Bloating is the bane of many women’s lives. It can add pounds overnight, immediately limit your fashion choices and force you to resort to your ‘fat’ wardrobe. Fortunately, it can be beaten.
When your stomach is firm and flat does the world seem a kinder, brighter place where you can slip effortlessly into jeans, flattering black dresses do actually flatter you and bikinis become less frightening?
Bloating is caused by trapped wind in your digestive system. The chief culprits range from food intolerances, constipation, too much alcohol, too much salt, eating too quickly or munching on too many gas-causing foods such as baked beans. Many women suffer premenstrual bloating too. And even stress can be to blame. Here are some ways to deflate that protruding tummy:
- Cut down on top bloaters such as wheat and replace them with rice or oats, which are usually better tolerated. Swap bran cereals for corn cereals, or breakfast on fresh fruit and yoghurt instead.
- Avoid constipation by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and drinking plenty of fluids. Also, go to the toilet when you get the urge; resisting can muck up your digestive system further.
- Try a course of probiotics (acidophilus), which can help rebalance the good and bad bacteria in your digestive system. If the balance gets out of kilter your system will slow down, which can cause lots of gas in your gut. You can buy supplements from the chemist or eat a bio yoghurt or yoghurt-based drink everyday.
- Fill your fruit bowl. Apples, pears and rhubarb are a great source of potassium, which helps rebalance your body’s fluid levels. They’re also a good source of pectin, a soluble fibre that keeps you regular. Other good non-bloaters are cherries and citrus fruit.
- Pineapples are great for beating bloat, too, as they contain the wonder-enzyme bromelain that helps digestion, alleviates wind and can soothe your stomach. Fresh is better than tinned pineapple, which tends to lose much of its bromelein. Try papaya, too, which contains enzymes such as papain that can be good for your digestion, particularly if you’ve been eating lots of rich meaty foods.
- Cut down on alcohol and salty foods, which can cause fluid retention and inflate that bloated tummy further. That’s because your body holds on to fluid to dilute the extra salt. Avoid adding salt to your meals, but also cut back on ready meals and processed foods, which often contain tons of salt. Try cooking from scratch more often so you can keep your eye on your salt intake.
- Eat plenty of natural diuretics to help beat water retention, including celery, onion, parsley, coffee (yes, really, but include in moderation because of the caffeine content), tea, aubergine (eggplant), garlic and peppermint.
- Check you’re eating enough protein like fish, lean meat or tofu (don’t overdo the beans or pulses as they can make matters worse), as nutrition experts say protein can also reduce fluid retention.
- Address those PMS symptoms and if you’re plagued with bloating each month, try a supplement. There’s evidence that taking 1,000 mg of calcium a day (the recommended daily allowance is 700 mg) may improve problems concerning water retention. Try evening primrose oil and vitamin B6 supplements too to help minimise those grim PMS symptoms.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Regular, small amounts are best.
- Slow down at mealtimes, stop eating on the run and aim to savour your food and chew everything thoroughly. When you gulp your meals down you can swallow air, which can bloat you.
- Try some tummy-toning moves. Pilates is a great way to work your stomach muscles. It can give you abs of steel in just a few months. It really helps pull your stomach up and in and is a great way to get your waist back after having a baby.
- Stress can cause havoc with your digestive system so aim to set aside plenty of time for quality rest and relaxation and develop some great strategies for nipping stress in the bud.