After a wonderful meal, you’re ready to relax and move on to the rest of your day. But then it happens: your pants feel tight, and your stomach feels twice its normal size. On top of that, you may even experience cramps, gas, and belching. These are all possible signs of bloating.
While some underlying health conditions sometimes cause bloating, this is a common occurrence that may be fixed with changes to your eating habits. Here are some tips to help you avoid those uncomfortable bloating episodes.
1. Know the Most Common Food Triggers
Carbohydrates are among the greatest triggers of bloating because they cause gas. The most infamous bloating triggers include:
- cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
- dairy products
- peaches and pears
You don’t have to avoid these foods altogether. Instead, try eating one potential culprit at a time and reduce the quantity you eat if it causes any bloating.
2. Watch Your Fiber Intake
Whole grains are another common bloating culprit. While whole grains are promoted as healthier than their refined counterparts, their high-fiber content can cause bloating. Fiber is an important part of a heart-healthy diet, but you should gradually increase the amount you eat. Instead of switching from refined white grains to whole grain all at once, try replacing one version at a time to see how your body reacts.
3. Put Away the Salt Shaker
By now, you know that eating too much salt can cause a slew of long-term health problems, including high blood pressure. In the short term, an extra salty meal may lead to water retention, which causes bloating.
You can avoid excess sodium in your diet by using flavorful herbs instead of salt, and by reducing the amount of processed and packaged foods you eat.
4. Avoid Fatty Foods
Here’s another pitfall of high-fat meals: They take longer for the body to process. The fat moves slowly through the digestive tract, and this causes bloat. It also explains why your stomach feels like it wants to burst out of your clothing after a large, fattening meal, such as the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. If bloating is a common occurrence after high fat meals, cut down on the fat. Opt for more lean choices, such as produce and grains.
5. Limit Carbonated Drinks
Carbonated water and soda are leading culprits for bloating in the beverage world. As you consume these drinks, carbon dioxide gas builds up in your body. This can quickly lead to bloating, especially if you drink them quickly. Plain water is best. Try adding a slice of lemon for some flavor without the bloat.
6. Eat Slowly
You may have a habit of scarfing down our food if you’re in a time crunch. You also swallow air when you do this, which can lead to gas retention. You can beat the bloat by taking your time eating. Eating more slowly can also reduce your overall food intake, so you may find yourself tightening your belt rather than loosening it!
7. Go for a Walk
There is no denying the benefits of exercise for your overall health and well-being. As an added bonus, working out can also reduce the gas buildup that contributes to bloating. A short walk can alleviate bloating after a meal, if you’re up for it.
8. Try a Gas-Busting Supplement
Anti-gas supplements, such as a-galactosidase tablets, help prevent gas buildup from certain foods. While they’re usually advertised to prevent embarrassing belching and flatulence, these pills also can relieve bloating. Depending on the brand, you may take these supplements on a daily basis, or as needed before meals per doctor’s orders.
When Lifestyle Changes Don’t Help
Bloating is usually just your body’s natural response to certain foods or habits. But when bloating doesn’t ease up with dietary changes, it may be time to address the problem with your doctor. This is especially the case if the bloating is accompanied with severe cramps and abnormal bowel movements. Possible underlying health problems can include:
- celiac disease (gluten intolerance)
- Crohn’s disease
- food allergies
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- lactose intolerance
You don’t have to suffer from bloating forever. Remember that determining the cause will eventually help prevent uncomfortable bloating episodes.