It’s absolutely uncomfortable to try to move through your day (and your workout!) with bloating and digestive discomfort. Fortunately, it’s also controllable for most of us. Check out the tips below for insight and guidance on achieving a happy tummy.
Keeping a Happy Tummy: How to Prevent Bloating and Improve Digestion
1. Eat Slowly
Digestion begins in your mouth. Did you know that? Therefore, the more you deliberately chew your food, the less work the stomach has to do. Fast eaters send food to the stomach in big ol’ lumps and it takes extra work and extra time to digest. The food stays in the stomach longer. When the chyme (a mix of your broken down food and digestive acids) is sent to the small intestine in bigger clumps, nutrients aren’t absorbed optimally, either.
Slow down your eating and chewing. Relax your body by taking five to 10 slow, deep breaths before eating and by letting go of tension in your neck and shoulders.
2. Drink Less Water (or None) With Meals
Drink too much liquid with your meals and you can slow digestion. One way this works is that the water dilutes the acids that facilitate digestion. Try drinking more water between meals and only a few ounces with a meal if you need to.
3. Stay Hydrated on a Daily Basis
Dehydration can make digestion difficult, especially if you’re eating a fiber-rich diet. Stay as hydrated as possible around the clock and you’ll help to optimize digestion. Being well-hydrated keeps the digestive tract lining as smooth as it needs to be for good digestion and elimination. Inadequate hydration can make it difficult for food to move through the digestive tract and can cause your stool to become hard and difficult to pass.
Many Americans fall short of water recommendations, which are about ½ an ounce per pound of body weight. Add more for increased physical activity, humidity and temperature increase and a high-fiber diet.
It’s estimated that many of us are walking around with mild dehydration. Symptoms include headache, foggy mind, inability to focus and irritability. Also, the sensation of thirst is a clue that you’re already dehydrated.
Start your day with two glasses of water before you eat or drink anything else and drink water regularly and evenly throughout the day. Don’t gulp. Sip evenly.
4. Eat the Recommended Amount of Fiber and Not Too Much More
Dietitians recommend the average woman eats about 25 grams of fiber per day and 38 grams for the average man. Fiber has incredible benefits to many aspects of health. However, it causes bloating and discomfort if you eat a lot of it at once.
Imagine being slightly dehydrated and eating a meal that has 15 grams of fiber or more. That’s going to cause some discomfort for most people. Guacamole — avocados in general — are a beloved food for many of us. We can certainly overdo it though. Did you know that one cup of avocado has 15.6 grams of fiber? Of that, almost six grams are soluble fiber, the kind of fiber that slows down digestion.
Insoluble fiber is the other type of fiber, which speeds up digestion. Most fibrous foods contain some of each type but beans, legumes, oatmeal and avocados are higher in the slow-moving fiber.
This is another reason it’s important to avoid overeating, especially overeating healthy, fiber-rich foods.
5. Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods
A healthy gut sets the foundation for good digestion. One fantastic way to have a healthy gut is to achieve an optimal balance of good and bad bacteria by taking quality probiotics daily.
The gut contains trillions of bacteria (good and bad) but many of us are out of optimal balance for a variety of reasons. The good news is you can take control of your gut health.
Some healthy dietary sources of probiotics are plain yogurt with live and active cultures; plain kefir, water kefir and coconut kefir; raw and fermented sauerkraut; tempeh; kimchi; miso; and kombucha.
6. Eat Anti-Bloating Herbs
There is power in plants! Some herbs support digestion and you can use them to prevent and ease bloating. Ginger, peppermint, fennel and chamomile are well-known at providing stomach relief. You can usually feel the positive affect immediately, up to a few hours afterward. You can include ginger and fennel in your cooking but you can also make tea with them. Aloe vera, turmeric and clove are also good at soothing digestive upset.
Cheers to a happy tummy!