It’s been a delicious dinner. Your hostess outdid herself
with a spread of delights that would’ve impressed Matt Preston and the bubbly
was superb – but instead of basking in the happy satisfaction of a memorable
meal, you’re squirming under the pressure of an ever-tighter waistband as your
stomach seems to inflate like a balloon.
According to dietician Lila Bruk, that’s exactly what’s
happening. “Bloating is a distension of the abdomen. It usually takes place
when air or fluid gets trapped in the gut,” she explains. Bloating may also
occur if the digestive process is interrupted, causing undigested food to
travel to the gut where it ferments and creates pockets of gas.
Dr Ela Manga, an integrated medical practitioner, notes that
this may be caused by a number of factors, from the food you eat to medical
conditions – like food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome, systemic
candidiasis and coeliac disease – and even how quickly you talk.
Scrutinise your sweetener
You may use them to help keep your waistline in check, but
artificial sweeteners could be causing you to blow up, cautions Bruk:
"They're hard to digest and thus sit in the gut where they ferment and
release gas." Sorbitol and xylitol are particularly blame-worthy, according
Stock your medicine cabinet
Manga suggests boosting your diet with probiotics, as these
friendly bacteria help to keep the growth of gas-producing microorganisms in
the gut in check. Digestive enzymes may also help.
Beat it with exercise
Exercise is an important weapon in your battle against the
bloat as it helps to kickstart your digestion. Bruk recommends at least 30
minutes, four times a week. However, light exercise, like walking, is
preferable to heavy workouts, which can actually hinder digestion.
"Intense exercise raises your body's adrenaline levels. What's more,
during a hard session, blood moves towards the extremities and away from the
gut," explains Bruk. A brisk walk after your meal may be all you need to
feel more settled.
Easy on the alcohol
Ever noticed how puffy you look after a big night out?
That's because alcohol is a diuretic and, the more often you run to the loo,
the less fluids are available in your body for digestion, leading to
Relief may be as nearby as your herb garden, says Manga.
Ginger, for example, is a good all-purpose digestive aid and is excellent for
soothing the digestive system. Peppermint, caraway seed, fennel and aniseed can
also be counted on to coordinate digestive processes, while parsley, a natural
diuretic, is a good choice if premenstrual water retention has made you puff
Hydration is key to preventing puffiness – but, while water
will help you keep the bloat away, fizzy drinks are likely to bring it on.
Carbonated drinks release carbon dioxide into the intestinal tract, making it
feel like you swallowed a balloon. So keep it plain and natural.
"Water helps to improve digestion, so it reduces the
risk of constipation, a common bloating culprit," says Bruk. Two litres a
day will keep your system working smoothly.Say no to salt
Gas isn't the only cause of bloating – water retention has a
role to play too. One solution is to cut down on salt. You can also stock up on
foods rich in potassium – think avos, bananas, yoghurt and salmon – as these
help to counterbalance sodium. They're also natural diuretics, says Manga, so
can ease water retention.
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