Everyone deals with bloat at some point. The modern American diet contains too much salt, sugar, and dairy for us not to. In fact, the average carbohydrate intake alone can cause us to retain about 1.5 pounds of water.
There are three main causes of bloat:
These can work together to create problems. Dietary issues can cause all three, or can cause one, which contributes to another, and so on.
While treating one type of bloating may not address all your bloating issues, it can help you figure out healthier habits.
Prevention is key
The best way to improve bloating symptoms is prevention — stop it before you get it! Avoiding certain things and keeping up regular consumption of others will help in the battle against water weight. The following will help prevent you from feeling the bloat.
As mentioned above, carbs are a contributing factor. If you want to avoid water retention, you have to avoid carbs. This is why you can get on the scale after a day of heavy carb intake and it looks like you’ve gained 5 pounds. You did not gain 5 pounds from one meal. Actually, for every gram of carbohydrate you consume and your body keeps to use as energy, your body hoards 3 to 4 grams of water to help store the energy (glycogen).
Salt and salty foods are not good for gas bloating and water bloating. Our cells soak up all the extra water they can get to counteract the sodium intake.
Unfortunately, another favorite in the modern American diet that’s hiding in so many things in our pantries is a culprit for water weight. You’ll want to check all canned goods, frozen foods, and condiments for added sugar. Not only is sugar a carbohydrate plain and simple, but also, when you eat too much sugar, your insulin levels go up. High levels of insulin may cause your kidneys to retain water and sodium, meaning you’re not only gaining water weight, but also exacerbating it with sodium.
Stress can cause higher levels of cortisol, which contributes to weight gain (most likely in both water retention and gaining fat). Many things can cause cortisol levels to rise, one of which is a calorie reduction, as this stresses the body. So you could be losing weight but retaining water weight due to cortisol, therefore making you think you’ve made no progress or even gained weight when dieting. This is one of the many reasons why a small reduction in calories, along with a healthy, nonstrenuous exercise routine is the best approach to weight loss.
You want to stay hydrated. It may seem counterintuitive that you want to consume water to avoid water weight. But by drinking eight glasses of 8 fluid ounces of liquid (preferably water, no sugary drinks or dairy) a day, you will stay hydrated, and your body won’t hoard water. That means you’ll avoid water retention.
Beat the bloat
First and foremost, come to accept that you will experience water retention some of the time. It just happens. We’re humans, and our bodies are more than 50 percent water. Sometimes we’re going to indulge in something a bit saltier, a few more carbs, or a slice of birthday cake.
When we do, and the scale suddenly reads 10 pounds higher or our pants feel tighter, it’s normal. And it doesn’t mean we’ve gained that much weight, so don’t panic and suddenly restrict calories or beat your body up at your next few workouts. Remember, that can actually make water retention worse.
First and foremost, exercise. This will help with bloat due to irregularity. Moving around helps your bowels keep moving as well. Though it may initially cause a little water retention to help repair your muscles, if you’re working out on a regular basis, you’re improving blood flow and circulation. This helps decrease water retention. If you’re dealing with water retention currently and exercise on a regular basis, getting up and getting moving will help get rid of water weight.
If you are already dealing with water weight, try a magnesium supplement to help treat the sodium that could be a contributing factor. One study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, found that women experiencing water retention before their periods had decreased water retention during the second month of taking magnesium supplements.
Potassium is another good mineral when trying to get rid of water weight. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that enough potassium can counteract the effects of sodium — that includes the higher blood pressure associated with high salt intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease. A few good potassium-rich foods are:
Staying well-hydrated can do wonders in more ways than one. Remember: In spite of the idea that you want to get rid of water weight, you don’t want to cut out water, as your body will hoard it if it feels dehydrated. So be sure you don’t cut back on water when dealing with retention.
Beyond that, anything that is a natural diuretic will help increase your urine output and decrease water weight, at least slightly in the short term. For example, coffee and teas with high caffeine contents will help. Just remember, you don’t want to add sugar or dairy to them if you’re drinking them to lose water weight quickly.
Allergies and bloating
Any foods you know you have an allergy to should be avoided, as they can cause bloating and swelling. If you suspect there’s something you are allergic to, you can get tested by a healthcare professional if you’re still experiencing water retention even after trying all of the above. Also talk to your doctor if you experience bloat often or bloating that is painful. In rare instances, fluid retention can be indicative of thyroid issues (other symptoms include dry skin, fatigue, low mood, hair loss, and weight gain) or a liver or heart problem. If bloat persists beyond what you feel is normal, always talk to your doctor.
Bloat happens. Whether it’s from irregularity, gas, or water, we’re all going to bloat at some point. Avoiding it is better than treating it.
The healthiest approach to avoiding bloating includes:
- Eat a healthy diet that avoids salt and sugar.
- Eat a diet low in dairy and carbohydrates.
- Stay hydrated with water throughout the day.