Is bloating after each meal getting you down? You’re not alone. Studies have shown that around 30% of men and women report feeling uncomfortable and bloated at some stage, and a whopping 90% of Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) sufferers experience bloating on a regular basis.
While bloating is common, it’s also a complex health problem with many possible reasons, and it often takes a little trial and error to figure out what makes you bloat, and why. For some, a stretched, uncomfortable tummy boils down to:
- Lack of sleep
- Too much sugar and inflammatory foods
- Poor gut health
- A combination of poor food choices
- Or all of the above.
To help you understand what could be causing your bloating, we chatted to the experts and discovered a few less common reasons.
Here are 12 possible causes of bloating…(plus, how to fix it)
1. Toxic overload
If your bloating is accompanied by lethargy, symptoms of depression, irritability or poor memory, it could be auto-intoxication where toxic waste that isn’t cleared properly from yout gut is reabsorbed and finds a home in fatty deposits.
Pharmacist and homeopath Margo Maronne, recommends that you take steps to support your gut. She says: “You can go on a kilojoule-controlled diet and do all the exercises and still that weight around your middle won’t shift until you get rid of those toxins.”Cleaning your gut can definitely flatten your tum and if you suffer from PMS or you’re going through menopause, it soothes symptoms and calms those mood swings.”
So how do you do it? Margo suggests a combination of a gut-cleaning diet and supplements. “Do it for 20 days, four times a year, and you’ll keep your tum flat, improve your skin and brighten your disposition.”
The gut-cleaning diet
This diet is short and really easy to follow – just cut out the following:
- Foods and drinks containing preservatives and artificial colourings and flavourings.
- Milk, dairy foods or chicken that isn’t organic (because they contain antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticides).
- Processed foods, refined sugar (cakes, pastries and biscuits); artificial sugar.
- Fizzy drinks (colas, etc).
- Alcohol and cigarettes.
2. Fluid retention
Water retention is one of the biggest causes of bloating. To help combat this, choose natural, fibre-rich fluid flushers like apples, celery, carrots, cucumber and parsley. But who wants to eat tons of them? Get smart and juice them for a great flushing effect. Try these juice combinations:
Carrot and cucumber
Juice 4 carrots, ½ cucumber and a big bunch of parsley. Give it a stir and drink immediately. Apples and cucumber are great diuretics and carrots are fab antioxidants.
Apple, ginger and pineapple
Juice 1 apple, ½ pineapple, 1cm ginger. Apples are flushing, pineapple cleansing and ginger boosts circulation.
Parsley, apple and carrot
Juice 3 carrots, 2 apples, 3 celery sticks and a bunch of parsley. This is sodium-light and good at sorting fluid retention.
Another tip to reduce fluid retention and puffiness is to use essential oils. Add a few drops of clary sage, neroli and rose essential oils to 10ml of almond oil and massage your tummy gently. It will help to reduce the bloating and puffiness caused by PMS or menopause.
3. Bad food combinations
When combined with other foods, fruit can cause gas and bloating. Fruit is digested fast, so if you eat it for dessert, it will ferment in the gut while it waits for the rest of your meal to digest slowly. This can lead to a swollen, uncomfortable tum. Keep fruit for breakfast when you can eat as much of it as you like and wait two hours before your next meal.
4. Food sensitivities
Many South Africans have a sensitivity to wheat, which is known to cause bloating because of refined carbs and sugars. As US dermatologist Dr Perricone rightly says, to help fight inflammation and bloating caused by food sensitivities, cut out refined carbs – white bread, pasta, white rice, biscuits and cakes.
If you want to reduce inflammation, prevent the signs of premature ageing and achieve a clearer skin, read the Perricone Prescription, R265.
Another major culprit behind bloating is failing to drink enough water. The truth is, water reduces puffiness and prevents you from overeating and snacking on sugary foods. Why? When your cells get dehydrated, your body looks for water from other sources – and that includes fat cells. If they lose water, their ability to use fat for energy is fouled up, leaving you feeling hungry.
Therefore, if you drink more, there’s a good chance you’ll eat less and reduce bloating. If you experience a mid-morning or mid-afternoon dip, reach for a glass of water. Also up your daily water intake by having one glass as soon as you wake, two mid-morning, two mid-afternoon, two early evening and one last thing before bed.
We love the idea of keeping your water cool in a Smartlife Glass Bottle, R79,99 for 550ml.
Holding onto gas is a major contributor to bloating. Get rid of it the gentle way with herbs. Gentian or artichoke herbal tinctures stimulate gastric juices and so reduce bloating.
Also try swapping your regular tea for peppermint, nettle, fennel, chamomile, ginger, cinnamon or aniseed. They’re all calmative herbs you can take as tinctures as well as teas to reduce bloating.
Try Pukka Cleanse Tea, R102 for 20, which contains a combination of fennel, nettle and peppermint.
7. Plaque build-up
Undigested food can cause a build-up of mucoid plaque in your gut, which prevents you from absorbing nutrients. This can also lower your energy levels and cause an overload in your circulatory system. Drinking lots of water and green tea can help, so can a natural detox. But better still is a little colonic hydrotherapy.
Also known as colonic irrigation, this therapy helps to clean the colon of mucoid plaque and other nasties, makes you feel energetic and clear-headed and yes, it can flatten your bloated tum. It’s gentle and doesn’t hurt.
For more information, enquire at the Colon Clinic in Craighall, Johannesburg.
8. Pelvic floor problems
A weak pelvic floor, often caused by pregnancy, childbirth and obesity can also contribute to digestive problems. Try this simple exercise to tighten your pelvic floor:
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent, and feet flat on the ground.
- Put a cushion between your knees.
- Then, slowly tighten and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles by taking a deep breathe in, and pretending that you’re stopping the flow of urine.
- Also clench your muscles around your bottom, then breathe out gently and relax.
Aim to do this simple exercise for three minutes a day.
9. An apple body shape
Celebrity fitness trainer Matt Roberts gives his apple-shaped clients (those more inclined to bloat) great diet advice. “To help prevent bloating, eliminate wheat and dairy products from your diet for two weeks. Experiment with milk from non-dairy sources like soya or rice. And never go without breakfast – try porridge made with water, or rye bread toast with a little jam but no butter. You’ll be amazed how different you feel,” he says.
For more dietary tips for your body shape, check out Chloe Madeley’s, The 4 Week Body Blitz – A Complete Diet And Exercise Plan To Transform Your Body Shape, R252.
10. Late night snacking
While you might not gain weight from late night snacking (it’s more about what you eat than when you eat it), eating late at night can cause bloating as your body doesn’t have enough time to digest the food before you sleep. Carb-heavy snacks and meals late at night cause the most bloating as they suck up water like a sponge.
If you are peckish before bed, stick to lean protein and salad or veggies or a small low-fat yoghurt. Also, A gram of sodium will retain 450g of water. Always check the salt content of processed foods like crisps.
11. Visceral fat
Visceral fat (also known as intra-abdominal fat) is the kind that wraps itself around your organs and increases health risks such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It’s also been linked to a rounder belly and bloating. Chronic stress, a heavily processed diet (with mainly carbs) and genetic factors such as a predispostion to obesity have all been linked to visceral fat. A study published in the Nutrition Journal shows that a combination of intermittent fasting with calorie restriction and liquid meals can help to curb obesity and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
12. Permanent PMS
Premenstrual symptoms are a major cause of bloating which is directly linked to fluid retention and hormonal fluctuations – specifically progesterone and oestrogen. To help reduce fluid retention and bloating around this time, consider taking 200mg of vitamin B6 a day, starting 10 days before your period and continue until its end. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too.
DISCLAIMER: Before starting any diet, you should speak to your doctor. You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.