Why You’re Bloated Right Now and How to Beat It

With all the craziness of recent months, you may have found yourself bloated and puffy. Here's why stress can really affect you this way.

People everywhere have been experiencing intense stress and anxiety these past months, and stress definitely wreaks havoc on both mind and body. The nervous and digestive systems are in constant communi­cation, thus syncing your brain and your GI tract. Stress and anxi­ety trigger thoughts and emotions, which then affect your entire gut — triggering stomach discomfort, including bloating. Some good news? There’s help! Follow these tips to help beat bloating, in all seasons of life!

Drink Water

Staying hydrated is vital for your health and well-being. (Here are the signs you’re dehydrated.) Our diges­tive system depends on water to function properly. It’s especially important to drink enough water if you are increasing your fibre intake—both of which we highly recommend!

Get Moving

Becoming more physically active can get your bowels moving, which helps your body eliminate stools and release built-up gas. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activ­ity five times a week. Even a quick walk outside can help relieve pain­ful gas and bloating.

Limit Sodium

Eating high-sodium foods triggers water retention, which can cause bloating. Limit or avoid adding salt during cooking, limit your intake of processed and packaged foods, curb salty snacks and fast foods, keep the salt shaker off the table and choose “low-sodium” and “sodium-free” foods at the grocery store.

Up Your Fibre Intake

Many of us experience constipa­tion (fewer than three bowel move­ments a week) at some point in our lives. Constipation and slow-mov­ing stools through the large bowel can increase intestinal gas and result in bloating, pain and dis­comfort. Try increasing your fibre slowly at first, aiming for 25 grams daily for women and 38 grams daily for men. Again, the key is to gradually increase your intake of fibre, especially soluble fibre. Spread out your fibre portions throughout the day to help your body adjust, starting with two or three grams of fibre per meal. Fibre also feeds your “good” gut bacteria (called probiotics), which is key for a healthy gut. Chia seeds, citrus fruits, figs, flaxseed, oats and psyllium are great sources of soluble fibre. Other high-fibre sources that can help banish bloat­ing include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Foods that Fight the Bloat

1. Asparagus

This anti-bloating superfood makes you pee, which, in turn, flushes out all that excess water to relieve dis­comfort and bloating. Asparagus contains prebiotics, which support probiotic growth in the gut. This can help maintain a healthy balance in your gut microbiome, which is very important for preventing and reducing gas. Also, this vegetable helps promote overall digestive health because it contains both soluble and insoluble fibre. (Try our Asparagus Mimosa Salad.)

2. Bananas

Rich in potassium, bananas (and other potassium-rich foods like avocados, kiwi fruit, oranges and pistachios) regulate sodium levels in your body and reduce salt­induced bloating by preventing water retention. Also rich in solu­ble fibre, bananas can relieve and prevent constipation.

3. Cucumbers

Cucumbers contain quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that helps reduce swelling. In addition, they inhibit the activity of pro-inflam­matory enzymes. Enjoy them daily, freshly sliced, or sip on a glass of cucumber water.

4. Fennel Seeds

These amazing little seeds contain a compound that relaxes gastroin­testinal spasms and relieves bloat­ing by allowing the body to pass gas. Chew on fennel seeds directly, sip on fennel tea after a meal or enjoy baked goods and meat dishes with fennel in them.

5. Ginger

This root contains zingibain, a digestive enzyme that helps your body break down protein and allows the food you eat to pass more easily through your gut. This helps reduce gas, bloating and con­stipation. If you’re already feeling puffy, sip a cup of homemade gin­ger tea (steep a few slices of ginger in a mug of hot water for five to 10 minutes) and enjoy the benefits.

6. Papayas

Digestion is made easier by papain, an enzyme found in papayas that helps your digestive tract break down protein. Papayas (and other tropical fruits) also contain fibre and have anti-inflammatory prop­erties — both of which are essential to support a strong digestive tract. (Here are other anti-inflammatory foods.)

7. Yogurt with probiotics

Probiotics help regulate digestion and are key for the overall health of your digestive tract and micro­biome. Enjoy a variety of probiotic yogurts that contain active cul­tures or take probiotics in supple­ment form – either way, you’ll help your body beat the bloat.

Rebecca and Reisha Harper are twin sisters and registered dietitians with a special focus on nutrition for health, beauty and aging well.

Now that you’ve learned how to beat bloating, learn how to be healthy without dieting, according to the Reisha twins.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada