria that could create bowel toxicity and harm colon cells. Low levels of probiotics and low gut motility, resulting in a stagnant bowel, combine to create an environment where these toxins can cause bloating, constipation, pain, a coated tongue and potentially more dangerous health risks. Low gut motility is also exacerbated by an imbalance between calcium and magnesium, lack of soluble fibre, or dehydration.
• High sodium levels could also be a culprit for bloating. Sodium attracts and retains water in the body as the body tries to dilute the salt to maintain a balance of electrolytes, leading to a distended stomach. These causes are only exacerbated by the increased use of sweetener ingredients such as sorbitol and fructose, not easily digested in the small intestine. Rich and fatty foods also takes longer to digest, keeping the stomach full longer.
So what can be done to combat bloating and create a healthy environment for digesting food? Uma Wellness Experts have gathered the essential tips you should consider for the flat, bloat-free stomach of your dreams!
• Eat at a slower pace while sitting down in one place. Eating smaller, more frequent meals instead of filling yourself with large meals can control the overstuffed feeling, manage your hunger and your blood sugar. This not only reduces bloating but also encourages you to pick healthier food options.
• Keep yourself hydrated with a consistent amount of water throughout the day. Chugging large amounts all at once can shock your system and cause swelling, so drink slowly. The fluids will help move the flow of food along in your digestive system, hydrate your bowel and flush out sodium, preventing bloating. You can try these creative ways to stay hydrated, including eating fruits such as watermelon, pineapple and cantaloupe, all of which have high water content and sodium-flushing potassium levels. Papaya also helps the movement of the bowels.
• Eat more green leafy vegetables to increase your fibre intake and your magnesium levels, all essential to rejuvenate gut muscle function so that gut contractions function properly. Cooking them will improve the ease of digestion and promote optimal nutrient absorption. You can also try brown rice and oats.
• Potassium can help to counter the role of excessive sodium in bloating. Try chomping down on a banana for your mid-day snack.
• Healthy probiotic yogurt for breakfast increases the amount of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria in our digestive tracts. This facilitates efficient digestion and prevents belly bloat. Plain, low-fat yogurt is your best bet in this case. For added sweetness, try mixing in some fresh fruit instead of reaching for artificially flavored yogurts.
• Reduce the amount of high fructose and fatty foods from your diet. Not only are fructose, trans fat, saturated fat and omega-6 fats hard to digest, but they also cause inflammation in your digestive system. Sip some herbal tea like peppermint tea to help soothe inflammation, relax the digestive tract, and relieve pain. Ginger tea is helpful as well!
• Ample exercise is also needed to keep the gut working properly, and decreasing levels of exercise increase the chance for bloating to develop. Of course, proper exercise techniques are essential. Be sure to breathe properly, keep yourself hydrated, and do lots of cardio!
• Throw some essential oils into the mix by massaging into the distended area, or inhaling to relieve nausea. Aside from peppermint oil and ginger oil to improve gastric mobility and relieve indigestion and pain, try chamomile oil for a soothing effect. Clove oil can also relax the muscles of the digestive tract and prevent intestinal spasms.
Of course, each person’s digestive system is unique in its own way. Your stomach may be unable to tolerate certain foods that others are fine with. Be sure to experiment with your food intake to identify the problem foods and adjust your diet accordingly.
Also, don't forget to check out our tips on an Ayurvedic detox to flush out impurities from your body, reset your digestive system and revitalize your energy levels!