A bloated belly is uncomfortable and, frankly, unacceptable! It can happen for all kinds of reasons, but to avoid it, or get it gone in a hurry, try some of the following simple diet tweaks and handy tips.
Remember, if belly troubles persist, don’t be embarrassed to seek professional help. A painful, distended stomach can be a sign of an underlying condition such as irritable bowel syndrome or a lactose or gluten intolerance. If you have nausea, pain, cramps or diarrhoea that won’t quit, your doc can run diagnostic tests to get to the root of the problem.
Foods and fixes
Pass the potassium
To help flush excess fluid naturally, reach for potassium-rich foods. These include bananas, mangoes, rockmelon, watermelon, papaya, raw tomatoes, carrots, salmon, oats, sweet potatoes, unsalted almonds, avocado and pistachios.
Limit the amount of sodium in your diet. We’re not just talking about the salt shaker at the table; many packaged and processed foods, canned goods and takeaways contain ridiculous amounts of sodium that can unwittingly lead to water retention and bloat.
Visit the chemist
Over-the-counter preparations can offer relief by absorbing excess gas in your belly. Look for activated charcoal tablets or tummy taming products containing the active ingredient simethicone. Ask your chemist if these can help you.
Beware artificial sweeteners
Watch out for low-carb, sugar-free foods and drinks. They may contain sugar alcohols such as maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol and erithrytol that are poorly digested in the large intestine. These can linger and ferment in your belly and lead to painful gas and bouts of diarrhoea.
Although legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas are inherently good nutritional choices, they can lead to a puffy belly, especially if you’re an infrequent consumer. Steer clear of them leading up to a big event where looking five months’ pregnant isn’t part of your plan! Same goes for cruciferous vegies such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale and broccoli.
Be carb conscious
If you’re hoping to slip into something slinky for a seasonal soiree, avoid refined carbs. White bread, pasta and rice, along with pizza, pancakes, pretzels, bagels and chips, can act as instant tummy expanders in sensitive people. Choose wholegrains instead and add a little protein (such as egg or grilled chicken) to go with it.
Hold that thought
Resist the urge to talk with a mouthful of food; this can cause you to swallow air that may lead to discomfort. Unless you’re in a race to see who can down the most food in the least amount of time, eat slowly with your mouth closed (manners!), chew your food until it’s apple-sauce mushy, avoid carbonated drinks, drinking with a straw, chewing gum, blowing bubbles and sucking on hard lollies. Smoking is a no-go as well.
How to settle a gassed-up belly
To settle an already gassed-up belly, sip on peppermint, ginger or fennel tea; they contain compounds that help relax the gastrointestinal tract. Munching on a handful of fennel seeds may also help.