Bloating is something that we have all experienced. Bloating is completely normal and typically will increase throughout the day as we eat. Our stomach will expand as we consume food because of the additional volume. Bloating is more prominent after mealtime. While there is not much we can do to minimize this post-meal expansion, we can minimize the excessive, intense and painful bloating that some may experience.
Bloating happens for a variety of different reasons. It is commonly a result of a gas buildup within the gastrointestinal tract. The gas can be produced by the bacteria inside our GI tract or by excess air inhaled during eating.
It is important to be aware that bloating may also be a symptom of some serious medical conditions. If you experience severe bloating for a longer period of time or on a daily basis, you should speak to your Primary Care Physician about your symptoms. You can also contact a Family Food Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to determine specific and personalized nutrition recommendations.
Dietary and lifestyle changes that help to reduce bloating are noted below.
1. Eat more balanced and nutritiously
Following The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and MyPlate will ensure that you are getting adequate and proper nutrition. Our eating patterns should include a variety of whole grains, produce, lean protein sources, and lowfat dairy. Limiting the amount of added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat in the diet is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
2. Chew your food completely and slowly
Chewing your food well can help to slow down the speed of consumption and thus limit the amount of air inhaled. As mentioned earlier, inhaled air can cause bloating. Chewing thoroughly will additionally help you to eat intuitively, allowing you to fully enjoy and taste your food, leading to a more satisfactory eating experience. When food is enjoyed and immersive, we are able to honor our fullness and prevent bloating caused by excessive intake.
3. Determine if any foods are aggravating bloating
Food intolerances can be determined by keeping a food and symptom diary to help you identify any potential foods that may be aggravating your bloating. If you are finding that repeated exposure to certain foods are causing bloating, eliminating them from your diet is worth considering to help reduce the bloating. A Family Food dietitian can help you to determine food intolerances and substitutes for foods not tolerated to ensure nutrition is not missing.
4. If you experience less frequent bowel movements or constipation, increase your dietary fiber, fluid and exercise
Bloating and Constipation go hand in hand. This is because constipation causes a feeling of bloating due to the increasing pressure built up inside the GI tract. Including fiber rich foods in the diet like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, will help to move things through the gut. Additionally, increasing your intake of water and getting regular exercise, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, will help to relieve constipation and infrequent bowel movements.
5. Consider adding in dietary probiotic and prebiotic sources
Our gut contains over a trillion bacteria! It is said that all of the bacteria within the GI tract weights about 2 pounds. The bacteria within our gut plays a huge role in our digestion. By increasing our dietary sources of probiotic and prebiotics, we will improve our gut microbiome and reduce bloating. Dietary sources of probiotics are Yogurt, look for “contains live active cultures” on the label, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Miso, Sourdough bread, Kombucha and Fermented tea. Dietary sources of prebiotics include Legumes, Whole grains, Fruits, Ground flaxseed, Garlic and Onions.
6. Review your lifestyle
Because stress and lack of sleep are also linked to bloating, it is important to learn proper sleep hygiene and implement stress coping mechanisms. Finding ways to help manage stress and improve your quality of sleep will help to reduce bloating not related to food!