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You know the score – one minute you’re flat abed and feeling good. The next, you’re rocking a rounded, bloated belly and trying to discretely disguise a symphony of strange, gurgling and windy noises. It’s not comfortable; you feel unattractive. You want to know how to get rid of bloating, fast.
First off, let us assure you that a bloated belly is not something to shy away from and is far more common than you might like to admit. ‘Bloating can be caused by eating too much, eating too quickly, and by consuming a diet of rich, fatty foods,’ says Dr Sarah Brewer. ‘But it can also be caused by functional disorders of the gut – for example, the reduced production of stomach acid and enzymes, bile or pancreatic juices, which can occur during times of stress – or conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Bloating may also increase around the time of your period.’ And with women reporting the symptoms of bloated stomachs more frequently than men, it would seem we’re pretty much living in a constant danger zone.
The good news is it doesn’t need to be that way. According to the experts, all it can take to banish that bloated belly are tweaks to your daily diet and workout regime. Ready to get started? Rid yourself of the symptoms of IBS? Thought so.
HOW TO GET RID OF BLOATING: THE DIET PLAN
FOODS TO ENJOY
1. FENNEL SEEDS
They may be small but boy are these little wonders mighty. Add them to your cooking, chew on them or steep them in hot water for a soothing cup of tea. ‘Fennel seeds are a potent digestive aid,’ says nutritionist and nutritional therapist Jennie Gough (www.jenniegough.com). ‘They contain a compound that relaxes the muscles in the digestive tract, helping to alleviate gas, bloating and stomach cramps.’ Not a fan of fennel’s flavour? ‘Try ginger or mint,’ Gough suggests.
2. PREBIOTICS & PROBIOTICS
Gut health has been having a moment so you don’t need us to tell you that if you regularly suffer from bloating, it could be due to an imbalance in your gut bacteria. Help redress the situation by including more pre-biotic foods and probiotics in your diet. ‘Choosing a yoghurt that contains live cultures such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium can help support the good bacteria in the gut that are essential for a healthy digestive system,’ Gough says. Nutritionist Amanda Hamilton, of The Gut Plan Clinic (www.gutplanclinic.com), also suggests swapping your usual snacks for an anti-bloating alternative: ‘Try a kefir drink or a side of sauerkraut,’ she says.
In need of an extra boost? Supplement your stomach with these high-strength capsules, containing Lab4, a group of gut-friendly bacteria shown to help with bloating and symptoms of IBS.
ProVen Adult Acidophilus & Bifidus – 25 Billion (£13.95; Holland & Barrett)
3. GLOBE ARTICHOKE
Perhaps not one to frequently make it into your five-a-day shop, but including the thistle-like food into your diet could have benefits for your bloated belly. Dr Brewer explains: ‘It can stimulate bile production and can quickly relieve bloating linked with poor bile output, especially if symptoms are caused by fatty foods and alcohol.’
Can’t be bothered with the faff of food prep? Try this natural extract, instead.
Healthspan Artichoke Extract (£9.45, healthspan.co.uk)
4. BONE BROTH
Love it or hate it, when it comes to how to get rid of bloating, bone broths can be just the ticket. ‘They can help to repair the gut lining,’ Hamilton says. Which means? Hasta la vista, bloated tum. Try this recipe for turkey bone broth and quit Googling how to get rid of bloating.
5. PINEAPPLE & PAPAYA
Add a taste of the exotic to your smoothies and snacks by swapping your typical apple and berries for pineapple and papaya. ‘These fruits contain natural digestive enzymes (bromelain and papain), which help your body to break down food and so reduce gas and bloating,’ Gough says. Want an extra boost? ‘The stem of pineapple is a particularly good source.’
‘Bloating can sometimes be caused by a high sodium intake, which leads to water retention,’ Gough says. Flush away any excess by adding parsley, a natural diuretic, to your food, or by serving up a side of asparagus with your morning eggs. ‘Eating a banana can also help,’ Gough continues. ‘As these fruits are rich in potassium and so can help to regulate sodium levels in the body.’
FOODS THAT CAUSE BLOATING
No surprises there – but ever stopped to wonder why it is that beans, lentils and peas can produce such swollen side effects? ‘They’re one of the worst culprits when it comes to foods that trigger bloating,’ Gough says. ‘They contain a sugar called an oligosaccharide that our digestive enzymes can’t break down fully so the bacteria in our gut feed on it and produce gas as a result.’
Not sure what to replace your carbs for? Try this bread. Designed to help those suffering from digestive issues or bouts of bloating, this bread alternative is packed with soluble, insoluble and prebiotic fibres – meaning happy gut bacteria for you.
The Happy Tummy Co Wholegrain Organic Gluten-free Chia Teff Loaf (£10.50, thehappytummyco.com)
2. FIZZY DRINKS
It makes perfect sense, right? Drinking gas equals gas. But when that ice-cold G&T tastes so good, we’d be wrong not to forgive you for giving out. The downside is your tummy won’t. ‘Alcohol promotes dysbiosis (leaky gut) and harmful bacterial overgrowth in the gut,’ Hamilton says. ‘While the sugar and artificial sweeteners in the tonic can alter your gut microbiota and increase pathogenic bacteria.’
3. PROCESSED MEATS
If you need another reason to join the #flexitarian movement, then know that going plant-based could help get rid of bloating. According to Hamilton, the type of fat in processed meats can actually lower the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut, while also increasing levels of pathogenic bacteria. Try our best healthy vegetarian and vegan recipes to get you started.
4. BOILED SWEETS & CHEWING GUM
‘Both can increase your risk of swallowing excess air and consequently gassiness,’ Dr Brewer says.
HOW TO HELP PREVENT A BLOATED BELLY
1. KEEP A FOOD DIARY
If your bloated belly is more than an occasional occurrence, it’s time to make friends with My Fitness Pal. ‘Keep a record of everything you eat and drink – and your symptoms afterwards,’ Gough says. ‘This should help you identify what may be causing your bloating.’ Bloating going on for weeks on end? ‘It’s time to seek medical advice,’ Dr Brewer adds.
2. GET COOKING
It’s a long-standing debate – should you eat your fruits and vegetables raw or cooked, to maximise their nutritional content? Well, when it comes to knowing how to get rid of bloating, cooked wins out. ‘Some fruits and vegetables that are high in fibre can cause digestive discomfort,’ Gough says. ‘Cooking helps to break some of the fibre down, making it easier for your body to digest – and so causing less bloating.’
3. EAT MORE SLOWLY
Reclaim your lunch break and reconnect with your dinner table. One of the most effective ways to beat the bloat is to eat more slowly and to chew properly, Gough says. Which means? No more hurried meals at your desk or on the run. ‘Eating too fast leads to more air being swallowed, which exacerbates bloating,’ Gough says. ‘While taking time out to eat properly, means your body is in a more relaxed state, which is essential for effective digestion.’ So less undigested food left fermenting in your gut, and less risk of a stomach bloat. Damage already done? ‘Try lying on your left-hand side to help excess wind roll up and out,’ Dr Brewer suggests. Somewhere private, obvs.
‘You should be aiming to move your bowels every day – or at least every other day,’ Hamilton says. ‘Otherwise, food can start to ferment in the gut, releasing gases that cause bloating and flatulence.’ And you know what to do. ‘Make sure you’re drinking 1.5-2l of water a day and eating plenty of insoluble fibre,’ Hamilton says. Regular exercise will also help – see below for a suggested anti-bloat workout.
4. TRY A GUT RESET
Still no joy? Or need results, fast? Then try Hamilton’s programme, designed to improve gut health and get rid of bloating. ‘Rest the gut by removing common triggers of bloating like gluten and dairy,’ Hamilton says. ‘Some people with persistent symptoms of bloating, IBS or other digestive issues need to go a stage further and also eliminate FODMAPS (specific fermentable carbohydrates) or, in some cases, all grains and legumes for a period of time. The next phase is to gradually introduce probiotic foods to support the overall microbiome with nourishing bacteria from food sources such as miso, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut or kimchi. It doesn’t matter which source you choose simply select what is most readily available, budget friendly and what you enjoy the most. Lastly, rebalance gradually back to a wider diet that reintroduces trigger foods one food at a time to see which your body is reacting to.’
For more information, visit Hamilton’s The Gut Plan Clinic, read The G Plan Diet, or trial The Gut Plan Diet app.
HOW TO RELIEVE BLOATING WITH YOGA
‘High levels of stress have also been found to negatively impact gut bacteria levels which can cause bloating,’ Hamilton says. Swap HIIT workouts for lower-intensity alternatives. Nutritional therapist, yoga instructor and author of The De-Stress Effect, Charlotte Watts suggests three yoga poses to naturally aid digestion and ease bloating.
‘Squatting positions encourage the muscular actions needed for bowel movements,’ Watts says. ‘While engaging lower abdominal muscles massage the colon. Stand feet hip-width apart and parallel, with arms hanging by your side. On an exhale, bend your knees as if sitting back onto a chair, allowing your upper body to hinge forward, whilst still feeling length between the breastbone and belly. As you drop down, raise your arms forward to shoulder-height, keeping your shoulders soft. On an inhale, draw back up to standing through the belly, letting the arms drop down. Continue this movement with spacious breath, focusing on a long calming exhalation into the movement.’
‘This aids digestion by creating compression in the organs that allows the flooding of fluids when released,’ Watts says. ‘This has both a massaging effect and hydrates body tissues. All twists can help in this way, but the standing version shown allows the rotation to occur all the way up from the instep on the standing leg, thus freeing the lines of the connective tissue up through the inner legs to the digestive organs.’
‘Inversions support digestion and reduce bloating by encouraging the natural slide-and-glide down of body fluids from the lower legs, by assisting lymphatic flow around the colon and whole abdomen, and by calming the nervous system,’ Watts says. ‘Viparita karani or legs-up-the-wall posture is particularly helpful here, especially when the hips are raised above the heart on a bolster or stack of blankets. Opening the legs into a wide-stride version also allows the pelvic floor to naturally soften and release tension up into the digestive organs.’
BLOATED BELLY THAT JUST WON’T GO AWAY?
It could be a symptom of IBS. ‘IBS affects around 12 million people in the UK,’ says Dr Simon Smale, gastroenterologist and medical adviser to The IBS Network. ‘People with IBS are often very sensitive to abdominal content, even with food or drink quantities or gas that might be considered normal. Studies have shown that this sensation of abdominal fullness can cause them to contract (lower) the diaphragm and relax the abdomen, causing it to protrude. This may be greater if the abdominal content is increased by a meal or towards the end of the day when someone is tired. Bloating is more likely to occur in people who are anxious as the emotional tension can make the intestine more sensitive and encourage the relief of pressure by abdominal protrusion.’
How to get rid of bloating if you have IBS? The following may help, Dr Smale suggests:
• Try a low FODMAP diet. What is FODMAPS diet?
• Relaxation, hypnotherapy and meditation can help to decrease the sensitivity and spasms of the bowel.
• Antispasmodic drugs can reduce the spasms that cause gas to become trapped in the bowel.
• Simethicone is an inert polymer that is said to work by reducing the surface tension of small air bubbles, thereby allowing them to coalesce into larger bubbles that are more easily eliminated.
• Activated charcoal is said to trap chemicals that are responsible for bloating.