By Carla Oates
At one time or another, we’ve all likely experienced the discomfort that comes with bloating.
Caused by a buildup of intestinal gas—and not fluid as is typically thought—bloating can leave your belly feeling distended, tight, over-stretched and irritable. While for many of us, bloating can be short-lived and pass as quickly as it comes on—for others it can be a chronic and debilitating condition that seems to flare up regularly. It is also far more common than you might think with research indicating that as many as one in six of us regularly suffer from bloating. It’s even more frequent in those diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—with three out of four IBS sufferers in Australia experiencing bloating.
Although there are some underlying medical conditions that can cause bloating—most often, bloating is related to our diet. Therefore, by becoming more mindful of the food we choose to pop on our plate, we can begin to de-bloat… for good!
Read on to discover some of the best foods to help reduce bloating—as well as a few that are best avoided...
There’s no denying we love to nosh on avocado for its skin-hydrating and moisturising benefits! Rich in antioxidants and healthy fats, avocado is also a good source of vitamins C and E—which assist with collagen synthesis and reducing inflammation. But the humble avocado also contains potassium—a key mineral which helps to regulate fluid retention by balancing sodium levels, thereby helping to prevent bloating. With a high fibre content, avocados also help to mitigate constipation, encouraging regular bowel movements which also assists with reducing belly bloat.
Other potassium-rich foods which can help prevent the bloat include bananas, apples and kiwi fruit.
It may seem obvious, but consuming fruits and vegetables with a high water content can help to reduce the effects of bloating by keeping you hydrated and preventing bloating caused by constipation and dehydration. Given cucumbers are around 95 percent water, they’re a great way to ensure you remain well-hydrated. Other foods that have a high water content include watermelon, celery and antioxidant-rich berries.
Bromelain—the enzyme found in pineapple—boasts a number of health-boosting properties including anti-cancer effects, anti-inflammatory benefits and improved digestion by helping to break down proteins. As slowed protein digestion can contribute to excess gas and bloating, nibbling on pineapple can help to reduce these effects and keep things moving, so to speak. If you're not a fan of pineapple, papain found in papaya has similar digestive benefits!
What can’t fermented foods do? As a good source of probiotics—which can help to improve bowel function and promote regularity—they assist with digestion by helping us to break down difficult to digest molecules and improve overall gut health by boosting levels of good gut bacteria. Probiotic fermented foods also have anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to reduced symptoms of IBS, and a reduction in the severity of uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. Good sources of probiotic fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and The Beauty Chef’s range of inner beauty products!
Well-studied for its digestive benefits, anti-inflammatory ginger can be a useful tool in the battle against the bloat and can help to reduce symptoms such as gas, constipation and indigestion! As a powerful antioxidant, ginger also has the added benefit of helping to reduce systemic inflammation—making it beneficial for our overall health and wellbeing, too. Sip on ginger tea or add fresh ginger to your cooking regularly to reap the rewards.
As an anti-spasmodic, peppermint is well-studied for its benefits on digestive health, helping to relax the digestive system, and reduce digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas and cramping. Studies on the effects of peppermint have also shown positive results on patients with IBS, reducing symptoms by as much as 40 percent. Sip on peppermint tea after a meal for a refreshing brew!
Loaded with catechins—powerful antioxidants that help to prevent cellular damage—green tea is famous for its myriad health benefits. From helping to reduce cancer risk, to improving brain function, metabolism and ageing—it’s a blend that can benefit us on a number of levels. It’s also a natural diuretic and can be beneficial in helping to mitigate the effects of bloating by improving digestion. Upping your intake of fluids is also helpful in banishing the bloat, so sip on green tea regularly to stay hydrated.
Be mindful of:
Beans, Lentils & Legumes
Famous for their ability to encourage gas production—some beans, lentils and legumes can certainly exacerbate bloating. With a high fibre content, beans also contain oligosaccharides—sugar molecules which can prove difficult for some people to digest, especially those with a sensitivity to FODMAPs. As these foods also contain a multitude of benefits, you need not avoid them entirely—instead, focus on eating smaller portions more regularly rather than wolfing down a bucket-load of beans just every now and then. Soaking and souring your beans and legumes can also help to improve digestion by making them more easily digestible.
In the same way beans can contribute to excess gas and bloating, so too can cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbages. Full of antioxidants, these veggies should still be enjoyed regularly, but as everyone’s tolerance differs, you may need to introduce them slowly or make sure they are well-cooked before consuming. Fermented varieties are also more easily digestible as the good bacteria helps to ‘predigest’ them and make their nutrients more bioavailable.
Do you often feel stuffed after noshing on a bowl of pasta or slamming back the sangas? Well, for those who suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivity, gluten or wheat-containing whole grains can be troublesome and gliadin (the protein found in wheat) can contribute to digestive symptoms such as bloating—as well as an increased risk of intestinal permeability and symptoms of leaky gut. Avoid processed carbohydrates and refined grains to reduce the effects and make smart swaps by enjoying quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and farro instead.
Although delicious, salty foods can wreak havoc on our digestive system by increasing water retention and consequently, bloat. Excess sodium also alters the balance of our microbiome, so avoiding overly salty foods and drinking enough fluid to keep things moving is essential for banishing the bloat—and improving overall digestive health.