Feeling Bloated After Eating? Top Tips to Beat the Bloat
With little to no time for ourselves, we often tend to binge eat or ‘have something quickly on the go.’ This often makes us feel bloated after eating. Here are a few top tips to beat the bloat.
Bloating is not at all uncommon after a meal. Most of the time, it occurs because of excess gas production in the stomach. Overeating, food intolerance or allergies, constipation, and changes in environment are among the most common causes of bloating. Unless bloating is a lasting symptom (in which case it may be a trigger of a more serious health condition) and you experience this discomfort only every now and then, the good news is that a few lifestyle changes can help you beat the bloat.Drink as Little as Possible During Your Meal
Generally, fluids dilute stomach acid, which is vital to breaking down food, thereby slowing down the digestive process. Dietitians recommend reducing the amount of fluid intake to a minimum during a meal. Additionally, taking about 15 to 20 minutes break before and after sitting down to eat helps prevent gas buildup.
Take Your Time
Gulping down food is the ‘perfect recipe’ for bloating. As you probably know by now, the first stage of the digestion process takes place in the mouth where the enzymes in saliva break down food into smaller bits than can be further processed in the gut. By not taking enough time to properly chew your food, you will not only encumber the decomposition of food particles, but will also swallow a lot of air along with food, which aids gas buildup in your stomach and causes your tummy to balloon up in a snap.
Physical activity is known to stimulate bowel movement and promote the elimination of toxins. Experts say that moderate workout before breakfast prevents the formation of gas in the stomach. Similarly, taking a short walk after a meal has been confirmed to prevent bloating after eating.
Stay Away From the Salt Shaker
Excess sodium has been proved to aggravate the water retention in your stomach, which leads to bloating. When it gets into the body fluids, sodium curbs the process of pushing water out of the cells, which, in turn, makes your stomach feel overfilled with cells loaded with water. That is why dietitians say that cutting back on salt busts the bloat. If you need to flavor your food, try some potassium salt, which aids digestion and help drain the water stored in your body cells. Another trick is to use herbs like turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, or oregano, which also spice up your food but are also well known for their anti-puffiness effects.
Avoid Carbonated Drinks
Love sodas and other carbonated drinks? Not good at all since they are high in carbon dioxide, which, once it gets to your stomach, stimulates gas formation, which leads to bloating. If not released by burping, the excess gas adds up to the bloat. If you need a refreshment, drink water instead, or how about some lemon and cucumber water with a couple of fresh mint leaves and ice? This detox drink is not only reinvigorating but also steers clear belly bloat and indigestion.
Watch Your Fiber Intake
Although they are healthy and great metabolism stimulants, whole grains often contribute to bloating due to their fiber-high content. Therefore, if you don’t normally follow a diet rich in fiber it’s advisable that you gradually fiber it up and give your body time to adjust to the change. Otherwise, the gas upheaval in your stomach is sure to trigger bloating.
Say ‘No’ to Dairy
If you’re lactose intolerant, it is best to stay away from the dairy section in the supermarket. Lactose intolerance is the effect of a deficit in the enzymes that break down lactose, which leads to gas accumulation in your gastrointestinal tract and causes puffiness. You can opt for soy milk as a substitute to dairy milk and it has been confirmed to be an effective remedy for bloating.
Avoid Legumes and Cruciferous Vegetables
Love beans, lentils and peas? This might be heartbreaking, because all these tasty legumes are major culprits for bloating and gas. High in sugars and fibers that are difficult for the body to absorb, they put pressure on the large intestine to push them through for smooth digestion, which leads to bloating. However, if you love them so much, there is a solution to beat the bloat while you can still enjoy your favorite food – throw some quinoa or rice into the mix (especially if you have beans, lentils or peas regularly) and make the bloat go away!
Other ‘bloating agents’ are broccoli, cabbage and other veggies of the cruciferous family. Because of their raffinose-high content, they produce a lot of gas in the digestive tract and hinder digestion of raffinose (sugar compound found in cruciferous veggies) by preventing gut bacteria to disintegrate it. But what will come of ‘eat your greens’ #1 rule? The trick dietitians recommend is having the vegetables cooked or steamed. Cooking softens the fiber in them and shrinks the leaves or the buds as part of the water evaporates by boiling, making them takes less space in the gastrointestinal tract, which also helps reduce bloating significantly.
Feast on Papaya and Pineapple
Papaya and pineapple are rich in enzymes that support digestion and promote the breakdown of proteins.
Feast on Asparagus
Asparagus is a rich source of probiotics, which aid the growth of ‘goo bacteria’ in your gut, thereby helping maintain balance in your digestive tract and prevent bloating. The soluble and insoluble fiber found in the green veggie further promote overall gastrointestinal health.
Avoid Re –Heating Food
Luci Daniels, a registered dietitian in London and former head of the British Dietetic Association explains that in some cases bloating occurs only after eating out. Most of the patients she examined reported experiencing indigestion or bloating only after eating pasta, rice or potatoes in a restaurant, said Daniels. This often happens because these foods have been re-heated.
According to the British dietitian, re-heating starchy foods apparently changes their molecular structure, turning it into resistant starch, which cannot be digested in the small intestine and passes directly into the large intestine. The bacteria there manage to break it down, but produce a lot of gas and, yes, you guessed it – BLOATING. This varies on a case-by-case basis, with some people finding it harder to digest resistant starches. To avoid this discomfort after eating starch-high foods, either cook no more than a portion or two, or if you dine out, make sure they’re freshly cooked, Daniels recommends.
Processed foods like ready meals or part-baked breads (baguettes) also contain more resistant starch. To beat the bloat, stay away from those!
Shifts in Hormone Levels
Changes in hormone levels during a woman’s menstrual cycle are one of the most common triggers for bloating. While many women claim ‘water retention’ to be the main cause for belly bloat, the real reason for it is relaxed muscles, says Leila Hanna, consultant gynecologist and obstetrician at BMI, the Sloane Hospital in London.
Many women experience bloating before their period, which is due to an increase in progesterone levels, Hanna explains.
Excess progesterone during ovulation causes the abdominal muscles to relax. The organs therefore are not packed in tightly, leading to puffiness. This tends to worsen as menopause age approaches.
As your gut relaxes, your gastrointestinal tract also tends to get sluggish due to muscles becoming less efficient in pushing food through. This also causes constipation, which aggravates the bloat. Drink plenty of fluids and eat fiber (but be cautious if fiber makes you bloated, don’t overdo it) to reduce bloating before and during period.
Say ‘No’ to Chewing Gum
Usually, when chewing gum you swallow air, which maximizes the risk of gas buildup and bloating, according to Peter Whorwell, professor of medicine at Wythenshawe Hospital Manchester, and an expert in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Sugar-free versions are even worse as they are high in sorbitol and xylitol, which are fermented by gut bacteria and may also lead to bloating, Prof. Whorwell explains. Sugar-free drinks also contain these ingredients; so if you wish to avoid bloating, stay away from no-sugar products.
Additionally, chewing gum makes you swallow more air, which increases the risk of bloating. Eating quickly can also trigger it or make it worse, adds Prof. Whorwell.
Overuse of Antibiotics
Absence of good bacteria in the gut contributes to bloating. The good bacteria or probiotics in your gastrointestinal tract forming your gut flora jump-start the digestive process, thereby keeping the gut cells healthy.
Taking antibiotics, or suffering from indigestion or food poisoning shakes things up by disturbing the balance
of good bacteria, causing bad bacteria to overgrow, IBS dietitian and allergy specialist Marianne Williams explains.
This imbalance increases sensitivity to foods that ferment in the gut, causing gas and bloating. Probiotics help rebuild the gut flora restoring the balance of good bacteria. If you need to take antibiotics, eat probiotic-rich foods like Greek yogurt to minimize any bloating risks.
Needless to say that stress is the cause of all bad things, including belly bloat. Professor Whorwell explains that there’s a clear connection between the brain and the gut, and therefore angst is likely to make digestive symptoms twice as severe.
For instance, in IBS this connection is hypertrophied and the gut becomes oversensitive to factors like stress, hormone imbalance, bacteria, and ultimately, diet. Actually, stress is one of the biggest causing factors of the ailment, Professor Whorlwell says. For people who have a predisposition to stomach problems, any stressful situation is likely to trigger a more serious condition such as IBS, he further explains.
Other Contributing Factors
While bloating may be a coming-and-going discomfort with some, it may be a lasting symptom with others, and in such case it may be a signal of a more critical condition when it is associated with the following symptoms:
Involuntary weight loss is one of the main signs of serious bloating. If you lose more than a few stubborn extra pounds, especially if the figure on your scales indicates that you’ve lost more than 10 percent of your body weight, without changing your diet or workout regimen, then it’s probably best to see your doctor and have it checked. Weight loss may be caused by tumors pressing on the intestines, which gives you the feeling of satiety only after a few bites. In some cases, tumors may be secreting substances, which released in your gut make you feel full after eating only a small amount.
Ascites (abnormal fluid accumulation in the abdomen or pelvis) is another trigger of bloating. Along with bloating, ascites brings about weight gain and an ever-expanding waistline. This is usually a sign of liver disease, but most often cancer is the underlying cause. The large amount of fluid accumulated in your abdomen makes you look like you’re several months pregnant. Bloating is often associated with jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), which can be a sign of cancer that extended to the liver. Jaundice can also occur with less critical forms of liver disease such as hepatitis.
Acute abdominal pain and bloating occurring simultaneously may be a sign of bowel obstruction, especially if they are associated with nausea and vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, immediately seek medical attention to avoid any complications like bowel perforation, which can be fatal. The pain occurs because the bowel above the obstructed area stretches out as it fills with food and digestive juice. The pain is severe and it may come in waves as the bowels struggle to push their contents through the blocked area.
Blood in your stool and bleeding in-between periods, or postmenopausal bleeding can also be associated with severe bloating. Among the most common causes of these symptoms, hemorrhoids, irregular menstrual cycles, fibroids, or endometrial atrophy aren’t the most alarming, however, bleeding should always be examined as it may be a sign of cancer, either colon or uterine cancer.
Fever accompanying belly bloat is often a sign of infection and/or inflammation. If blood test shows an elevated white blood cell count, infection from a urinary, pelvic or gastrointestinal source must be immediately ruled out. If this sounds like you, it’s better to see your doctor and establish the real cause and find the right treatment.
Critical Conditions Associated with Bloating
Ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal health conditions associated with bloating. Although it comes up on the fifth position among the most common forms of cancer in women, it causes more deaths than any other reproductive cancer (especially in women over 50). Risk factors include having children at a late stage in life or not having them at all, a medical history of ovarian cancer, obesity, genetic abnormalities, and long-term hormone replacement therapy. Typical symptoms include long-lasting bloating, feeling full faster, and pelvic pain.
What To Do
If you’re concerned you might have ovarian cancer, have a thorough pelvic examination and/or a transvaginal ultrasound to rule out any criticalities, or if the diagnosis is positive, avoid any complications later. A CA-125 blood test is not so reliable of a screening solution, yet it can help establish the right treatment postpositive diagnosis.
Uterine cancer can also cause abnormal vaginal bleeding, apart from bloating. Common symptoms include a watery or blood-stained vaginal discharge (brownish) pelvic pain, or pain during sexual intercourse and/or urination. However, it’s important to know that bloating or a change in bowel habits may be only signs of an incipient stage of ovarian cancer. Tamoxifen treatment, taking estrogen-based supplements that do not also contain progesterone, radiation therapy, a medical history of uterine cancer or a medical history of inherited colon cancer (condition known as Lynch syndrome).
What To Do
If you have a family history of uterine cancer and experience most of the above symptoms simultaneously, it’s best to have a pelvic examination and imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or CAT scan. Early detection saves lives!
Colon Cancer blocks the inside of the colon, causing bloating. If the cancer is located I the rectum or sigmoid, bleeding often accompanies defecation and there is also a history of chronic constipation. If the cancer is located in the higher part of the colon, bloating may only be an initial symptom. Colon cancer is the second lethal condition among non-smokers in the US.
What To Do
Colon cancer can be mostly prevented through lifestyle changes and regular colonoscopy screening. Studies show that going green can significantly reduce colon cancer risks. If you believe you are at risk or experiencing the above symptoms, a colonoscopy may be worth pursuing.
Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive condition with low survival rates. Symptoms include bloating associated with jaundice, weight loss, loss of appetite, upper abdominal pain that radiates to the back. These are all worrying signs of a critical condition. Other signs include newly onset of diabetes associated with abdominal pain, bloating, and weight loss.
What To Do
Pancreatic cancer does not count among the common causes of pancreatic cancer. However, if you have it, early diagnosis is essential to ensuring a positive outcome. Seek immediate medical evaluation, if you experience any f the above symptoms.
Stomach cancer is an insidious disease, being asymptomatic in early stages. In some cases it may cause vague symptoms, such as bloating, a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen, and sometimes indigestion. Like pancreatic cancer, it may have already reached an advanced stage at the point of diagnosis, in which case you’re likely to experience additional symptoms like weight loss, nausea, and abdominal pain
What To Do
Infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori is one of the critical if not the most significant risk factors for stomach cancer. Therefore, if you have any concerns about stomach cancer as a first step it would be a good idea to get tested for H. pylori. Nitrates and nitrites in smoked processed meat are also big triggers of the disease, and in a reduced number of patients, stomach cancer is genetic.
Liver disease is often a benign condition, however, cancer from distant organs can and do frequently spread to the liver. When they get into the bloodstream, cancer cells are filtered through the liver. That’s when ascites and jaundice accompany bloating. These symptoms are a sign of cancer that spread to the liver or sometimes, of an incipient stage of the ailment, which is more likely to develop in people with a history of hepatitis or heavy alcohol use.
What To Do
If you suspect you may have or be at risk of developing liver disease, get a physical examination, an ultrasound of the liver and whole abdomen as well as a blood test to evaluate your liver function and establish diagnosis. Certain types of liver disease can be cured by making a few dietary changes, such as eating more leafy greens, legumes and other plants, less animal protein and starchy and sugar-rich foods. Medical prescription is required for more serious cases.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is another condition with which bloating occurs. It develops as a consequence of an infection in the uterine lining, fallopian tubes or ovaries, usually from sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia or gonorrhea. It is also likely to occur during childbirth, abortion, miscarriage, or even insertion of an intrauterine device. With PID, bloating comes along with fever, pain and tenderness in the pelvic area, as well as vaginal discharge.