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Beat the 'bloat'

woman having painful stomachache

Feeling bloated lots of the time?  It’s unfortunately a really common problem for women and always seems worse around period time. Here’s some quick tips that might help……..

Tip 1 – Check for water retention

Conversely, the body tends to hold onto water (you’re naturally around 70% water), when the weather is warmer or if you’ve exercise a lot, which leads to water retention and, therefore bloating.  The best way of avoiding water retention is to actually drink more water – around 1 ½ to 2 litres daily!  Additionally, certain herbs, such as dandelion, work as diuretics, helping to reduce water retention; drinking some dandelion tea throughout the day can work wonders and also counts towards your daily fluid intake.  Stress can also have an effect on water balance; aldosterone, a steroid hormone, produced by the adrenal glands helps to regulate water balance in the body by holding on or eliminating sodium.  It’s a very fine balancing act!  However, if you’re feeling stressed (and modern-day life tends to be very stressful!), then it’s worth taking some time out of a busy day to practice some yoga or just a few minutes of very deep breathing, to help the body relax.  Additionally, the herb ashwagandha can really help to support people through stressful times but also combat feelings of tiredness and fatigue.  And your tummy will be less bloated ‘to boot’!

Tip 2 – Get good ‘floral’ balance

The gastrointestinal tract is home to vast numbers of bacteria, commonly referred to as friendly flora; there are over 500 different types, weighing anything up to two kilos, in the gut!  Some are good and some not-so-good, but there needs to be more good than bad; an imbalance can cause various digestive upsets, including bloating and the dreaded flatulence!  It’s always a good idea to take a course of probiotics for one or two months every year to keep the good bacteria in balance.  Plus, if you’ve recently taken a course of antibiotics then you really do need to replenish the good bacteria otherwise you’ll definitely be feeling bloated and uncomfortable.  Additionally, try to eat foods that help to replenish the good bacteria being asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, onions bananas, green tea and fermented foods such as tofu or miso (miso soup is delicious!)

Tip 3 – Say no to sugar!

There are a number of reasons for trying to keep to a low-sugar diet; most importantly, a high sugar diet encourages the release of insulin, which in turn affects aldosterone levels (see above).  This will encourage water retention and, therefore, bloating.  Sugar is sugar in all its forms, and yes, even honey is sugar!  However, if you’ve got a slightly ‘sweet tooth’ then take steps to reduce the obvious culprits; cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks, alcohol and certain fruits; mangoes, pineapples and papayas are delicious but should be eaten in moderation.  Interestingly, it’s always best to eat fruit, and in particular, melons, away from other foods, because it encourages fermentation in the digestive tract.  This, in turn will, lead to bloating.  Therefore, have at least an hour after eating other foods before consuming any fruit.

Tip 4 – Combat over-indulgence!

Gatherings are ideal opportunities to over-indulge and over-indulgence can lead to bloating!  However, with a little forward planning, you can wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy the next day and your digestive system will be happy too!  Your liver is the main organ of detoxification and has to

work hard if too much alcohol and fatty food is consumed.  If you’re going to be drinking alcohol then it’s always wise to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink consumed.  You can help bloating by grabbing some digestive enzymes.  They can be taken with each meal and will help break down food and keep your digestive system running a little smoother.  Additionally, the herb, milk thistle, is particularly protective of the liver and helps to combat the ‘morning after the night before’ feelings, including any of the associated bloating that may occur.  Take one or two tables before you go out either at lunch-time or in the evening.

Tip 5 – Check for food intolerances!

There is a tendency to ‘self-diagnose’ food intolerances at the moment!  However, if you’re eating foods that don’t agree with you, this will certainly lead to bloating.  Common culprits are gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs or soya.  However, anyone can be intolerant to any foods – we’re all different in that respect.  Most importantly, it’s not always an intolerance to certain foods, just that we are eating them too frequently.  As an example, there are many people who eat cereal for breakfast, a sandwich at lunchtime and a pasta-based meal for dinner.  Consequently, there’ll be lots of wheat consumed throughout the day, and this in itself can lead to unpleasant symptoms, including bloating.  Think about eating some egg with rye toast for breakfast, a salad and soup for lunch and some chicken or fish with rice and vegetables for dinner.  

Bloating and digestive upsets are one of the most common problems I see in practice.  There really is no need to suffer in silence.