How to stop the bloat

May 10, 2012 at 10:00 p.m. ET

Whether you overdid the dairy, gulped down too much soft drink or are simply battling symptoms of PMS, the dreaded bloat can make us feel self-conscious and restricted to nasty elastic waistbands... Find out what foods can help you achieve better digestion.

Bloated woman

Bloating can cause discomfort for many women, whether it's associated with menstruation or as a result of something you ate or drank. Bloating, or distension, is when the stomach feels uncomfortably full and tight, and bulges a little. If you suspect your bloating may be associated with an underlying medical condition, consult a health professional immediately.

Common causes of bloating

  • Excess intestinal gas
  • Food intolerance (e.g. lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, wheat allergies)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Menstruation
  • Overeating
  • Eating gas-producing foods
  • Drinking gas-producing drinks (e.g. alcohol and soft drink)
  • Eating foods very high in salt

Foods to avoid/limit

If you're hit with a bad case of the bloat, limit your intake of these gas-producing foods to see if it has a positive effect:

  • Over-processed foods
  • High-salt foods
  • Cabbage
  • Baked beans
  • Some dairy products (e.g. milk and ice-cream)
  • Wheat
  • Chewing gum

Foods to eat

Foods with a high water content: These will help prevent constipation and assist your body to function efficiently. Make sure you drink plenty of water as well.

Foods high in fibre: These will help avoid constipation, which is a major cause of bloating. Eat plenty of fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds. Dried fruit like prunes will also help digestion.

Yoghurt: Natural yoghurt that contains "live cultures" and good bacteria are useful in helping aid digestion. Always check the label and look for a product without added sugars and flavours.

Herbal tea: Certain mints like peppermint and spearmint, as well as chamomile and lemongrass, can help relieve abdominal gas and bloating. Pop a few fresh leaves in hot water for a soothing drink, or even include them in your cooking.

Ginger: This spice is believed to relieve bloating and digestion, so incorporate a little into your dinner or sip on a ginger tea. Be careful not to overdo it though. Ginger can also be helpful for nausea, vomiting and motion sickness.

Bananas: This fruit helps digestion and should assist in getting your bowel functions back to normal. Potassium is believed to counteract the effects of sodium (which can be a cause of bloating), and essentially has a diutetic effect on the body.

Bonus tips

  • Practise mindful eating.
  • Eat slowly and thoroughly chew each mouthful before reaching for another.
  • Eat smaller meals more often.
  • Consult a nutritionist or dietician if you believe you may have food sensitivities, allergies or intolerances. You may need to test out an elimination diet to identify the bloat culprit.

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