If you’ve experienced bloating and can’t work out exactly what causes it, I feel your pain. I used to suffer from terrible bloating, to the point where I’d look pregnant. It would take at least 3 days to properly settle and go down. Not cool, especially when a modelling job would pop up at the same time.
Over the years, I have read extensively about what causes bloating and tried everything. From parasite cleanses to elimination diets. For many people, bloating is caused by food intolerances, allergies or medical conditions. But for me, I think what it mostly came down to was stress. Who would’ve thought, right?
It actually makes sense though. When we’re stressed, the body diverts resources away from the digestive system because it’s preparing for an attack. Add the fact that when we’re stressed we often eat more that our body needs to numb the nasty feelings, and we have perfect conditions for a sluggish digestive system and bloated stomach.
These are the techniques that I use to prevent bloating day to day and to optimise my digestion.
1. Eat mindfully
If I’m feeling stressed, before meal times I take the time to breathe deeply, chew my food well and limit distractions (such as being on my phone or computer). This way, I can properly tune into my body so I don’t miss the ‘fullness’ cues that indicate that I’ve eaten enough.
2. Optimise your gut flora
Too much stress, sugar, junk food, artificial sweeteners, alcohol or antibiotics can all wreck havoc on your gut lining and throw things off balance. To help heal my gut, I eat fermented foods like raw sauerkraut regularly. When I was really struggling with bloating in the past, I took BioCeuticals Intestamine powder and UltraBiotic 45 probiotic tablets every day for a few months. It’s hard to say for sure, but I feel like it helped.
3. Stimulate your digestion
Drinking water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, stretching, yoga and massaging your abdomen to relax your stomach muscles can all help to stimulate digestion. I also avoid drinking too much fluid during meals, which can dilute your digestive juices. Sipping a drink during a meal is ok, but I avoid drinking too much for 20 minutes before and after my meals.
4. Know your food sensitivities
Without getting obsessive (which can lead to stress and more bloating!) it can be useful to keep track of when you feel bloated and what you ate during the day prior. For me, if I overeat gluten, high-fructose foods (e.g. dried fruits) or foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols (e.g. xylitol or maltitol) I get bloated. I’m not saying that I never eat these things, but I’m just aware of the effect that they have on my body and eat them in moderation. I’ve previously written about how I eat if you’re interested.
5. Stay hydrated
I usually keep a large drink bottle with me to sip on during the day. Sipping on the water rather than gulping it down is the key here. A Chinese medicine specialist once told me to think about my body as a plant hat needs watering. If you pour on too much water in one go, it floods and won’t absorb the water. Sips throughout the day are much more effective.
These are just some of the things that have worked for me. However, if you experience persistent or severe bloating, I would suggest that you seek advice from your doctor.