Feeling bloated and uncomfortable in your own skin can suck at the best of times. But with summer holidays on the horizon, that bloated tummy can inspire fresh panic. Not only do you have to put up with offers of a seat on the tube thanks to your post-lunch “pregnancy” bump, but now you’re wondering how you’re going to fit into those chic summer dresses you bought in an optimistic flurry back in the spring. You scour the internet for weight loss tips, but nothing seems to work and beach body confidence seems like a distant dream.
Sound familiar? Then read on. In this article I’ll share six simple tricks you can try now to help combat a bloated tummy, so you can feel happier in your body this summer – and beyond.
Why am I feeling bloated?
To answer this question, it can really pay to take a pause and consider how your symptoms are showing up for you. We’re all different, and part of beating that bloated stomach for good is understanding what’s really causing it. For instance, do you wake up with a flat tummy, but feel three times bigger before bed? Have you noticed your bloating is worse at certain times of the month or after certain foods? Perhaps it feels like you’re carrying a basketball in your tum when you’re going through a stressful time at work, or when your to-do list seems particularly impossible to conquer.
Learning to read the signals
Symptoms such as bloating are like messages from your body. Yes, very annoying messages sometimes, granted. But if you’re able to tune in and listen, they can help you identify where your body needs the most support.
I often ask my clients to keep a food and symptom diary for a week or two. This isn’t so I can catch them out (!). Instead, it’s a really useful tool that can help highlight patterns in how you’re feeling. Knowledge is power, and the more you’re able to pick up on your personal triggers (such as stress, something you ate, or even lack of sleep), the better equipped you’ll be to start taking positive steps to change. It can also help to reduce the overwhelm of not knowing where to begin in order to feel better.
Armed with this information, the tips below can provide even more insight and help you understand why you’re feeling the way you are.
6 easy tips to reduce a bloated stomach and boost body confidence
So, without further ado, here are six easy things you can try right now to help beat the bloat:
1. Chew your food
Sounds simple, I know. But how often have you wolfed down a Pret pot on the school run or grabbed lunch while juggling emails, only to look down and wonder where all the food went? Digestion actually starts in the mouth. Eating while distracted can cause you to swallow large chunks of food which then sit in your stomach, leaving you feeling bloated and uncomfortably full. As this partially digested food moves through your system, it also provides the perfect fuel for the trillions of bacteria that live inside your gut. This makes the bacteria very happy – and happy bacteria give off lots of gas, which in turn makes you feel like you’ve swallowed a balloon. Chewing your food thoroughly helps ease the whole digestive process, reducing the likelihood of that post-lunch (or dinner) bloat.
2. Make yourself a cuppa
Swap your builders for stomach-soothing herbal teas such as peppermint, fennel and camomile. Ginger is also great for helping to stimulate gastric emptying (aka, keep your digestion moving). Try steeping a thumb-size piece of fresh, peeled ginger in hot water for five minutes to help calm a bloated tummy.
3. Choose your carbs carefully
Contrary to current popular media, carbs are not the enemy. The trick is choosing the ones that support your system (ie. are easier to digest) to stop you feeling bloated. Fill up on dark green leafy veggies such as spinach, Swiss chard, rocket, watercress, bok choy and kale and aim to get lots of colour on your plate (such as peppers, carrots, tomatoes, aubergines, radishes). The fibre from these foods can keep you regular, which is really important when it comes to reducing a bloated tummy. Unrefined carbs including white rice, buckwheat, gluten-free oats and new potatoes can help bulk out a meal without bulking out your tummy (stick to a palm size amount per serving). These foods make a good alternative to bloat-inducing refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and couscous.
4. Get continental
Take a leaf from our neighbours across the Channel (pun totally intended, sorry…) and try starting your main meal with a small salad of watercress, rocket, endive or radicchio (any or all that take your fancy), dressed with a squeeze of lemon and a splash of olive oil. These bitter leaves can help to gently prime your system for the rest of your meal, so it’s easier to digest (and less likely to cause bloating). Apple cider vinegar in hot water between meals can have a similar effect – work up to about 1-2 tablespoons per day.
5. Watch your prebiotics
Keeping your community of friendly gut bacteria happy can help you achieve a flatter tummy – not to mention the benefits it has on your mood and energy levels. Prebiotic foods (asparagus, Jerusalem, artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, under-ripe bananas, chicory root) feed the healthy bacteria, making them a great addition to a well-rounded diet. But if your little community of microbes is out of balance, these foods can actually trigger more bloating. This is where a food and symptom diary can really help you work out which foods are most suited to your system right now. (A caveat: reducing or cutting out these foods is a short-term solution only, so if you find you’re not reacting well to them it’s definitely worth investigating why this might be.)
6.Practice mindful eating
Slow down and take a few moments to appreciate what’s in front of you before you start eating. This can trigger a cascade of feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters which signal to your body to move into “rest and digest” mode. As the phrase suggests, this primes your system to break down the food you’re eating so you’re better able to absorb the nutrients from it. It also triggers the release of the hormone leptin, which helps you feel full so you can avoid the overeating which often leads to an uncomfortable bloated stomach.
Really my wish for you is that you are able to enjoy a wide variety of foods that make you feel great, outside and in. If you’ve tried the tips above and still feel at a loss as to why you have a bloated tummy, or you need a helping hand to feel confident choosing the foods that are right for you, book a free call with me and together we can figure out how to get you feeling lighter, brighter and more at ease in your own skin this summer – and beyond.