If bloating only affected us when we were on our period, life would be much easier. But bloating is a common complaint that affects people across the board, no matter your age, size, or where you are in your menstrual cycle. Blame your bloated stomach on your physical makeup. No, really, you can put all the blame on biology: A woman's colon, which is 10 centimeters longer than a man's, is constantly competing for space with the bladder, uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. Plus, in order to prepare us for pregnancy and subsequent extra water retention, our colons are more of a winding path with lots of unexpected turns. In layman's terms, we were born to bloat.
Luckily, there are certain things we can do that can prevent us from bloating so often. Bustle spoke with Dr. Robynne Chutkan, M.D., an integrative gastroenterologist, founder of the Digestive Center for Women, and author of The Bloat Cure: 101 Natural Solutions for Real and Lasting Relief, who says the most basic lifestyle adjustments go a long way towards relieving bloating. Making sure you're getting lots of fiber day-to-day, cutting back on salt, and increasing your water intake is often enough to minimize that bloated feeling.
Even if you're on top of your game, though, you're bound to face unexpected bloating at some point. No need to worry, because Dr. Chutkan says there are loads of natural ways to take care of a swollen abdomen, indigestion, and gas. There are several foods you can eat (or avoid eating) or activities you can do, and all these bloated stomach remedies are pretty simple. If you don't have any of the following products in your home already, you can easily get your hands on them at your local shops.
Here are 10 natural remedies for bloating.
1. Consume Some Plant-Based Probiotics
If you and your swollen stomach are feeling blue, Dr. Chutkan recommends you reach for "live bacteria that can help address imbalance in the gut flora." For those not in the know, your gut flora, or your gut microbiome, is the system of microbes that live in your digestive tract that recent research has shown can have an influence on everything from IBS to depression.
Probiotics are your very own superheroes that stop bad bacteria and yeast from accumulating too much in your intestines, which can lead to bloating. The best probiotics contain these strains of good microbes: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Saccharomyces boulardii. Be sure to look on the label to see if any or all of them are inside the package.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha are also reliable options for getting probiotics through your diet. Even better is that these probiotics will assist you in pooping with ease, which may be the primary cause of your uncomfortable bloating in the first place. Dr. Chutkan also says these foods reduce gas production.
2. Chew On Fennel Seeds Or Drink Fennel Tea
You may not have fennel just lying around (unless you've been experimenting with fancy Jamie Oliver recipes), but it's an easy thing to scoop up at your nearest health food store or online. "Eat a pinch of fennel seeds at the end of a meal to benefit from its gas-reducing oils," Dr. Chutkan tells Bustle. This can be particularly helpful if you've eaten your fair share of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, and you can already feel the belly bloating a little bit, (something which is completely natural, by the way). It's also a nice way to wrap up a big plate of carbs.
For those of you who don't want to munch on fennel seeds like a chipmunk (though they are kind of delicious), you've got options. Dr. Chutkan says you can put crushed or whole seeds in a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes before you sip on it. There's always the option of sprinkling them on top of your next meal, too.
3. Sip On Water With Freshly-Squeezed Lemon Juice
Drinking lots of water is key to digestive health, Dr. Chutkan says, but while many people say lemon water in particular helps "flush out" your system, that's really more of a myth. Naturopathic doctor Erica Matluck, ND, NP, told Well + Good that there really isn't enough real research on lemon water's benefits to claim that it's doing anything other than hydrating you (which is definitely a good thing!).
The citric acid that gives lemons their puckery taste can help break up or prevent kidney stones, one 2014 study found, which is one abdominal ailment they can help with. Lemons also are a source of soluble fiber, which a 2011 study found can help reduce constipation and, in turn, bloating — but in order to get this benefit, Healthline writes, you'd have to eat the lemon's pulp.
Drinking water with or without lemons helps your body move nutrients through your system faster, so keeping hydrated in general is a good idea if you want to successfully fight bloating.
4. Be Mindful Of The Beans You Eat
You might pat yourself on the back when you add chickpeas to your salad, thinking about how much protein you're giving your adult self. But if you're not already eating beans on the reg, the Cleveland Clinic writes, the extra fiber they bring to your diet can increase bloating. When the sugars in beans break down, they can cause a buildup of gas. Soaking beans overnight is touted as a method to make them easier on digestion, but rinsing canned beans should be just fine.
5. Drink Less Coffee
I have some bad news: coffee is naturally dehydrating, increases acid production, and irritates your GI tract, all of which roll out the red carpet for bloating. But we live in the real world and, for many of us, kissing coffee goodbye in order to remedy a bloated stomach simply isn't an option. Dr. Chutkan suggests limiting yourself to one cup of coffee or less a day can help prevent coffee-related bloat.
6. Eat Ginger Or Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger has been used for centuries to cure all kinds of basic ailments. Two compounds called gingerols and shogaols found in this root reduce inflammation in your gut and send a strong message to the muscles in your intestines to chill out. There are a few different ways to effectively get ginger in your system, but unfortunately, those sugary ginger chews aren't one of them.
Instead, cut a few very thin slices of ginger and steep them in boiling water for 10 minutes. You can add honey and a squeeze of lemon to make it tasty before you sip on it. You can even chew on little pieces of raw ginger for a quick fix, if you don't mind the taste. Powdered ginger root, which you can take daily as a supplement, is also an option.
7. Do A Few Simple Yoga Moves
Not only does it ease muscular and joint pain, but yoga additionally offers relief when your digestive system is all tangled up. There are a few different postures you can do at home to ease the bloating and reduce any pains in your abdomen that might be occurring as a result.
Start with apanasana, which is basically lying on your back and hugging your knees into your chest. You can then take a supine twist by bringing your knees to one side and letting your head fall the opposite way. Downward facing dog and standing forward fold are simple but effective as well; they're easy inversions that encourage blood flow to your lower half. Whichever postures you choose, hold them for a few minutes at a time to get maximum results.
8. Cook Grains & Legumes With Kombu
It may sound like an ominous planet from the Star Trek series, but kombu is an edible seaweed-like sea vegetable from Japan that's purported to have pro-digestion properties, at least according to the internet. One 2008 Guardian article cites research from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne that found alginate, a substance found in seaweed, has digestion benefits, and claims that kombu has enzymes that help pre-digest legumes, though doesn't note what those enzymes are.
Dr. Chutkan recommends you add a little bit of kombu to the pot when you cook your next batch of beans, lentils, or grains such as quinoa. If nothing else, it's a delicious source of briny flavor and additional fiber.
9. Snack On A Banana
You could probably use some extra fiber in your life to get things moving if you're uncomfortably bloated. Ripe bananas are known to aid with digestion and bowel movements, and the potassium found in this fruit manages the fluid levels in your body that are causing the bloating.
It's worth noting, though, that unripe bananas are sources of "resistant starch," according to Harvard T.H. Chan's School of Public Health, which mean that they can be a bit harder on the system short-term. "The starch acts as food for the growth of beneficial microbes in the digestive tract," Harvard wrote, which, if we remember what we learned about beans earlier, can promote a healthy gut environment in the long-term, but cause gas buildup in the short-term. So if you like those green bananas, either make them part of your daily rotation or be mindful about eating them.
10. Try Eliminating Dairy
Even though going gluten-free is all the rage these days, it's more likely you have a lactose intolerance than a gluten sensitivity. Lactose is the main sugar in milk, and in order for it to be properly processed in your body, you need have an enzyme called lactase. Infants have plenty of it because they need it to digest breastmilk, but as we get older, we produce less and less lactase because we don't need milk anymore. This makes it extremely difficult for the digestive system to break down cow's milk and other dairy products the same way, which is what causes that bloated belly.
Luckily, we live in an era with a gajillion kinds of non-dairy milk. Try swapping your latte for an oat milk brew for a few weeks and see how you feel.
Natural remedies for bloating can help when you're having a few days of not feeling so hot. But if your bloat lasts for longer than a few days at a time and interferes with your day-to-day life, keep a journal of your symptoms and food intake to talk to your doctor about possible culprits. Together, you can work out what's wrong, and how you can treat it as fast as you can.
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Dr. Robynne Chutkan, M.D., gastroenterologist, founder of the Digestive Center for Women, and author of The Bloat Cure: 101 Natural Solutions for Real and Lasting Relief
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