These pictures were taken on the same day, believe it or not. To the left, my stomach was bloated from the liquid and food that I had consumed. To the right, was much later in the day after a 90 minute hot yoga class. The purpose of putting these two pictures side by side is to show how common it is to become bloated at any point during the day.
So why does stomach bloat happen? There are many different causes including:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Gut issues
- Fluid retention
- Food allergies
Although getting bloated from time to time is normal, it is not normal to be bloated every time you eat or to wake up extremely bloated. If this is the case, it is a good idea to start addressing problems that may be going on in the digestive system. A great way to start is to focus on hydration. By drinking large quantities of fluid (water, smoothies, coconut water, kombucha, tea) the body will be able to flush out toxins or waste that could be accumulating in the colon. Bloating is often a sign of an underlying gut issue that needs to be addressed. Bloating can be caused by taking antibiotics, or having a diet high in refined grains and sugar. Gluten is difficult to digest for the majority of people, so it is best to avoid it if you bloat often. Another food group to be wary of is beans and legumes. I have completely cut out both of these from my diet, and it has helped a lot. Also be cautious of carbonated drinks, chewing lots of gum, and sugar alcohols because these are other sneaky ways bloating can happen.
If you struggle with bloating, take note of the following:
Probiotics. I know I stress this all the time, but probiotics are so important for a healthy digestive system. I love to get my probiotics from natural sources, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha.
Fruits and veggies with high water content provide the body with electrolytes and also enzymes which can help with stomach bloat. It is best to eat them raw so that the enzymes are not destroyed through any cooking methods. Eat more raw leafy greens, cucumber, celery, berries and fermented vegetables.
Ginger is one of the best herbs you can consume for stomach issues. Grate some raw ginger into a cup of warm water, and do this 3-4 times per day. Dandelion tea or green tea with a squeeze of lemon is another really good option to soothe the stomach.
Apple Cider Vinegar is an amazing solution for digestive issues. It is rich in those enzymes that I mentioned earlier, which are key for a highly functioning digestive system. The best way to incorporate apple cider vinegar is to dilute one tablespoon with a cup of water or tea and drink that before eating a meal. This will help with constipation as well. The vinegar stimulates the digestive system to break down food better.
Food Sensitivity Testing is a great idea to rule out what foods may be causing you issues. I got tested through my Naturopath, but there are kits you can order online, like this one. I found out I was highly sensitive to gluten, and moderately sensetive to beef, squash, and tuna, so I now avoid these foods when possible.
How/when you eat is very important and often underestimated. Try to not eat too much at one point, such as binging out on one big meal. Instead, the meals you eat should be spaced apart a few hours to allow the digestive system a break. Also, try not to eat late at night because this means the digestive system will have to be working when you are trying to sleep. Lastly, slow down when you are eating a meal. Try to chew each bite fully before swallowing, and don’t scarf down all your food in five minutes because this will likely make you bloated.
Again, occasional stomach bloat is no big deal, but if you find bloating is taking a toll on your everyday life, it may be time to get to the root cause of what’s going on in your digestive system. Everybody is different and bloating can be caused by numerous factors, so it can be incredibly helpful to go to a naturopath or other natural health practitioner who can help you figure it out.