What's Causing Your Bloat and How to Prevent It
You've probably been there - you're out for an Italian dinner or Sunday brunch with your friends eating your favourite foods, and before you know it, you're adjusting your jeans, trying to find a way to accommodate that growing bloated belly.
Bloating is so much more than having to unbutton your jeans on pizza night. It can affect your self esteem and even cause debilitating pain in more serious cases, taking all the enjoyment out of eating your favourite foods.
What is Bloat?
Bloat is not your "food baby" which arises simply from eating a big meal. Abdominal bloat is the formation of gas in the digestive tract which presents as the distension of the abdominal area in some cases, but in others, it can also come with pain, cramping, the passing of gas (often with a strong odour) and changes to bowel habits.
Causes of Bloat
1. Too much pressure on the digestive system
Our stomach is only the size of a one-handed closed fist. Overeating at each meal, not chewing food enough and not allowing enough time between each meal can put too much pressure on the digestive system. As a result, food sits around longer than it is supposed to and ferments in the digestive tract, causing gas to form.
In today's fast-paced world, we tend to rush our eating. When we are rushing around and eating on the go, eating while working at our desks or eating in front of the TV, our body gets confused. Our flight-or-fight response is switched on, and our body fails to recognise that it is time to eat. The digestive enzymes that we require to break down our meal sit in waiting instead of activating and working to digest our food.
Consuming too much protein and fat with each meal can also be a trigger for gas and bloating. Protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates, which is brilliant for blood glucose management, but not so much if you're already battling bloat. Look at the quality and quantity of protein you are having with each meal and see if a change can be made here.
Raw vegetables and smoothies:
Many people these days are increasing their consumption of raw salads and smoothies with the intention of living a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, this can worsen the symptoms of bloating. Here's why: raw vegetables contain more fibre than lightly cooked vegetables. So if you're suddenly eating a lot more salad and green smoothies than you're used to, the digestive system isn't able to break down all that fibre all at once. Opt instead for lightly sautéed, roasted or steamed vegetables, and add energetically warm foods such as ginger, turmeric, paprika and cinnamon to your meals to ease the digestive process.
2. Lack of digestive support
Bloating can also be caused by indigestion that comes about as a result of a shortage of digestive enzymes like amylase, protease and lipase and stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).
While ageing gradually reduces the body's ability to produce an adequate amount of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, lifestyle factors also have a role to play. Diets high in sugar and processed foods, high antibiotic use and chronic stress can all be culprits.
3. More serious conditions
While bloating can occur on its own, it can also be a secondary symptom of other more serious conditions. Food intolerances, constipation, SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth), dysbiosis (overgrowth of the wrong type of gut bacteria) as well as other chronic health conditions such as endometriosis do have bloating as secondary symptoms.
Easy Ways to Prevent Bloat
Boost the dietary digestive enzymes: Kiwi fruit, paw paw or papaya, pineapple (fresh and in particular the hard core).
Chew your food: Chewing activates the first stage of digestion and prepares the rest of the digestive tract for gastric secretions and enzymes to help break down the food that's coming.
Eat (don't drink) more meals: While the occasional green smoothie is fine (and even good for you), avoid consuming them as meal replacements.
Clear your bowels daily: We want to ensure we have enough variety in our foods and dietary fibre to support a daily bowel movement.
Add in warm soothing foods: Bone broth, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon throughout the day to warm and sooth. Herbal teas such as chamomile, ginger, marshmallow, liquorice, fennel and peppermint can also bring relief.
Move your body: Gentle exercise can work to reduce digestive discomfort and bloating. On the days that you are unable to exercise, gently massage the abdominal area each evening before bed.
Best Herbs for Bloat
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla):
Possibly one of the most commonly used herbal teas world wide, chamomile tea can be found as loose leaf or in teabags – we recommend loose leaf for all herbal teas.
Studies have found that chamomile has an anti-inflammatory role on the digestive system, and also helps to sooth the gut-brain connection which is commonly heightened during times of stress, triggering symptoms of digestive upset. Chamomile also has a soothing affect on the smooth muscles within the digestive system, which help to relax and reduce bloating, bowel irregularities and discomfort.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale):
Both fresh ginger and dried ginger as a tea can work to alleviate the afternoon bloat. Ginger is a warming circulatory stimulant which can help to bring warmth back to the digestive system. To use, fresh simply grate fresh (ideally organic) ginger into a mug and add boiling water. Adding ginger into cooking, or adding pickled ginger to the side of the meals can also be a delicious way to consume it.
Liquorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra):
Liquorice root has been used for centuries for a number of different ailments. It is naturally sweet and can be used as a tea, powder, liquid or capsule/tablet form. Its therapeutic benefits include being an anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmolytic (reduces smooth muscle contraction), nervine and adaptogen, and mild laxative. Liquorice root can affect blood pressure and should be avoided in individuals with high blood pressure.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare):
Fennel can be used fresh as the herb/bulb, liquid tincture or seeds dried as a tea. It has been used by different cultures for its benefits on reducing digestive bloat: in Italy it is often consumed as the vegetable, whereas in India, the seeds are chewed on after a meal to support digestion and freshen the breath.
Fennel supports digestive health by reducing the inflammation in the digestive system, and research also suggest that the essential oils present in the seed naturally encourage the secretion of digestive and gastric acids. It is also suggested that the essential oils in fennel have a positive effect on our overall microbiome, causing a reduction in the unfriendly gas forming microbiome species.
Ora Tip: Debloat and Digest+ contains GutGard®, a clinically-researched extract of liquorice root, organic fennel seed and 6 vegan digestive enzymes to relieve abdominal pain, bloating and discomfort as well as support healthy digestion.