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10 Tips to Banish Belly Bloat

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Are you no longer pregnant, but still seeing a belly “pooch”?  If so, it’s important to recognize two things. First — you’re not alone.  In fact, you’re in the majority.  Second — there are several causes of the enlarged midsection you may be seeing (such as Diastasis Recti, excess abdominal fat, and excess skin). However, one potential cause — that is easily correctable — could simply be bloating.  Registered Dietitian Lindsey Janeiro, of Nutrition to Fit, distinguishes the difference between bloat and belly fat, and provides 10 simple evidence-supported ways to help banish bloat.

First things first…Distinguishing Bloat from Belly Fat

If you’re wondering whether your issue is more belly fat or bloating, take note of your belly size at the beginning of the day, and at the end.  Bloating typically causes the stomach to expand throughout the day, whereas belly fat accumulates gradually over time. In addition, belly fat can be grabbed, whereas bloating typically results in a stomach too firm to grab.  If you feel you have excess abdominal fat, this is best addressed through a combination of diet and exercise.  If you think bloating may be your bigger issue, there are no one-size-fits-all approaches, but here are several evidence-supported ways that have been shown to decrease bloating.


10 Tips to Decrease Bloating

  1. Avoid larger meals. People who bloat easily may experience bloating from a smaller amount of food than those who don’t get bloated. If you experience frequent bloating, pay attention to your hunger cues. Think of your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being starving, dizzy, and irritable you’re so hungry to 10 being overeating to the point of making yourself feel sick. Try to not let your hunger go lower than a 3 and your fullness higher than a 7. You may find yourself feeling like you need to eat smaller meals more frequently, and that’s okay. Some people feel better and get less bloating by eating 4-5 smaller meals throughout the day instead of 3 larger meals.

  2. Remove carbonation. If you tend to bloat, you may need to stop consuming carbonated beverages like sparkling water, soda, beer, etc. Carbonated beverages create more air in your digestive system, which may leave you more gassy and bloated. Looking for a replacement for your favorite flavored sparkling water or diet soda? Try unsweetened tea – iced or hot. There are no bubbles, but you can find tea in many unique flavors.

  3. Avoid eating habits that make you ingest more air. Habits, like chewing gum and using straws with beverages, make you take in more air while chewing or drinking, which leads to increased gassiness and bloat. Another gassy culprit? Eating in a rush and chewing too quickly. Take a little longer to chew your food and you’ll swallow less air and be less bloated. This also can help you be more mindful while eating so you can be more attentive to your hunger cues and may feel satisfied sooner.

  4. Focus on unsaturated fats. Our bodies need fat, making it important to eat healthy fats daily. Healthy fats can be found in a portion of food like one-third an avocado (a great source of monounsaturated fats) added to a salad or one tablespoon of ground flax seeds (sources of polyunsaturated fats) to a bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie. However, even with these healthy sources of fat, it’s still important to adhere to the Dietary Guidelines recommendation for no more than 30% of total calories to come from fat. Fat slows digestion and the rate of stomach emptying, which means too much fat (saturated or unsaturated) may lead to bloating.

  5. Avoid constipation. Constipation is a common digestive issue and can lead to feelings of bloating from too much gas, liquid, and solids in the digestive tract. Consume adequate soluble fiber to help keep your digestive system moving regularly. Daily Reference Intakes for fiber are 25 grams a day for women ages 19-50, 28 grams a day for pregnant women, and 29 days a day for lactating women.

  6. Be cautious of fiber types. While adequate soluble fiber is important to prevent constipation, many people sensitive to bloating are sensitive to fiber. Be sure to slowly increase your fiber intake over a period of time; a good rule of thumb is to add no more than five grams of fiber a day, spread throughout the day, until you meet your Daily Reference Intake. Additionally, be aware that some high-fiber foods can trigger gas and bloating. These are foods like cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and brussels sprouts), beans, and lentils. Every individual will react to foods differently, so if you suspect a certain food is causing your bloat, keep a detailed food log for a couple weeks.

  7. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! It may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re not hydrating adequately, your body retains water to prevent dehydration. Staying hydrated can actually reduce water retention. Additionally, drinking enough water can help prevent constipation. Not sure how much water to drink? The standard recommendation is to drink to your thirst. Keep water on you throughout the day, especially if you’re prone to excessive snacking because sometimes thirst can masquerade as hunger.

  8. Avoid sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are generally considered safe sugar substitutes. They’re often found in sugar-free food items and chewing gum. However, research is suggesting sugar alcohols may be a culprit in creating gas. Check ingredient labels and avoid sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, and erythritol.

  9. Increase your intake of probiotics. Some research suggests probiotics reduce gas production and bloating, while other studies show help with decreased gas production but not bloating. There are many different types of probiotics, so research is still evolving. Try increasing your intake of probiotic foods, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, dark chocolate, and tempeh. Thinking about taking a probiotic supplement? They are not all created equal, so ask your doctor if a probiotic supplement may help you, and if so, which one to try.

  10. Try some peppermint oil. Bloating isn’t necessarily just caused by foods we’re eating, but may be affected by altered digestive tract muscle function. There are medications called antispasmodics that your doctor may discuss with you if that’s the case. Studies are suggesting that peppermint oil may help reduce bloat in a similar way, especially in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Peppermint oil can be found in oil form, in capsules, or even in small quantities in peppermint leaves (like peppermint tea).
If you’re having persistent digestive issues and frequent, prolonged episodes of bloating, talk with your doctor. It’s possible there may be an underlying digestive disorder, such as IBS, and your doctor can help you get to the bottom of it. It’s also important to remember that everybody is different and nutrition is very individualized, so listen to your body and take time to figure out what works best for you.
Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, CLC is the owner, dietitian, and lactation counselor behind Nutrition to Fit, a virtual private practice. She helps women ditch dieting and hone in on intuitive and mindful eating to unlock a life they love with nutrition to fit their lifestyle.