3 steps to reduce bloating
Feeling bloated is one of the most common concerns for gut health. The good news is that although it can be a sign of an intolerance or allergy, it is often more likely that your bloating is a normal bodily response to a big meal, hormonal changes with your period or high levels of stress or anxiety. Other causes can be eating too fast or eating certain foods and drinks.
To help manage bloating, try working through the following tips.
Look at how you eat before you look at what you eat. Eating fast, inhaling as you take a bite, or using a straw can all mean you ingest more air than you need to, which can lead to bloating. Make sure you eat sitting down and upright at a table, with no screens to distract you. Eat slowly and mindfully, chewing as thoroughly as possible - aim for 20-30 chews per mouthful. Putting down your knife and fork in between bites can also help.
Another option is to have smaller meals more frequently throughout the day instead of three bigger meals. Wearing looser fit trousers can actually help too, both with reducing the bloat and making you feel more comfortable if you are already bloated.
It may seem simple, but always try this step first, as many cases of bloating can be managed just by slowing down.
Monitor the ‘windy’ foods and drinks. Some foods do cause bloating more than others. The main ones are beans, lentils, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, as well as fermented foods. Being bloated doesn’t mean you have to cut these out! They are excellent sources of fibre, which is of utmost importance for overall gut health. Just reduce portions a little to see how it affects you.
Another idea is to spread your fruit intake out over the day so you only have one piece of fruit in one sitting. Whilst fruits are a great source of micronutrients and fibre, too many in one go can lead to bloating, so try spacing them out and eating them whole instead of in smoothies or juices.
Similarly, carbonated drinks can cause bloating because of the extra air in them, and chewing gum can trap gas to cause you to bloat more. If you tend to drink a lot of fizzy drinks or have a lot of chewing gum, try cutting these out entirely for two weeks to see if it helps with the bloating.
When to seek help
Most bloating is common and can be managed by eating more mindfully and reducing the foods and drinks mentioned above. Bloating can be a good sign too, as it means the beneficial microbes in your gut are being well fed - they produce gas when they ferment high-fibre foods.
If your bloating continues after following these tips, or is excessive and/ or painful, go to see your GP first, who can advise further. If there is nothing more serious going on, a dietitian or registered nutritionist can help you with more strategies to manage your bloating.