Going for a girls night out and can’t fit into that favourite black dress of yours because your tummy feels bloated? Well, if your belly often feels swollen after eating a meal that means you are suffering from abdominal bloating. For some people, this feeling of “stuffed” can happen even when they haven’t consumed a large meal. So, what is bloating and why does it happen?
Bloating occurs when you have a swollen abdomen, which is caused due to excessive gas production in the body or disturbances in your digestive system muscles. Though it is often confused with water retention, bloating in a layman’s term refers to a condition when there is too much of a solid, liquid or gas in the digestive system.
Bloating is accompanied by symptoms like frequent burping, stomach cramps, and that knotted feeling in the abdomen. There’s a constant feeling of fullness, pressure and discomfort in the stomach. Bloating can also make your belly look bigger than normal.
A swollen belly may not necessarily mean that you have put on weight. So how do you distinguish between belly fat and bloating? One clear indication is that bloating causes your stomach to expand widely in the course of a day. Another difference is that unlike belly fat, you cannot hold or grasp your bloated tummy with your hand. If you feel that your stomach is swollen, check if the swelling is painful- if yes, it’s definitely abdominal bloating.
Bloating is pretty common in adults and causes of bloating are numerous. Most of these are a result of what and how we eat.
When you eat your meals quickly and don’t chew the food properly, you also swallow a lot of air with it. This produces gas and causes swelling in your belly. Not chewing your food properly also leaves large pieces of food undigested in your belly. When you finish your meal in a hurry you also lose track of how much you are eating and may end up overstuffing yourself.
Quick Tip: Stop eating on the run. Ideally, you should take at least 20-minutes to finish a meal as eating in a hurry can be one of the causes of bloating.
Foods that are high in sodium result in bloating by causing water retention in the body. Surprisingly, even the healthiest of sandwiches can be the biggest source of sodium in your diet. Ideally, an adult body needs 2300 mg of sodium every day and 20% of that comes from the bread in your sandwich.
Quick Tip: Either skip the bread completely or switch it with other healthier alternatives like lettuces, pitas, cooked sweet potato slices and slices of chicken.
Sipping your coffee through a straw may be good for your teeth but it’s not healthy for your belly. When you sip using a straw you are also taking in the air trapped in it. The extra air makes your belly feel inflated.
Quick Tip: As obvious as it may sound, sip your drinks directly from the glass whenever possible.
Any food that comes in a packet is full of sodium because sodium acts as a preservative for convenience foods. This means even the packaged food that looks healthy such as soups and cereals are actually storehouses of belly-bloating sodium.
Quick Tip: Read the label before you buy anything that is packaged and avoid anything that has more than 500 mg of sodium per serving.
If chewing gum is your hack to get a killer jaw or to quit smoking, think again because that gum is making you gulp lots of air. And, we know what this extra air is doing to our belly, don’t we?
Quick Tip: If you are trying to lose weight or quit smoking, ditch the gum and take frequent sips of water to keep your mouth busy
If you take your dinner an hour or two before hitting the sack, you are sleeping with undigested food in your stomach. So when you wake up the next morning you already feel bloated and it can be a reason for bloated belly.
Quick Tip: If you have no alternative to a late dinner try staying on your feet as much as possible before going to bed. This helps to stimulate digestion.
If you frequently experience a swollen tummy and a feeling of fullness, you may be making a serious lifestyle mistake. Here's how to reduce bloating and gas, you can thank us later!
Physical activity encourages better bowel movement, which in turn helps release excess gas from the body. If you find it too difficult to stick to an exercise routine, simply go for a walk around your block every night after dinner
Peppermint capsules are helpful in relieving abdominal bloating. By relaxing the intestinal muscles, peppermint allows easy movement of gas and stool from the body.
Massaging your belly can also help get rid of abdominal bloating. The right way to massage your abdomen is to place the palms just above the bone of the right hip and then rub it gently in a circular motion towards the right side of the rib. Rub straight across the upper belly towards the left rib. And then, slowly move downwards towards the left hip bone.
If you feel bloated right after a meal, make sure you are eating small meals at regular intervals. This keeps the digestive system moving and prevents bloating.
Probiotics are good bacteria in your intestines that help in breaking down the food. Consumption of probiotic supplements regulates colon bacteria responsible for causing gas and bloating in the abdomen. Curd is the most readily available probiotic product that contains several good bacteria.
Eating foods that you are intolerant to can also cause bloating as well. The most common offenders are lactose, fructose, eggs, wheat and gluten. If you feel bloated after consuming any of these, you must see a doctor to find out if you are intolerant to them.
Sometimes bloating is the result of an underlying health condition that you may be suffering from. Bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ovarian cysts may also be the reason why you feel bloated all the time.
Though bloating can be the cause of a serious medical condition, usually it is caused by the diet you consume. Here are some foods that cause bloating and can be the reason behind your inflated tummy:
Beans belong to a group of carbs called FODMAPs that escape digestion and are then fermented by the bacteria in the colon. FODMAPs produce gas as a byproduct.
What To Eat Instead: Black beans as they are more digestible especially after soaking.
Like beans, lentils also contain FODMAP that causes excess gas production. Also, they are rich in fiber that can cause bloating in some individuals.
What To Eat Instead: Eat light coloured lentils over dark coloured ones because they have relatively low fiber content and, hence, don’t cause as much bloating as dark coloured lentils.
From chapatis to breads and biscuits to pastas, wheat is a crucial ingredient in almost everything that we eat. However, it is known to cause bloating and other digestive problems in people with gluten sensitivity.
What To Eat Instead: Oats, quinoa, buckwheat, almond flour, coconut flour.
Like beans and lentils, cruciferous veggies also cause bloating as they contain FODMAP. This includes vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage.
What To Eat Instead: Spinach, cucumbers, lettuce and sweet potatoes.
Onions are rich in fructans, the soluble fibers that cause bloating.
What To Eat Instead: Fresh herbs and spices.
The sugar in milk (lactose) can be hard to digest and a major cause of gas, bloating and diarrhea.
What To Eat Instead: Lactose free dairy products.
Rich in fiber and fructose, apples cause gas, bloating and other digestive issues.
What To Eat Instead: Fruits like bananas, blueberries and strawberries.
Garlic contains fructans that cause bloating. Also allergy or intolerance to other compounds in garlic can cause bloating and gastritis.
What To Eat Instead: Spices and herbs like parsley and basil.
Not just what you eat, but also the beverages you drink can be a major cause of all the bloating in your belly. Here’s everything to avoid and everything to consume instead.
These contain large amounts of carbon dioxide (a gas) and when you consume these drinks you are also consuming the gas in them.
What To Drink Instead: Nothing can beat the many benefits of drinking plain water.
Drinking coffee can be a major cause of bloating. It boosts gastric acid secretion and intensifies conditions like irritable bowel movement, Crohn’s disease and gastritis.
What To Drink Instead: Switch to something more soothing like rose-hip tea that is less acidic in nature.
If you are lactose intolerant (your body lacks lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the sugar in milk) then the lactose (sugar in milk) will travel through your digestive tract unbroken and pull water from your gut resulting in bloating.
What To Drink Instead: Cashew milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk
Too much beer can break the natural protective lining of the stomach and cause inflammation which leads to bloating.
What To Drink Instead: Red wine, white wine and spirits cause are relatively better than beer.
Sometimes overindulging in food can make you feel bloated. Worry not, yoga is here to help relieve your swollen belly.
Known as the resting pose, balasana is a relaxing stretch. Sit on your knees and feet with your legs apart. Bend forward and bring your arms in front of you. Keep your back straight and slowly touch your forehead to the ground.
Lie down and relax. Inhale and place your hands on your knees. Exhale and bring your knees closer to your chest. Move your knees from one side to another. Stay in the same pose for 5 to 10 breaths and then slowly release your knees.
Lie down on the floor and bend your knees in such a way that your feet are flat on the floor and your hands beside your body. Lift your waist and hips up. Hold the pose and take five long breaths. Relax.
Sit straight with your legs stretched in front of you. Slowly bend forward in a way that your forehead touches your shin. Make sure your back is straight. Stay in the same position for five to ten breaths.
Place your palms and knees on the floor while making sure your back is straight. Drop your head and round up your spine making a cat pose. Now arch your back and lift your head and butt making the cow pose. Switch between the two poses.
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