Nobody wants to deal with a puffed up, uncomfortable belly after eating, but unfortunately bloating is something that affects all of us at some point in our lives. Bloating is the temporary feeling of a full, swollen stomach due to excess air or gas, which can come from overeating, eating too quickly, consuming a lot of rich, fatty foods, constipation, gut sensitivity, food intolerances or allergies, bacterial overgrowth or medical conditions such as gastroparesis. But, rest assured, it is extremely common in both men and women and is not something to be embarrassed by.
Banishing the bloat can be as simple as tweaking what you eat – or don’t, to get your digestive system fired up and working efficiently to break down food. Whether you’re a woman with premenstrual bloating, have overindulged at dinner or suffer from IBS, a sluggish digestive system is never comfortable and can be downright painful in severe cases.
To keep bloating at bay typically requires a change to your diet; there are both foods to avoid and foods that will improve digestion outside of the obvious solutions such as avoiding chewing gum, keeping hydrated, cutting back your portion size, reducing alcohol and fizzy drink intake, and taking your time to eat. To help you make the right choices we’ve put together this handy guide to some of the best food and drink for beating the bloat...
Apple cider vinegar
Is there anything this superfood can’t do? Apple cider vinegar is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have in your pantry, and one of its major benefits is its ability to ease digestion and bloating. It contains essential probiotics needed for supporting the growth of good bacteria in the gut. A shot of vinegar every day might not be pleasing on the palate, so try mixing with some fruit juice or water and honey.
A handful of almonds is a rich fibre source important for aiding digestion. Dietary fibre is the indigestible part of a plant-based food that helps to move food through the intestines quickly, preventing constipation and bloating. Here's how: Dietary fibre is not broken down during digestion, rather the molecules remain relatively intact as they move through the digestive system, absorbing water and adding bulk to stools, making them easier to pass out of the body. The amount of recommended fibre varies between age groups and sex, but Nutrition Australia recommends 30g per day for males over 18, and 25g per day for females over 18, as the optimum amount. Almonds are a great snack for keeping your digestion healthy and are rich in nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins too. Nibble a few nuts after a big meal to keep things moving.
Small but perfectly powerful, fennel seeds contain multiple compounds that work to relax gastrointestinal spasms after eating, helping to banish the bloat following a heavy meal. Fennel seeds have been used historically in herbal medicine as a carminative to prevent and relieve gas from the gastrointestinal tract. As with most whole spices, fennel seeds contain volatile oils which help to stimulate bile flow in the stomach crucial for the digestion of fats. Simply chew on a few seeds or use in tea after eating for rapid relief from uncomfortable bloating.
A well-known diuretic, lemons are traditionally used to aid weight loss and boost antioxidants in the body. Infuse some water with lemon – skin and all – and sip on it throughout the day to soothe your digestive system. Lemon juice can help to cleanse the bowel and flush out waste whilst the citric acid content can supplement the natural stomach acids needed for breaking down food.
Bursting with digestive qualities, it’s no wonder ginger has been used in Chinese medicine for many thousands of years. A little grated fresh ginger stem in tea or on your food can have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, helping to reduce bloating, gas, cramps and even symptoms of IBS flare-ups. The main bioactive compound in ginger – gingerol – is responsible for the root’s medicinal properties and has been associated with more than just bloating, often used to treat symptoms of nausea, chronic indigestion and menstrual pain.
Bring a taste of the tropics to your plate with a healthy dose of pineapple. This exotic fruit contains an enzyme called bromelain that has been traditionally used to reduce swelling for centuries. A pineapple’s stem and juice contains the richest source of bromelain in nature and can help to reduce inflammation and aid the digestion of proteins. But don’t discard the rest of the flesh, pineapples also contain high levels of potassium important for balancing acids in the body. If you’re not keen on chomping on the tough stem of a pineapple, then whizz it up as part of your morning smoothie.
Loaded with fibre, bananas are a real powerhouse food able to do more than just regulate bowel movements. Rich in potassium, this clever compound helps your body to hydrate by regulating its sodium levels and easing water retention. Munching on a just-ripe banana can also assist with digestion. On average one medium banana contains around 3g of fibre which can help to prevent constipation and bloating as part of a high-fibre diet.
Watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe melons are fantastic natural diuretics and a good source of potassium to help balance sodium levels in the body and combat water retention. In particular, the high water content of a watermelon, which contains an astonishing 92 per cent water, encourages the production of urine needed to decrease water weight in the body - a common cause of bloating. ½-1 cup of melon a day will work wonders.
Who knew this versatile green spear was an anti-bloating superfood as well as tasting delicious?! Not only rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, asparagus contains asparagine, an amino acid known to help increase urination and flush out excess water and salt. Also, within its fibre content, is inulin, a prebiotic needed to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut whilst also helping you to feel fuller for longer. It's a win-win!
This fibrous tropical fruit, coined by Christopher Columbus as the ‘fruit of angels’, is packed with soothing anti-inflammatory properties thanks to a protein-digestive enzyme called papain found present in the fruit. Catalysing the breakdown of protein, which can cause gas and bloating if not digested well, papaya can help to reduce gas in the intestine. Mix 1 cup of chopped papaya with natural yoghurt for some papaya-power at breakfast.
Watch what you eat
Whilst there are plenty of foods that play a part in reducing bloating, there are just as many that can cause it, so be wary of the amount of these you consume. Some require simple portion control, such as broccoli, while others, like carbonated drinks, should be reduced or cut out from your diet.
• Cruciferous vegetables – Veggies including broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are very healthy, packed with nutrients, vitamins, iron and fibre, so they definitely should not be cut out, however they are also known to contain FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, Polyols) – short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. As the body is unable to completely digest these molecules they can begin to ferment in the large intestine, causing gas and bloating. A smaller portion can help to reduce side effects. FODMAPs are also found in foods such as beans, lentils and most dairy products.
• Dairy – Whilst highly nutritious and a good source of protein and calcium, the lactose found in most dairy products can irritate the digestive system as it is difficult for the body to break down, whilst those with a lactose intolerance cannot break it down at all. Lactose-free or vegan products are a good alternative.
• Beer – Most of us can appreciate an ice cold tinny on a hot summer’s day, but too much can cause severe bloating. Made from fermented carbs, yeast and water plus carbon dioxide, beer commonly causes the waist to balloon. Making a swap for a glass of red or white wine, or even better - water, can make a big difference to how you feel.
• Salty foods – Consuming high-sodium foods can cause water retention, but cutting down your salt intake isn’t always easy with the hidden salt content found in many processed and convenience foods like cooking sauces, frozen meals, chips and bread. Making food from scratch, laying off the salt shaker and increasing your water intake can help to reduce bloating and lower the risk of high blood pressure.
Whilst diet is key, there are some supplements that can help ease tummy troubles.
True Protein’s Glutamine blend is a premium pharmaceutical grade form of L-Glutamine, a natural amino acid derived from a vegetable-based fermentation process, often used to support the gastrointestinal system. Mixed easily with water, glutamine helps to maintain the normal function of the gastrointestinal tract and assists the body with key muscle-building functions.
For lactose intolerances, True’s WPI90 whey protein powder contains less than 1% carbs and sugar thanks to the removal of the carbohydrates and lactose found in normal whey protein, making this one of the purest proteins in our range. If you’re vegan or completely intolerant to dairy then our Vegan85 protein is the one for you. A blend of pea and brown rice protein, this powder doesn’t skimp on protein content with an impressive 24g of protein per serving.
Though these tips and tweaks to your diet can get you well on the way to ridding a bloated midsection, it will, of course, be dependent on your own personal food tolerances and activity levels. Increasing activity, particularly if you sit down all day for work, can speed up digestion, however always seek medical advice if you’re unsure or if bloating persists.