Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Written by Siena Scanlon, Solar Springs' Integrative Health Practitioner.
The trouble with bloating is that it can be caused by such a broad range of factors, but the good news is that we can narrow it down to the main offenders to help you banish your bloat for good.
1. Chew Your Food To a Paste
Did you know that you should chew your food at least 20 times before swallowing? This is especially important with proteins like meat, fish, eggs, and poultry. Without chewing them well your stomach and digestive system are forced to work harder which can explain the discomfort and why you may feel so tired after a meal. Also, larger chucks of food can remain undigested in your stomach and intestines for longer periods of time as your microbes can't break them down properly. This leads to increased fermentation, gas and ultimately bloating. So, the goal is to make it easy on your digestive system and chew your food to a paste before swallowing.
2. Do Not Drink Liquids With Meals
Drinking liquids with meals slows the digestive system by lowering the acidity (pH) and diluting the hydrochloride in your stomach (these are the superstars that help you to breakdown your food!). It is made even worse if you are drinking cold water with meals as it cools off the heat your stomach needs to “cook” (ferment & breakdown) the food in your stomach.
The best thing you can do is to consume your liquids 30-minutes or more before meals and then wait another hour after eating. The only exception would be drinking a small cup of hot ginger tea, bitters (lemon/lime/apple cider vinegar) in warm water or a coffee during or after your meal to aid in digestion.
Note: Consuming carbonated drinks can also be a source of bloating for some people.
3. Eat Fruit First
Fruit moves through your stomach very quickly (approximately 1hour) compared to other foods that can take between 3-8hours. So, it's important to not slow its passage through the digestive tract. By eating fruit with meat or slow digesting foods you will potentially allow that fruit to ferment and cause gas and bloating. This is why it is best to enjoy your fruit after exercising, between meals as a snack, before a meal as an appetizer or as part of a blended smoothie (as smoothies are easy to digest as the ingredients are already broken down).
4. Food Combining Made Easy
Food combining has been known about for over 5,000 years, but yet it isn’t being taught or widely talked about due to its complexity (specific enzymes breakdown different foods, at different speeds.)
So, although it can be complex, here’s all you need to remember:
Eat fruit first or away from meals.
If you're going to eat a starch with your meal, eat it before your protein and vegetables.
Eat your salad, non-starchy vegetables, and protein last.
5. Raw Vegetable
We've all been told raw vegetables are good for us, but that's only true if we can digest them. For many people their digestive systems are far too weak to break raw vegetables. Due to this, it's best to cook your vegetables to break down some of their fibrous structure before trying to digest them. Once your digestive system gets stronger you can begin introducing small amounts back into your diet.
6. Eliminate Common Triggers
Grains (especially those containing gluten), dairy and nuts are all common triggers for people who experience bloating. To see if this may be causing or worsening your discomfort, it is best to eliminate them for 3 weeks to see if your issues resolve. After the elimination period you can reintroduce them one at a time to see if your bloating returns.
If you do plan on trialing an elimination diet, please reach out to me (or your healthcare provider) so I can ensure that you are still meeting your daily nutritional requirements and finding healthy replacements for the food groups being removed. We will also work on restoring your digestive function so that these trigger foods can be reintroduced without causing issues.
It is worth noting that excessive fiber, protein and fermented foods can all lead to gas and bloating, so it may not necessarily be the kinds of foods that you are eating, but rather the quantities. As with everything, moderation is key.
Lastly, it is best to remove sugar-free foods or chewing gum with added polyols (sugar alcohols, that have words that end in -itol like maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol.)
7. Use the 3-4 Hour Rule
Eating small meals and grazing throughout the day may be the reason why you experience bloating.
When your digestive system isn't functioning optimally, the food in your stomach breaks down slower. If you continue to eat again too quickly after a meal, you are putting undigested food on top of partially digested food, which can lead to severe bloating and gas as the food is left to ferment and putrefy. It is best to keep your meals 4+ hours apart and stick to just eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The exception to this is that if you're going from 12pm to 7pm at night without eating, you could have a small snack around 4pm.
8. Two handfuls is enough.
Sometimes the simple cause of bloating is that you're eating too much! Your stomach is only about the size of your fist before it begins expanding, and the more you eat, the more it expands. If you're suffering from bloating, experiment with not eating more than 2 big handfuls of food per sitting.
9. No late night snacking.
One tip that can dramatically improve your health and digestion is to stop eating after dinner so you can go to bed with an empty stomach. This will allow you to get into a deep sleep after the food has left your stomach about 3 hours after eating. Doing this will also enable you to better detoxify and renew your body as you rest overnight. You may even notice that you begin to wake up less bloated and feel lighter. Plus, the side benefit is that you will most likely sleep better and have more energy.
10. Don’t Eat when Stressed or Distracted.
Eating while you are stressed or on the go is a surefire way to experience bloating, so make sure you take a few deep breathes before your meal, and are seated without distraction (no phone, laptop & TV!) so you can truly focus on and enjoy your meal. If you notice that your bloating resolves on weekends or holidays when you are in a relaxed state, then this is a sign that stress and being distracted during mealtimes is the main reason for your bloating. If stress or eating on the go is unavoidable, opt for easy to digest foods like smoothies, soups and stews.
11. Letting it out.
I am adding a bonus tip as this may seem obvious, but for many people their bloating starts when they move in with their partner and start holding onto gas. ‘Farting’ is a very normal, healthy part of the human experience so perhaps it is simply a matter of finding opportunities to ‘let it out’. Same applies with constipation. Having constipation or incomplete evacuations are a leading cause of bloating, so ensure your diet includes enough fiber-filled, whole-foods.
I would highly recommend checking-in with your medical professional to rule out anything more sinister.
Once you have the all clear, then we can explore what may be going on at a deeper level. Perhaps you have hormonal imbalances (high estrogen, low progesterone, or both), adrenal issues, a sluggish liver and/or gut dysbiosis that may be triggering your bloating.
In a consult I will also talk you through the supplementation that will support you in building up your digestive system such as pre/probiotics and digestive enzymes.
With love, Siena x
These tips have been developed in collaboration with my mentor Dr Stephen Cabral.