One of the most common complaints I hear about (and even witness firsthand sometimes) is bloating, which is especially common in women. I want to break down for you why this happens and discuss natural ways to deal with bloating. Because nobody has time for that terrible feeling that your pant button is going to explode off after eating or drinking something.
We’ve all been there, its time to go out somewhere fabulous, but you can’t figure out why your outfit isn’t fitting just right? You’ve been so conscious of what you ate, having a green smoothie, a light lunch with veggies/salad and chicken, no gluten or dairy in sight, but your body doesn’t seem to care and your tummy is super bloated. It’s painful and uncomfortable and makes you not want to head out, so you change your outfit to that flowy one rather than jeans and feel miserable.
So why does bloating happen?
That is a loaded question, because there are sooooo many reasons for this which I will get to. But keep in mind that although I am providing you with tips for different situations, every body is different and these recommendations are just that, recommendations. Always, find what works for you and your body.
Issue One: Digestive distress: one of the most common reasons for bloating can be due to digestive issues or disorders like IBS, colitis, and celiac disease. Although typically you would know if you had one of these issues as these also contain other symptoms and are tested for by your doctor. But did you also know that your bloating could be the result of you simply not chewing your food properly.
Your stomach doesn’t have teeth, so it is very important to chew your food and eat slowly, with intention rather than shoving food down your throat while you are doing work at your desk.
What can you do about it?
a) Become a more conscious and intuitive eater: This is a lot more easily said than done and not something that can happen overnight, but with time you can get there. This means learning to listen to your hunger cues and eating only when you are truly hungry (sometimes, you are actually just thirsty and need some water). Focus on the food you are eating, eat and chew your food slowly, try not to talk while eating or do other things. This helps you to feel more in tune with your food and your mood.
b) Use digestive aids and stimulants: Incorporate some digestive stimulants that will help to get the gastric juices flowing a little more easily. Some simple tips that you can use include taking a shot of raw apple cider vinegar before your meal, or dilute it in water, eating some bitters with your meal (think dandelion or arugula) which also help to stimulate your digestion as well.
c) Add some enzymes to your meal: Using a full spectrum digestive enzyme with a meal (especially a heavier meal) can help break down the food more easily, resulting in less gas and bloating.
d) Try to eat fruits on their own: I am not one for following food combining rules personally as I find them fairly strict, but the one rule I can get behind is to eat fruit on their own. Fruits digest more quickly in our bodies than protein, or fat and they can cause a lot of gas and bloating if they interact with other foods, especially animal protein.
e) Don’t drink lots of water with your meal: It is best to drink your water in between your meals and only sip little bits of water as you are eating, as drinking too much water with your meal dilutes those digestive juices.
Issue Two: Top foods that can be a problem: Specific foods that are more likely to cause bloating include dairy, gluten (wheat) and certain carbohydrates called FODMAPs that can be hard to narrow down as people are very different in regards to what FODMAPs give them trouble. You can try eliminating some foods to see how your body reacts to different things, such as dairy or gluten, but it is best to work with someone to ensure this is the right option for you. Before you decide to start eliminating foods, I always think it is a better option to try the above suggestions, especially regarding being more intuitive and conscious of your food and eating. Sometimes, the simplest trick of remembering to chew your foods will help, so start there.
Issue Three: A lack of healthy bacteria in our gut: Our guts are super powerful and act as our second brain, which also accounts for the “gut feeling” we get about things as well. Well, our guts and our microbiome also contain trillions of bacteria, in fact we are more bacteria than we are anything else, so basically we are aliens in a sense ;). But this bacteria contains both good and bad bacteria and sometimes that bad stuff can take over and cause a lot of health issues for us. This can lead to a condition called candida and has a lot of other symptoms in addition to bloating. But if you suspect this is what the problem is, it is always a good idea to work with a practitioner to be sure. Taking care of it is a multifaceted approach that is a topic for another day.
Gut health = Great skin! Be sure to download a copy of my FREE eBook: Get the Glow to learn how to take care of your skin from the inside out.
Ensuring that you are eating probiotic rich foods and possibly taking a probiotic supplement will be extremely beneficial here as well. Try my coconut yogurt recipe!
Issue Four: PMS: Yes that wonderful time of the month can also cause bloating, fluid retention and constipation, fun! As ovulation occurs, more fluids and blood can build up and when you actually have your period, you shed that excess fluid and blood which usually results in the bloating going away. So depending on the woman and the time, you can experience bloating, before, during and after your actual period.
Truth Bomb About PMS!!
Not every woman suffers from PMS and by looking at your diet, your gut and your hormones, you may be able to eradicate a lot (if not all) of the symptoms associated with PMS. Although anecdotal, I used to get terrible cramps and PMS symptoms the week before my period, I had cravings and an insatiable appetite and would binge on all the foods. My diet and my hormones were the problem, but I thought that this was what all women went through and didn’t think there was much I could do, so I went on the pill and that helped suppress some of the issues (mostly just cramps).
Since changing my diet to one that is rooted in whole foods, eliminating unnecessary amounts of sugar (I’ll still have a cookie, don’t worry), moving my body and ditching the pill, my PMS is all but gone.
Issue Five: Bloated after drinking a smoothie: Although it seems weird to think about this one, it happens. Sometimes, you can feel bloated after having a “healthy” green smoothie, but why? There are several reasons that this could be happening.
- Food intolerance: as I alluded to before, even though a food may be healthy, like avocado, some people may not be able to tolerate it well as it is considered a FODMAP. This can lead to bloating. Other food intolerances may pop up that you may not be aware of until you isolate it by doing an elimination type diet, or documenting it in a food and mood journal.
- Improper food combining: some people (especially those with a weakened digestion) may feel better by following food combining rules for a time being. Combining fruits with fat may cause some bloating as the fruits digest before the fat and can result in discomfort, gas and bloating.
- You may not be used to the increase in fibre: if you are new to adding in more veggies, fruits and fibre from chia/flax this may pose an initial problem with bloating as your body is not used to eating this way. Start slow and don’t have a huge smoothie, perhaps start with a smaller sized one until you find what works for your body.
- Too much fruit: depending on how much fruit you are adding to your smoothies, this can also cause some bloating and other digestive issues. Fruit is best eaten on its own as it digests so quickly, so try reducing the amount of fruit you put in your smoothies if you think this may be the culprit. Add in avocado for creaminess and only half a banana for sweetness, or stick to berries which are lower in sugar and may help you feel better.
- Protein powder: Not all protein powders are created equal and depending on which ones you are using, they may also be causing bloating. If you are using a vegan/dairy free blend, go for one that is fermented as this will help with digestion and bloating. Ensure that if you are sensitive or allergic to dairy, that you aren’t taking a blend made with dairy.
- Have a look at the ingredients: unfortunately, some fruits and veggies are just more prone to making you bloated, this includes: sweeter fruits like mango, papaya, apples, peaches and pears and veggies like cabbage and cauliflower (which is awesome in a smoothie, but not for everyone).
- Weakened digestive fire: according to Chinese medicine, smoothies in their raw form, contain a “cold thermal property” and if you already have a weakened digestive fire then raw foods can extinguish that fire. Try adding in warming spices like cayenne, cinnamon or ginger to heat up your smoothie, making them easier to digest.
Issue Six: Do you chew gum? This may also be a problem for some and can cause bloating. This is because chewing gum causes you to swallow excess air which leads to bloating. The other issue is that chewing gum sends a signal to your body that food is on its way and enzymes and acids are released but there is no food to digest which can cause bloating as well as other issues.
Natural Ways to Deal with Bloating
My favourite brand of protein powder is from The Beauty Chef, the chocolate flavour is so rich and delicious, I add it to my smoothies all the time and especially like to have it post-workout.
My favourite food sources of probiotics include: coconut yogurt, miso, tempeh, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha. I also love to incorporate The Beauty Chef products like the protein powder and their glow powder into my smoothies or chia puddings.Incorporating lemon in water is another great option to help with bloating, you can spice it up with some cayenne like I do in the picture at the top of this post.
My last tip is to try and chew your smoothies rather than gulp them down right away and try and drink your smoothie on an empty stomach and wait about 2 hours before eating something else, especially something high in protein (animal protein) or fat. This can help with digestion and bloating as well!
What to do next?
Welp! That included A LOT of information about bloating and why this happens. Of course there are probably even more reasons that I couldn’t get to, but hopefully this helps you to see that what works for one person may not work for someone else. Before, you start eliminating food groups and potentially create bigger problems for yourself down the road, it is my personal belief that you should work with a trusted and knowledgeable practitioner. This way, they can help identify the issue(s) and the root cause and of course provide you with tips and information to beat the bloat for good!
Contact me to see how we can work together on any of your digestive issues by setting up a free 20 minute call.
Download a copy of my FREE eBook: Get the Glow to ensure you are eating optimally and avoiding more inflammatory foods.
Grab my recipe for a smoothie that helps to beat the bloat and is nice and refreshing for summer!
- 1 1/2 cups coconut water
- 1 small cucumber, chopped rough
- 1/2 frozen banana
- Large handful of spinach
- Small knob ginger (or use ground ginger to taste)
- Half a lemon, juiced
- Add all ingredients into a high powered blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour in a glass and drink/chew your smoothie mindfully