Foods That Beat the Bloat

Who hasn’t had one of those days when you can't even get our "fat" jeans to zip. Your eyes are puffy in the morning, your canvas shoes are too tight, your stomach resembles a water balloon, and you feel like you’ve gained 10 pounds since lunch. You are uncomfortable, irritable, and bloated. Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. One in every 10 people report being frequently bothered by bloating. Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Sexy told us what causes the bloat and, most important, how to avoid it

1. What causes bloating?
If you are puffing up like a water balloon, that’s causes by water retention. If it’s your tummy that’s pooching, you are uncomfortable and maybe even cramping, that’s gas. Either way, the bloat is no fun.  Typically too much of the wrong foods eaten too quickly can cause gas within 30 minutes to 3 hours after the meal, when bacteria that live in your colon dine on leftovers your small intestine didn’t digest.  The result is gas, bloating, and discomfort.
 The good news is, all of this is avoidable. However, it is important to note that you should consult your physician to rule out a serious medical digestive disorder before you do or take anything or make any radical changes, especially if your discomfort or bloating is chronic or painful. For example, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or food allergies–particularly to wheat, dairy, corn and soy--can cause bloating, although the exact reasons are not understood. Once you rule out serious diseases, you can treat bloating with common sense (including patience), a healthy diet, good eating habits, and exercise.


2. Every woman wants to know the solution to water retention. What do we eat to solve this problem?
The one-two punch for water retention is to 1) cut back on sodium and 2) drink lots of water. Often people do just the opposite, thinking that water is causing the problem, they cut back on fluids. Big mistake. You are puffy because too much sodium is holding water in your cells. The only way to lose the bloat is to give up the salty junk, like chips, packaged foods, and fast foods, and drink more water to dilute the sodium in your body so your kidneys can flush out the fluids.
 You should limit total day’s sodium to no more than 2400milligrams, which is only possible if you avoid processed foods. For example, a Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich at McD’s has 1190mg, a Marie Callendar’s Chicken Pot Pie has 1,860mg, and typical snack items like pretzels or potato chips have 1000mg. Any one of those is 50% to 77% of your total day’s maximum allotment. Instead, choose low-sodium foods and flavor meals without the salt, such as with spices, herbs, low-sodium flavorings like True Lemon or Mrs. Dash, which gives a flavor punch to anything without adding unwanted sodium.
 Then, drink enough water every day so that your urine is pale yellow. Bring a water bottle with you, take 8 gulps of water every time you pass a water fountain at school, line up 8 glasses of water on the kitchen counter if you are a stay-at-home mom, or put a pitcher of water that holds 8 glasses on your desk at work.]


3. What about fluids, like ginger ale, to reduce bloating?
Fresh ginger does help with nausea, but drinking any carbonated beverage, including ginger ale, may aggravate bloating because the gas bubbles you swallow must be eliminated one way or the other, either by belching or out the other end as intestinal gas. Instead, brew tea with fresh ginger, chamomile, dandelion, or peppermint - herbs that either soothe the tummy or have a mild diuretic effect, so you get your fluids and reduce bloating at the same time.
 The same goes for eating too fast or chewing gum.  When you chew gum or gulp your food, you swallow air, just like blowing up a balloon. The old adage of chewing 100 times may be true. Cut back on swallowed air, by taking small bites, laying down your fork between each bite, and taking your time. You’ll do your GI tract a huge favor, which will pay off in a flatter tummy.

4. Are there any foods that are natural diuretics to help with bloating?
Foods that are high in water and potassium and low in sodium help flush out unwanted fluids. In  particular, beverages containing caffeine. such as coffee and tea, have a diuretic effect, and several other foods, such as celery, lettuce, onion, eggplant, asparagus, parsley, and watermelon, are said to have a diuretic effect, which means they help beat the bloat. But really, all vegetables and fruits will help eliminate excess water from the body - as long as you don’t add salt, of course!.
 Also, high-fiber foods act like a brillo pad in the intestines, scrubbing the intestinal walls and soaking up water so that waste can glide through easily. Chances are you aren’t eating enough, since most Americans average less than half the minimum fiber requirement of 25 to 30 grams a day. If you are new to fiber, start slow, since going gang busters on fiber too fast and too furious also can cause bloating. Slowly add fiber-rich foods to your diet to give your body time to adapt. Avoid the laxatives if possible and load the plate with fiber-rich, tasty produce, such as salads, fresh vegetables, fruit, and nuts.  

5. Beans - the musical fruit - are an obvious food to avoid, right? 
Some foods have been given a bad gas rap, such as beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts, onions, and garlic. But in studies, these foods don’t cause as much problem as people assume they do. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that someone who has never eaten beans, chow down on a gallon of split pea soup just before a date! But, adding small amounts of beans to the diet and gradually increasing the amount is a great way to get fiber in your diet without fearing the bloat. Use canned or dry beans that are thoroughly cooked. Discard the cooking water, and try Beano, an over-the-counter enzyme that digests bean sugars and reduces bloating. Also, keep in mind that this is really an individual matter - what bloats one person, might not bloat another. Your best bet is to keep a journal for a few days to see what foods seem to cause you the most trouble.

6. I’ve heard that sugar can cause bloating. Is this true?
Some people find processed grains or sugar are the worst offenders when it comes to bloating, since in the digestive tract, these foods quickly break down into simple sugars that ferment and create gas.  Grains and sugars are what cause beer and champagne to fizz, so you can imagine what the combination can do to your GI system! Concentrated fructose, such as in high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and other processed foods can really send some people’s GI tracts into a tailspin, causing water to pool in the intestines, resulting in bloating and pain. Also, avoid foods with sugar alcohols, like sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol....all can cause bloating and cramps.

7. Many people swear that milk causes them to bloat. What’s up?
Milk ranks high on the list of foods that people claim cause them to bloat and cramp. Many people assume the culprit is milk sugar, or lactose. But in studies where people don’t know what they are eating, small amounts of milk seldom have an effect on bloating. Most people, even if they are lactose intolerant, can handle up to half a cup of milk with a meal with no problem. Of course, some people are super-sensitive to lactose and must shun all dairy products. But, a little gas after a meal with milk could just be coincidence, not a sign you are lactose intolerant.


8. What about those designer yogurts on the market that promise to keep your GI tract healthy?   Yogurt helps reduce bloating. The healthy bacteria - called probiotics - in yogurt help to establish a well-functioning digestive tract that is less prone to gas and bloating. Save your money and skip the designer yogurts; buy plain yogurt with bacteria like acidophilus that has the most research to show it works.
 

9. Exercise also is important. Why?
Exercise can help the digestive system regulate itself and improves circulation, which are key factors to reduce bloating, and weight gain in general. 
 

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