You can’t count how many times you have struggled to zip up your skinny jeans or caught a glimpse of your four-month-pregnant-looking belly in the mirror. Blame bloat.
Digestive bloating is caused by air, fluid or gas in the digestive tract. It makes your belly look and feel swollen or tight. While bloating is normal, it can also be uncomfortable.
Whether it happens occasionally or every month during your period, follow these seven tips to prevent stomach bloating and improve digestion.
Regular exercise can help keep you regular. One study found that physical activity helped participants move gas and ease their symptoms (1).
Remember, “Movement of the body is good for movement of the bowels,” notes dietitian Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Dehydration is a common cause of constipation, which worsens gas and bloating. Drink plenty of water each day to help keep your stool soft and easier to pass through the colon, Sandon advises.
Steer Clear of Artificial Sweeteners
Certain artificial sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol and xylitol, are linked with bloating. “Artificial sweeteners are poorly absorbed in the intestines,” explains Dr. Jacqueline Wolf, a physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and author of A Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach. “If you’re having increased bloating, check food labels for artificial sweeteners.”
The faster you eat, the more air you swallow (and the more gas you create). If you struggle with bloating, Wolf suggests slowing down during mealtimes. Eating more frequent, smaller meals may also help.
“A larger meal will take longer to empty out of your stomach and that can leave you feeling bloated,” says Wolf, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Avoid Carbonated Drinks
The fizz in your favorite drinks can cause bubbles to build up in your belly. “Carbonated beverages are a huge trigger for bloat,” Wolf warns. Instead of soda or seltzer, choose flavored water or green tea. A 2016 study also found that peppermint helped alleviate bloating (2).
Focus on Fiber
Foods high in fiber and sulfur like apples, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, onions and garlic are harder for your gut bacteria to break down, according to Sandon. These are also really nutritious foods, so you don’t want to cut them from your diet. In fact, Sandon notes, “The more you eat them, the better your bacteria are likely to get at breaking them down.”
Cook fruits and vegetables to soften them. (Your gut has to work harder to digest raw fruits and veggies). Sandon also suggests switching to canned fruits packed in their own juices or water, or applesauce if eating raw fruit triggers bloating.
Get OTC Relief
Although diet and lifestyle changes can reduce digestive bloating, you may need to reach for an over-the-counter remedy for immediate gas relief. Your doctor may also recommend supplements to improve digestion, such as probiotics or digestive enzymes.
With the right lifestyle changes, you can beat bloat and start feeling better.