10 ways to beat the bloat

Tackle bloating the natural way with these expert tips

Bloating can be a real problem for some people and while it is wise to investigate the cause of painful symptoms, mild bloating can be alleviated with a few simple diet and lifestyle tweaks. We asked the experts for their help and advice.

1. Keep a food diary
“Bloating can cause much pain and discomfort,” says Claire Barnes, nutritional advisor for Protexin, manufacturers of Bio-Kult (www.bio-kult.com). “For some it may be a short-term concern, whilst for others their symptoms of bloating could be a long-term issue. Bloating provides us with a physical clue that our digestive system is not in balance. There are many reasons why bloating may arise and numerous ways in which you can deal with the problem. Keep a food diary. Note down which foods you are eating and when the symptoms of bloating occur. It may not necessarily be the last food you ate, so keep a check on any recurring foods that are followed by symptoms (even if hours later).”

2. Look at the low FODMAP diet
“For a temporary fix (up to six months) look at the low FODMAP diet,” suggests Naomi Devlin, author of Food for a Happy Gut (£20, Headline Home). “FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – types of carbohydrate to you and me. Some people struggle to break these down in the small intestine, which results in bloating and wind. Examples include cabbage, cauliflower, onions, garlic, wheat, plums, apples, beans and Jerusalem artichokes. These foods must be slowly reintroduced after a while to avoid starving your gut microbes of the prebiotic fibre they contain.”

3. Take a digestive enzyme
“Digesting our food well is one of the best ways of avoiding uncomfortable bloating and discomfort,” explains Caroline Harmer, education director at Renew Life, digestive care and cleansing experts (www.renewlife.co.uk). “Supporting digestion by taking a digestive enzyme supplement is one of the most effective ways to change the way your body responds to the foods you eat. If you suffer with severe bloating and or belching or heartburn, choose an ultra-strength enzyme that contains 14 plant-based enzymes and ginger root to support proper digestion of all types of food, including phytates. By properly breaking down phytates the body can better absorb vital minerals, especially calcium – efficient calcium absorption is key for everyone, and most especially vegetarians and vegans.”

4. Soothe your gut with aloe vera
“This is my top gut soother,” says Rick Hay, author of The Anti-Ageing Food and Fitness Plan (www.thesuperfoodist.com). “It detoxifies, it’s anti-microbial, antibacterial and antiviral too. This plant reduces internal inflammation and as a bonus can help improve skin conditions like eczema and rosacea too.”

5. Balance your gut flora
“Increase beneficial bacteria,” suggests Claire Barnes. “Consume more fermented foods or take a multi-strain live bacteria supplement daily. Pathogenic bacteria are believed to produce more gas than beneficial bacteria when they ferment unabsorbed foods in the colon. A more balanced gut flora should therefore produce less gas and bloating.”

6. Reduce your dairy consumption
“Lactose intolerance can occur following a course of antibiotics or a bout of gastroenteritis,” says Naomi Devlin. “Symptoms include bloating and loose stools following consumption of dairy products. Try cutting out all dairy for a week and, if things improve, reintroduce butter and hard cheeses, followed by lacto-free milk. Be cautious with soft cheeses, cream and yogurt as these contain some lactose, although you may tolerate small quantities.”

7. Improve your diet
“Reduce processed foods and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pastries and pasta,” says Claire Barnes. “Follow a more Mediterranean diet by eating at least five vegetables and two fruits each day from a rainbow of different colours and consume more oily fish, such as mackerel. Drizzle foods with olive oil after cooking.”

8. Support your colon
“Constipation and incomplete bowel evacuations result in waste fermenting in the colon, which leads to gas and bloating,” explains Caroline Harmer. “To help manage constipation and reduce bloating, many people turn to laxatives, but laxatives can be bad news, even the natural ones like senna or Cascara sagrada. This is because prolonged use can lead to dependency and weaken the bowel. Look for an all-natural colon support supplement that does not contain harsh purgative laxatives. A good formula will use magnesium hydroxide to hydrate the colon and soften the stool as well as rhubarb root and Triphala to stimulate the natural muscular movements of the bowel while not becoming habit-forming.”

9. Try some herbal help
“Try the herb Vitex Berry (Chaste Tree),” says Rick Hay. “It’s best taken as a tincture or tea with meals. This herb has been used traditionally to treat irregular menstruation.”

10. And... relax!
“Ensure you are in a relaxed state whilst eating,” says Claire Barnes. “If we are feeling stressed, our body turns its attention away from digestion, meaning we can’t break down and digest foods properly. If possible, turn off all possible distractions, and sit by a window where you can stare off into the distance. Relaxation exercises such as yoga, Pilates, meditation and mindfulness all help to relax the body and improve both nervous system health and digestion. Stretching and twisting of the abdomen in yoga moves may particularly reduce bloating.”

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