Most of us have experienced the tight and full bloated feeling in our stomachs at some stage, with some being temporary as a result of overeating or overindulgence whilst for others it can be a little more common and in some cases affecting quality of life.
Know that you’re not alone and all it may take are some little adjustments to get your tummy back on track.
Here Laurann O’Reilly nutritionist and owner of Nutrition by Laurann provides us with some practical nutritional and lifestyle strategies that may provide you with some relief from the dreaded bloat.
Causes of Bloated Tummies
- Diet – The first area we should look at in terms of stomach bloating are the foods that we eat that eventually reach the stomach to cause the irritation. Increased consumption of processed foods, as well as foods high in fat and sugar can put pressure on our digestive systems so it’s important to ensure that your food of the purest and highest quality, opting for fresh produce as much as possible.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - This is one of the most common causes of bloating with IBS affecting one in five people in Ireland. It has also been found to affect more women than men and more younger women (18-40) than older women. Mainly related to the large intestine, it can include symptoms such as flatulence, stomach cramps/spasms as well as well as irregular bowel habits.
- Food Intolerance & Sensitivity - Is difficulty digesting certain foods and having an unpleasant physical reaction to them.
It can cause inflammation of the digestive system, resulting in symptoms, such as bloating and tummy pain, which usually happen a few hours after eating the food. Feel free to contact me directly if you feel you may have a food intolerance or sensitivity.
- Hormonal changes - Many people experience bloating before and during their periods due to hormonal changes and water retention.
- Digestive Massage - Massaging the abdomen can help to get the bowels moving. A massage that follows the path of the large intestine is especially helpful.
How To Do a Digestive Massage
Placing the hands just above the right hip bone.
Rubbing in a circular motion with light pressure up toward the right side of the ribcage.
Rubbing straight across the upper belly area toward the left rib cage.
Moving slowly down toward the left hip bone.
Repeating as necessary.
Note: If the massage causes any pain, it is best to discontinue it immediately.
- Yoga - Can be an extremely helpful and gentle activity for relieving tummy bloating as certain yoga poses can position the muscles in the abdomen in a way that encourages the release of excess gas, providing a form of internal massage.
I recommend Lara Slattery an amazing Tipperary based yoga instructor for some online yoga classes from the comfort of your own home, you can find them here laraslatteryhealthandwellness.com
- Walking - Physical activity, even a gentle walk can get your digestive system working more efficiently through helping the movement of gas and gently promoting bowl movements for those who may be a little constipated.
Physical activity is also important for maintaining strong bowel muscles. Aim for a minimum of 20 minutes physical activity per day.
- Have A Bath - The heat of the bath not only helps to soothe a sore tummy but it can also help you relax, reducing stress and anxiety levels.
In turn, this allows your digestive system to function more effectively and helps reduce bloating.
- Keep a diary - Within this I recommend keeping a record of 1) your energy, 2) your mood, 3) your sleep and 4) your symptoms.
This may help you identify some of your triggers for example you may be able to establish if your bloating is related to food, sleep or stress.
- Eat Plenty of Fibre - Having enough and the right types of fibre is essential to maintaining a healthy digestive system. Aim for a balance of ‘insoluble fibre’ (doesn’t dissolve in water) such as brown/wholegrain breads, pasta, cereals and rice and ‘soluble fibre’ (dissolves in water) such as oats, chia seeds, flaxseed, fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to your stools whilst soluble fibre draws water into your gut, which softens your stools. Having a balance of both types of fibre helps to support regular bowel movements
- Drink Plenty of Water - One of the key things to beat bloating is to stay well hydrated.
Not only does it aid the passage of food through to your stomach but it also helps to improve your digestion and prevent constipation. Aim to drink a minimum of 1 ½ litres of water every day and reduce your intake of caffeinated tea and coffee.
- Eat More Slowly - With our busy lives and limited time, many of us are guilty of eating too quickly or on the go.
However, swallowing food too quickly can introduce air into the digestive tract.
Also, by not taking the time to chew and break down your food, you miss a key step in the digestive process. Try to take the time to eat your meals and chew your food, your tummy will thank you.
- Avoid Over Eating - Eating too much food in one go can impair your ability to break down your meals efficiently as well as putting pressure on your digestive system. Remember your food portion sizes and how to use your hands as a visual aid with the palm of your hand = 1 portion of protein (1/4 of your plate), a fist = 1 portion of carbohydrates (1/4 of your plate) and 2 fists = your 2 vegetable portions (1/2 of your plate)
- Avoid Fizzy or Carbonated Drinks - Fizzy and carbonated drinks including sparkling water contain carbon dioxide gas that can build up in the stomach resulting in bloating and gas. Choose fruit infused water instead.
- Probiotics - Sometimes our tummy bacteria (gut flora) can become imbalanced due to reasons such as stress, illness, antibiotics or dietary changes. This can sometimes result in excess gas and bloating.
It may be worth taking a course of probiotics to rebalance your tummy bacteria (3 months is usually sufficient for this). I prefer the Udos and OptiBac range, however you can consult with your pharmacist as to the most suitable one for you.
- Avoid Artificial Sweeteners - Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin contain a form of sugar alcohol. Studies have found that is often hard to digest and can result in gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating and diarrhea. Try choose a natural sweetener alternative such as stevia instead.
- Avoid Chewing Gum - The sugar alcohols in gum can cause bloating in some people as many contain the artificial sweeteners listed above. Swallowing air while chewing can also may lead to bloating and gas pain
- Peppermint - Peppermint works by relaxing the intestinal muscles, which allows gas and stool to move along more effectively and reduces bloating.
This is commonly used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Peppermint oil capsules are available in most pharmacies and health stores.
- Mint - Have you ever wondered where the tradition of giving mints after a meal came from?
Mint has natural muscle relaxing abilities, allowing intestinal muscles to calm and release tension.
Mint also improves bile flow helping fats to digest more easily.
- Ginger Tea - Ginger tea is made from the ‘rhizome’ part of the ginger plant which has been found to be hugely beneficial as a natural way for treating nausea, stomach upset and bloating due to its’ anti-inflammatory properties.
- Peppermint Tea - Peppermint as mentioned above, has long been used as a natural remedy for bloating and digestive health.
The ‘menthol’ component in the leaves not only enhances the flavour but acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Chamomile Tea - Has been shown to reduce fluid retention as well as soothe the walls of the intestine and stomach.
- Fennel Tea - Similar to the liquorice root, studies have found it to be beneficial in the treatment of flatulence, bloating and indigestion
- Dandelion Root Tea - is a natural anti-inflammatory which can ease the symptoms of an upset stomach. It’s also a natural diuretic which can alleviate the body of fluid retention.
Please check with your GP if you are on certain medications first.
Note: If symptoms persist – Please contact your GP to rule out any underlying health conditions
‘Beat the Bloat’ with ginger mint water
1 Litre of water
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
2 inches fresh, peeled ginger root
2 lemon/lime wedges
10 to 12 fresh mint leaves
1) Add your water to a large jug
2) Combine the other ingredients and stir gently
3) Refrigerate for three to four hours or overnight to allow all ingredients to infuse into the water, serve and enjoy.
About Laurann: Laurann O’Reilly is qualified and experienced Nutritionist with a BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from University of Nottingham and a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin. She has over 10 years of experience including working community and clinical care, research, personalised nutrition consultations (dealing in healthy eating, weight loss, digestive health and sports nutrition), teaching and developing nutrition courses at FETEC level, nutrition education talks and workshops (corporate wellness, schools, sports teams, public and private talks), previous food manager of the Coeliac Society of Ireland and is part of the roll out team for the Healthy Ireland Smart Start health promotion programme for pre-schools.
For further information see www.nutritionbylaurann.ie or contact Laurann at email@example.com
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