Feeling bloated and uncomfortable in the afternoon or evening? There are a handful of simple changes to your eating and drinking habits that may help with stomach bloating.
What is Bloating?
You know what bloating feels like – uncomfortable, swollen, sometimes even painful. But what’s really happening inside your body when it’s bloating?
Abdominal bloating happens with your intestines fill with air or gas. Gas builds up when undigested food gets broken down, or from swallowing air while your consuming foods and liquids. Usually bloating is accompanied by passing gas out either end, or rumbling noises come from your tummy.
If you commonly experience bloating that disrupts your ability to function regularly, it’s important to consult your doctor. Excessive bloating can be associated with more serious causes like celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, hormonal flux, or Crohn’s disease.
Tips to Reduce Bloating
If you’re dealing with annoying stomach bloating, follow these dos and don’ts to ensure feeling your best, bloat-free self all summer long.
1. Avoid Excessive Alcohol
They don’t call it “beer belly” for no reason. Alcohol, as you may have heard, can put significant strain on your liver. It’s especially difficult for your body to digest, which can cause bloating as your body tries to break it down. To reduce your bloating, monitor how much rosé you truly drink all day.
According to an article from Healthline, “Alcohol is an inflammatory substance, meaning it tends to cause swelling in the body. This inflammation may be made much worse by the things often mixed with alcohol, such as sugary and carbonated liquids, which can result in gas, discomfort, and more bloating.” To avoid bloating during a night out, it’s smart to match every drink with water.
2. Increase Your Water Intake
Drinking water regularly throughout the day and consuming foods that are high in water content will help keep your digestive tract moving. Commit to drinking eight glasses of water (or four bottles of hint® water) per day, and double down on water-dense fruits and vegetables. Some water dense foods include:
3. Avoid Salty Foods
Salt causes your body to retain water rather than release it, so avoid foods that are super salty. It’s easier said than done because afternoon snacks are deliciously salty. Think about it — chips, pretzels, and trail mix are some salty go-to’s. Try swapping your salty treats for these afternoon snacks instead. These options will leave you feeling much better and sustained rather than if you chose the tempting salty snacks. If you’re feeling especially bloated, make an effort to keep those fingers away from the salt shaker at mealtime, too.
4. Stop Chewing Gum
In most cases, bloating results from feeding your gut bacteria so that they release gas, but not all bloating is created equal. Sometimes gas enters your digestive system by a more direct route — you just swallow it by:
- sucking on hard candy or throat lozenges
- chewing gum
- drinking carbonated beverages
- drinking through a straw
When you chew gum or suck on hard candy, the constant oral activity stimulates saliva production and causes you to swallow more frequently. Unfortunately, because you’re not eating actual food, you end up swallowing a lot of air with your saliva, and that can get trapped in stomach and intestines, causing you to feel gassy and bloated. Sugar-free candy and gum are especially damaging because in addition to causing you to swallow air, they’re full of those nasty artificial sweeteners, so your stomach bacteria will make added gas on top of what you’ve swallowed. If you need to chew a piece of gum or need a mint every once and a while, it won’t completely ruin your day, just cut back when you can so it doesn’t become a daily habit.
5. Say No to Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are a no-no for countless reasons, and if you’re experiencing afternoon bloating often, sweeteners should definitely be avoided. Health blogs, social media, and even TV commercials are full of hype about artificial sweeteners, discussing how they can help you cut calories without cutting flavor by eliminating traditional sugar.
And while they’re not without uses, especially for managing diabetes or as part of a weight loss program, artificial sweeteners can be tough on your digestive system. Since they’re unnatural, they’re harder for the body to digest. This effectively slows down the digestion process, which causes bloating.
The category of artificial sweeteners has grown rapidly in the last few years to include many products that bill themselves as “natural.” Be on the lookout for the common varieties:
- Aspartame, sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal
- Saccharine, sold under the brand names Sweet’N Low and SugarTwin
- Sucralose, sold under the brand name Splenda
- Acesulfame potassium, sold under the brand names Sunett and Sweet One
6. Avoid Foods That Cause Stomach Bloating
If you keep up with different diet trends, you may have heard of the low-FODMAP diet before, a protocol typically recommended for people with IBS and other digestive disorders. For those not in the know, though, FODMAP is an abbreviation for a variety of sugar molecules that are hard to digest. Not only do they stick around in our digestive systems, but when we eat foods that are high in FODMAPs, the bacteria in our stomach feed on them, producing large amounts of bloating.
Since foods that are high in FODMAPs give you gas, cutting back on these foods can make a big difference — but it’s a long list. Common foods that are high in these sugars include:
- dairy products
- fruits, including apples, peaches, cherries, and avocados
Low-FODMAP diets can be very restrictive, which is why most doctors and nutritionists recommend using an elimination diet to determine specific triggers and then integrate some foods back in. You can also try eliminating foods a few at a time to see if it makes a difference.
It may be tough to cut out onions and garlic — learning to season food on a low-FODMAP diet takes extra know-how. But you can swap onions and garlic out for scallions and chives, two FODMAP-friendly alliums. You’ll want these and other herbs and spices on hand if you’re making this nutrition transition.
7. Load Up on Anti-Bloating Foods
Probiotics, fiber, and diuretics are all great ingredients to add to your diet to aid in digestion. Ginger is the best digestive aid; According to Vincent Pedre, M.D., author of Happy Gut, “it reduces inflammation and promotes intestinal motility.” Try a ginger tea or kombucha as a digestive after your meals. Other doctor-recommended foods for the elimination of bloating include:
- Galangal broth
- Mukhwas (a combination of fennel, anise, sesame seeds)
- Raw almonds
- Activated charcoal
- Magnesium-rich foods
If you know what triggers your bloating and can make some diet changes, your pesky problems will be a thing of the past.