Abdominal bloating is always, at the very least, uncomfortable, and all too often, it can become truly painful. A lot of these symptoms are related to poor eating habits.
Indigestion because of overeating is probably the most common cause of bloating. Even if you’re eating healthy foods, your digestive system cannot efficiently process large amounts of food at once.
Second to overeating is the underproduction of bacteria in the gut that helps to digest stuck food and move it through the intestines efficiently. When food moves too slowly through our intestines, it causes gas buildup, which we recognize as bloating and discomfort.
One final common cause of bloating is too much sodium, which prompts out bodies to retain water in order to flush out the excess sodium. Studies have shown that we may have an increase of an extra 2–5 pounds a day just from water retention alone. Keep in mind that there are many sources of unhealthy salt in all kinds of packaged foods, so your best choice is to avoid processed foods as much as possible and to season whole foods with sea salts.
What can we do to avoid bloating? There are many simple strategies that you can implement every day in order to keep your gut happier and to reduce bloating.
One of the easiest strategies is to eat slowly and chew your food well. Eating too fast and not chewing food effectively adds to the risk of bloating just after a meal because digestion of food is a very arduous task for the body, requiring a great deal of energy. Think of burning wood in a fireplace — the smaller the pieces, the quicker they burn up. Chewing properly helps your stomach to work more efficiently and break down your food faster.
Second, give your digestive system a break. When you overeat, your body has to process a lot, and that takes time. When food moves slowly through your intestines, intestinal gas can become trapped, causing the discomfort of bloating. A detoxification program or a juice fast with the help of a wellness professional could help to relieve constipation issues, giving your digestive tract a rest and resulting in the relief of built-up gas and excess bloating after meals.
Finally, there are many foods that can help remedy bloating overnight. Incorporating these foods after a meal or in the evening can help with digestion and bloating overnight as you sleep.
Here are seven of my favorites:
Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to your stir-fry, sprinkle a dash on your salad, or have a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of cayenne pepper after dinner. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper reduces gas and bloating by increasing the digestive enzymes that flow through the intestines. When this happens, food won’t sit in the gut undigested. Capsaicin also kills the bad bacteria that cause gas and bloating when they feed off undigested, putrefied foods.
Yogurt is an excellent way to add nutrients to your overall diet as well as ease that uncomfortable feeling of bloating. Yogurt with active cultures (the good bacteria that helps with digestion) helps your gastrointestinal system to digest and absorb food appropriately. Instead of buying the sugary fruit yogurts, buy plain and add your own de-bloating fruit.
Bananas are loaded with filling fiber and potassium, which help relieve water retention. Potassium helps to maintain cell integrity as well as healthy fluid and electrolyte balance, and fiber can help to keep everything moving.
Cantaloupe is a high-volume food, which means that, for a given amount of weight, they contain relatively high amounts of water, fiber, and air and relatively a low number of calories. Foods with a lot of water and fiber are your best friend when it comes to weight loss and bloating relief. Cantaloupe is also a natural diuretic, and it’s loaded with potassium, which will help you to urinate excess water and salt out of your body. The results are more comfort and less bloating.
Drink lemon juice, and squeeze it on everything. The composition of lemon juice is very similar to the stomach’s digestive juice, as well as saliva and bile. Symptoms of indigestion such a bloating and belching can often be relieved with the aid of the lemon’s juice. Many people who have issues with digesting foods do not produce enough hydrochloric acid to completely digest the foods — particularly animal proteins, dairy, gluten, and complex carbohydrates. Drinking lemon juice regularly helps the bowels to eliminate waste more efficiently, which minimizes constipation and diarrhea associated with bloating.
Garlic instantly relieves gas and bloating. Eaten with other foods, it may contribute to bloating, but when eaten alone, it will actually help relieve bloating and gas.
The lactic acid in buttermilk hastens the digestion process and helps to regulate the digestive system. The bacteria in the buttermilk boost digestive system to function properly.
None of us are perfect (and, really, life is much more fun if we indulge now and then) but during our everyday lives, it’s always best to be thoughtful about our eating habits and to treat our bodies well.
With just a little bit of planning, experimentation, and research, we can easily minimize diet-related bloating with a few naturally healthy food choices that can relieve discomfort as we sleep.
Originally published at medium.com