Most people have experienced bloating at least once in their life and would likely agree that it’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s important to note that it’s normal to experience some bloating, especially after eating. It’s when the bloating is more than just ‘a bit’ of bloating and comes with discomfort or pain that it becomes a problem. If you experience bloating on a regular basis, here are our top tips on how to help beat the bloat!
Written by Mia Achhorner, student Dietitian & Amanda Smith, Accredited Practising Dietitian
Chew food well
The digestive system is a beautifully synchronised orchestra, where each tissue and organ works in harmony with the others. Chewing has a physical and a chemical function. The physical one is to chomp up your food into smaller pieces to make it easier for your stomach to break it down and extract nutrients and energy from it. The other one is chemical, as chewing releases saliva, which contains enzymes that aid digestion. The action of chewing also signals to the other organs that food has entered the body and is about to pass through the system. This allows the body to pre-emptively release enzymes, stomach acid, bile and mucus into the gastrointestinal tract, further facilitating the acquisition of energy from our food. So, the more we chew, the easier it is to digest our meals and the less stress is caused to the system.
Take your time
Getting ravenously hungry and then scoffing down your food in a matter of minutes can lead to bloating. On the one hand, you’re probably not chewing properly, which ties in with the previous tip, but you also swallow more air when you eat quickly. This can lead to gas build-up that contributes to a bloated tummy.
Limit carbonated drinks
By drinking fizzy drinks, you are literally consuming excess air in the form of carbon dioxide. CO2 is a molecule, so it takes up space. This means that when you consume carbonated drinks, gas builds up in your digestive tract, especially when you drink them quickly, leading to bloating.
Small, frequent meals
If you experience regular bloating, aiming for smaller meals and snacks across the day is a safer option than three large meals. Large meals in general usually take longer to break down, straining your system. So moving away from 3 large meals in the day to multiple smaller meals ensures your digestive tract doesn’t get overwhelmed and allows gas to exit the system before it builds up and causes discomfort. Large meals may also be higher in fibre, which is a good thing when it comes to gut health, but can worsen bloating if too much is consumed in one go.
Ensure you’re eating enough
When we don’t eat enough, the body will prioritise energy to more vital areas such as the brain and the heart, meaning there is less available for the gut to function properly. This state of low energy availability can trigger gut symptoms such as bloating, as well as other symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and wind (which can worsen bloating!). So, before removing any foods you feel may be triggering symptoms – first ensure you’re fuelling your body optimally!
Explore potential food intolerances
A common symptom of a food intolerance is bloating, so it might be a sign that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. But before you eliminate possible triggers and place yourself on a self-prescribed restrictive diet, remember that as soon as you eliminate certain foods (especially when it’s entire food groups!), you are also eliminating nutrients. To avoid doing this unnecessarily, it’s best to see a dietitian to guide you through this process and safely determine whether you have any food intolerances that need to be managed.
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