It might strike in the afternoon. Or after carbs. Or before your period. Or right when you’re planning to wear that sleek outfit for a big night out. Or it might be every damn day.
Bloating can make your life miserable. It plays havoc with your body confidence, that dragging lower belly pain ruins your mood, and no one feels like smashing out an epic session or running a PB when their tummy feels hard, sore and ready to deliver twins.
But why do we bloat?
It could be that your hormones are out of balance. It could be your diet. It could be lack of fibre, or water, or activity. See if any of these triggers resonate for you:
- You’ve sat still for too long. Hours at your desk can translate to that faux-pregnant tummy – the last thing you want when you’re planning an after-work gym session. Ditto if you’re trapped in the car for long stretches of time.
- You’ve eaten gluten. Or dairy. Or fruit. These are three common triggers for food-related bloating. Gluten and dairy are known culprits, even if you’re not diagnosed as coeliac or lactose intolerant. And some fruits can set you off more than others – apples and grapes for me, while a banana has no effect. It might be pears or pineapple for you. Take note of which foods set off the bloat.
- You’ve had a protein shake. Or a bar. Or an energy ball. The combination of whey protein (lactose) and sugar alcohols (look for names like erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol or xylitol on the packaging) can cause bloating, cramping and gas. You may react differently to different brands, so trial a few to find one that’s best for you.
- You’ve upped your fibre intake. More fibre is good, yes? Right, but you need to increase slowly to give your gut time to adjust. And make sure you hydrate more to ditch the risk of constipation. (And check out the nutrition panel on your protein bar or ball – you might get the triple whammy of high fibre, high protein and sugar alcohols. No wonder you need to undo your pants!)
- You’re stressed. Shallow breathing, that feeling of urgency and the extra coffee you downed to power through your overwhelming To Do list can make your belly inflate like a pufferfish.
- The start of your period. Hormonal changes can also trigger bloating. For some of us, that’s Day 1 of our period. For some, it’s in those PMS days beforehand. For others, it’s perimenopause. Watch your cycle and your bloating to see if they’re aligned.
How to fix belly bloating?
If bloating is giving you the blues, try these tips:
- Keep a diary of when you bloat – is it at a certain time of day, a certain place (does office stress make you puff up?), after particular foods, when you haven’t moved enough, at a certain time in your cycle, or when you haven’t had enough sleep?
- Minimise the known bloaters – alcohol, excess caffeine, fizzy drinks, drinking through a straw, chewing gum or breath mints can puff you up.
- Increase fibre intake. Most Aussies don’t get near enough. My clients aim for 35g or more per day, increasing slowly over several weeks. Add psyllium husk to your smoothies or sprinkle on top of your yoghurt, eat a truck-load of green veg, add more beans, lentils and chickpeas to your diet. Then drink more water too.
- Drink more water overall. Aim for 3L per day. More if you’re training hard. I add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to my water to support stomach acid production.
- Keep an eye on how you react to gluten, dairy, fruit, caffeine and energy/protein shakes or bars.
- Eat light while your tummy is sore – try my Lemon Ginger Fish with Asian Greens for a dose of gut-loving garlic and ginger, fresh greens, protein-rich fish and liver-lovin’ lemon.
- Move more – movement helps aid digestion and disperse the built-up gas that’s bursting your buttons. If you’re too sore and crampy for a workout, walk the dog, shoot some hoops with the kids, get on the floor with your foam roller or hit YouTube for a 10min yoga sequence.