You’d love to have a flat belly for the party tonight, but thanks to one too many sodas or that basket of tortilla chips, zipping your pants is a real struggle. Abdominal bloating not only looks bad but can also cause physical discomfort. The good news? Experts say stomach bloating is easily avoidable.
We’re not talking about extra pounds of stomach fat here. We’re talking about the temporary abdominal distention that plagues most everyone from time to time. Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity researcher at Mayo Clinic, says the only real cause is intestinal gas — not “water weight.”
So what causes gas to accumulate and wreak havoc on how you feel and look? Here are answers from experts plus their stomach-slimming advice.
1. Avoid Constipation. Too little fiber, fluids and physical activity can lead to constipation, which can result in bloating. To avoid this, eat a diet high in fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Also, drink plenty of fluids (aim for 6-8 glasses a day) and aim for physical activity for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.
2. Rule Out Wheat Allergies or Lactose Intolerance. Food allergies and intolerances can cause gas and bloating. But these need to be confirmed by your doctor.
3. Don’t Eat Too Fast. Eating quickly and not chewing your food well can cause air swallowing that leads to bloating, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet. So slow down and enjoy your food. Your meals should last at least 30 minutes. Also, keep in mind that digestion begins in the mouth and you can decrease bloating just by chewing your food more, Blatner says.
4. Don’t Overdo Carbonated Drinks. The fizz in carbonated drinks (even diet ones) can cause gas to get trapped in your belly, Blatner says.
5. Don’t Overdo Chewing Gum. Chewing gum can also lead to swallowing air, which can cause bloating. If you’ve got a gum habit, alternate chewing gum with sucking on a piece of hard candy or eating a healthy, high-fiber snack.
6. Watch Out for Sugar-Free Foods. “Many of my patients suffer from bloating because they consume too much sugar alcohol in artificially sweetened foods and drinks,” Blatner says. And that can lead to bloating. Experts recommend consuming no more than 2 or 3 servings of artificially sweetened foods/drinks per day.
7. Limit Sodium. Highly processed foods tend to be high in sodium and low in fiber, both of which can contribute to that bloated feeling, Jensen says. Get in the habit of reading food labels, Blatner advises. When buying processed, canned, or frozen foods, shoot for no more than 500 mg of sodium per serving in any product -- or a total of 1,500 to 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
8. Go Slow with Beans and Gassy Vegetables. If you’re not used to eating beans, they can cause that gassy feeling. So can the cruciferous family of vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. That doesn’t mean you should give up on these super-nutritious, high-fiber vegetables. Just work them into your diet slowly until your body adjusts to the compounds that can initially cause gas.
9. Eat Smaller Meals More Often. Instead of three big meals per day, try eating smaller meals more often. This can keep you free of the bloated feeling that often follows large meals.
10. Try Anti-Bloating Foods and Drinks. A few studies suggest that peppermint tea, ginger, pineapple, parsley, and yogurts containing probiotics may help reduce bloating.
Experts agree that you shouldn’t fast, skip meals, or use laxatives or water pills to help you de-bloat or lose weight.
If you’re looking to flatten your belly for the long term, there’s no substitute for losing a few pounds.
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