1. Try Chopsticks
This may sound odd but eating with chopsticks takes concentration and forces us to eat slower which in turn allows us to chew proper with each small mouthful. The slower we eat and the more we chew our food, the more digestive enzymes are produced, allowing our bodies to break down the food far better and improve absorption of nutrients.
2. Go Easy On Fermentable Fibres
A key food group to be aware of is fermentable fibres. These foods are sometimes referred to by the acronym FODMAPs (think onions, garlic, oats and slightly green bananas). These fermentable fibres are not absorbed by the body and stay intact through the small intestines to then act as a food source for the bacteria in the gut. Unfortunately, if we have an imbalance of our gut bacteria, the potentially more harmful bacteria will ferment these fibres and produce more gases and toxins as by-products, therefore increasing bloating. In fact, it is reported that 50-82% of individuals suffering with bloating experience a decrease in their symptoms when restricting FODMAPs from their diet altogether. That doesn’t mean skipping fibre altogether though – still try to eat gentle fibres that retain water and create a soft gel (such as psyllium husk and soaked flaxseeds). These encourage muscular movement in the digestive tract to move food through the intestines towards the bowel properly.
3. Monitor Yourself For Intolerances
Sensitivities to certain foods can be a big driver for digestive symptoms such as bloating. Play detective and keep a food diary of what you eat and any flare ups you experience to see if you notice any patterns. Alternatively, consider an elimination diet, where commonly aggravating foods, such as gluten and dairy are removed for two to three weeks, before being re-introduced one at a time and monitor reactions.
4. Avoid Regularly Chewing Gum
Under normal circumstances, chewing increases the digestive enzymes being produced by the body. Regularly chewing gum, tricks the body into thinking food is on its way. Your body will soon adapt and realise that food isn’t coming and reduce the production of digestive enzymes initiated by chewing, thus causing bloating.
5. Invest In The Right Supplements
Taking live bacteria supplements could help to re-address the balance of the gut flora by increasing the number and diversity of beneficial bacteria. Whilst these beneficial bacteria could be increased through eating fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir, some individuals suffering with bloating find these foods worsen their symptoms in the short-term. A study in 2014 using a multi-strain live bacteria supplement, observed a superior reduction in abdominal bloating. I would recommend a multi-strain live bacteria supplement such as Bio-Kult Advanced which contains 14 strains of bacteria. It doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge, so it’s really convenient to use every day to encourage gut flora balance and support a reduction in bloating.
6. Know That Peppermint Tea Isn’t Effective For Everyone
Many herbal teas such as peppermint and ginger have a carminative effect on the digestive tract. However, peppermint may not be suitable if you suffer with reflux as it can relax the sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach increasing the chance of stomach acid entering the oesophagus. Fennel tea is particularly effective for bloating and would be a great alternative to peppermint tea if you suffer with reflux. Try soaking a teaspoon of fennel seeds in hot water and drink as a tea after eating, or chew on the fennel seeds themselves.
7. Turn Off All Distractions Before Eating
Always make sure you are prepared for eating. That may sound weird, but it means relaxing, turning off all distractions, sitting in a comfortable position and ideally gazing out through a window and not at your phone. Additionally, eating in front of a screen can we swallow too quickly, taking in unwanted air simultaneously. We’re all now caught up in the daily grind, but our bodies simply respond by flooding us full of the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to a gain in belly fat and an increase in bloating too, so take a break and unwind fully when you eat. Trust me, it works.
8. Don’t Be Afraid Of Fermented Foods
A common cause of bloating is an imbalance of gut microflora. The easiest way to increase beneficial bacteria in your diet is through eating fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. These food groups will help balance out the bacteria in your gut to prevent the overproduction of gas, which in turn, results in bloating. As well, many people see immediate improvements by avoiding processed foods and instead, focusing on foods prepared and cooked from scratch. Choose good quality proteins (oily fish, grass-fed meats and lentils), healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil) and low FODMAP vegetables such as carrots, kale and courgettes until your gut flora is rebalanced. You can also try adding in spices and warmth to your food and drinks such as ginger, turmeric and chilli, which help to aid digestion.
9. Keep Apple Cider Vinegar Handy
Natural digestive enzymes taken before food can help to improve the breakdown of food, increase stomach acidity and improve absorption of nutrients. Consuming a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (with the mother – containing the original bacterial cultures) in a small glass of water in the mornings and bitter greens, such as rocket, as a starter or with the meal can both help to improve absorption.
10. Schedule Your Meals Wisely
More and more of us are eating late night, but this is a key cause for bloating as it doesn’t allow your digestive system to rest and recover properly throughout the night. Always try and eat regularly and avoid big meals after 8pm where possible. Make sure you’re drinking two litres of water each day too as this will flush through toxins, improving bowel movements.