Hands up if you suffer from a bloated stomach…? There’s probably more of you than you think and I for one place myself firmly in that category. It is reported that nearly everyone will be affected by gut problems in their lives and up to 1 in 5 people in the UK will develop IBS at some point. Bloating, and the general discomfort it causes, is something I pay attention to and think about every single day and whilst gut health isn’t the sexiest of topics, it is one that we should definitely be talking about more!
I haven’t always suffered, it seems to be something that has crept up on me in my twenties, but I’m learning to manage it and understand my triggers. Whilst I’m conscious of the fact that everyone is different and should do what works for them, I’m a great believer of ‘knowledge is power’ and so I thought I would let you in on my tried and tested tips.
- Drink your water
If you are not drinking enough water, your body holds on to the water that is already in your body and uses it for normal functioning, causing you to appear bloated. In my experience, drinking a large glass of water can often make me feel instantly bloated, but this is only temporary so don’t be put off! Drinking your recommended 6-8 glasses a day is incredibly important. Try drinking your first glass as soon as you wake up to activate the brain and detox the body.
- Exercise more
As gross as it might sound, exercise gets things moving (you know what I mean)! If you’re sat at a desk all day, something simple like a brisk walk at lunchtime can help but if you require something a bit more lively, cardio exercises like running or aerobics, also get the digestive system going. For those of us who prefer something more relaxing, yoga is a great way to relieve stress and tension within the body. Try a bridge pose to stimulate the abdominal organs or hug your knees in to your chest relieve any trapped gas (maybe attempt that one at home)!!
- Reduce your dairy intake
Around 75% of the world’s population can’t break down the sugar in dairy, lactose, which can cause bloating and gas. Whilst I have not been diagnosed as lactose intolerant, I have definitely found that my morning coffee and bowl of porridge can leave me feeling incredibly uncomfortable. Don’t be put off dairy altogether though; the ability to digest lactose varies greatly depending on the individual and also the amount of lactose in different dairy foods. Try substituting your milk or yoghurt for a dairy-free alternative such as soya or almond/coconut to see if it makes a difference! I certainly could never say goodbye to chocolate or ice cream, but there are some great dairy-free options in supermarkets now.
- Cut down on onion and garlic
Now I find that these 2 ingredients really play havoc with my tummy. Good substitutes – garlic oil, can be found in most supermarkets and is a really effective way of keeping the flavour of garlic in your food without directly consuming it. Leeks are also a good substitute for onions.
- Take a probiotic
Bloating can often be due to a lack of ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut and so maintaining a balance between good and bad bacteria is the key to reducing bloating. Probiotics help to maintain the balance and control harmful bacteria, particularly those found in the digestive tract. Recently I’ve been take a probiotic in capsule form every morning and have noticed a HUGE improvement. My current favourites are the Holland & Barrett Ultra Maximum Acidophilus Capsules. At a very reasonable price of £17.99 for 60 capsules these will last you a very long time and are the best value for money that I have found. Containing 20 billion active cultures, these little miracle capsules will help to improve your digestive health. You could also start on a slightly lower dose of 3 billion active cultures to find out what works best for you.
- Track your foods
The guys at Monash University have done a lot of research on the presence of FODMAPs in our food (foods that contain short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly digested and ferment in the gut) and the part they play in causing bloating, gas and IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome). The results of reducing foods within the diet that are high in FODMAPS to alleviate symptoms have been so positive that they have now produced an app that helps you to track your food and whether it is high or low in FODMAPS. The app contains a comprehensive list of foods and their FODMAP content so you can make an informed decision when choosing what to eat. The Monash University Low FODMAP diet, available via the App Store or Google play.