Seven Ways to Banish the Holiday Bloat

Let’s talk about that inevitable puffy feeling that causes you to loosen a notch on your belt. Bloating is a symptom we’ve all experienced at some point, especially during the holiday season. And it can be downright embarrassing.  

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This unfashionable protrusion of the abdomen often occurs when the gastrointestinal tract is filled with too much gas or air, and can cause discomfort ranging from mildly ugh to painfully eek! According to research, it’s one of the most misunderstood symptoms but, fortunately, there are ways you can deflate your belly without medication or fad diets.  

So, rather than wallow in the aftermath of too many carbs and cocktails, check out these tips on ways to help banish the bloat and get back into your favorite jeans.

Drink your water WARM

Drinking water can work wonders on your tummy – especially when it’s warm. According to the European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research, drinking a very warm cup of water in the morning can help cleanse your body by flushing out toxins. (I prefer mine boiled then cooled, though even room temperature can be beneficial.) It can also relieve constipation, which is often accompanied by bloating. Warm water also helps to break food down more easily and stimulates natural digestive enzymes, which may improve digestion.  

To reap the health benefits of warm water, drink it every morning, with a squeeze of lemon for flavor.  

Whether you prefer it warm or cold, the health and digestive benefits of drinking water is undeniable. Try to drink at least eight glasses daily, and keep in mind that fruits and vegetables have a high water content – cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, and strawberries contain over 90% water and count towards your daily fluid consumption.

Cut back on the gas

Despite their healthy profile, legumes and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower have bad reputations as gas producers due to their content of an indigestible sugar called raffinose. You may want to experiment with these foods and try eating very small amounts and gradually increase to see how much your body can tolerate. 

Keep it real

Eating salty foods can trigger water retention, which can lead to abdominal inflation. So ditch the highly processed stuff (even those marketed as “healthy”) and stick with whole, real foods. Focus on veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and avocado. This will ensure a reduction in excess sodium, added sugars, and artificial ingredients, which can also cause bloating. 

Go pro!

Improving the friendly bacteria in your gut will ultimately help with bloating and gas, since probiotics suppress bad bacteria and improve the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Since we are all born with a unique assortment of gut flora, the type of probiotic that works for one may not work for another. So if you want to explore the world of probiotics, it may take some trial and error until your find a brand that is your best friend. But you can also consult with your doctor to see which bacteria strains or brand he or she recommends. 

Free your mind

That’s right, a busy mind can actually exacerbate the stress effect on the gut, leaving you with a sluggish GI system. Following stress-management techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help bring your body and mind back into balance. Another great way to soothe emotional stress is through cognitive behavioral therapy, which may help to reframe you thinking and change negative thoughts into more positive, productive ways of thinking.

Work it out

Cardio exercises, such as walking, jogging, and cycling, help gas pass through the digestive tract more quickly. Even a brisk 10-minute walk can provide relief. In contrast, being sedentary can slow down the digestion process, so be sure to get moving after you eat. That can include taking the stairs, walking around the office, or going for a brisk walk during your lunch break. No excuses!

And I’ll bet you never knew…

Some surprising yet common drinking and eating habits can cause bloating: things like chewing gum, eating too fast, and sipping through a straw can cause air to get trapped in your tummy, leading to a puffed-out belly. Fizzy drinks can also leave your stomach full of gas, and sipping them through straw is like a double whammy! Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, found in diet products and some other foods, have also been linked to bloating and other GI issues, so be sure to read food labels and be mindful of the ingredients.   

With multiple causes, bloating is a symptom that can be a challenge to manage effectively. The link between food and gastrointestinal distress is well recognized and if your symptoms stem deeper than some excess holiday grub, consult with your doctor for further testing. There are highly effective dietary strategies that may spell relief for you and a registered dietitian can also provide guidance on those options. Overall, exercise, nutrition, and managing stress are all important factors in reducing belly bloat and improving general health and small changes in one or more of these areas can make a big difference.

You can read more from Samina Kalloo RD, CDN by visiting her blog, Cooking for Tots!

Follow Samina on social media at @cookingfortots and @SaminaKallooRD!

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