We shed some light on what could be causing your bloating and share some easy ways – including simple lifestyle swaps – to help reduce it (just in time for the beach)
Spring officially ends today (Thursday, 21 June) with the arrival of the Summer Solstice. Yet as we bid farewell to the longest day and look forward to summer’s official arrival, many of us have already been experiencing the odd heatwave.
And, as much as we love al fresco lunches and impromptu barbecues, the sticky heat isn’t quite as much fun for those of us stuck in an office 9 to 5 – especially if you suffer from bloating, which affects a whopping 62% of us.
Sweltering in suit trousers or a skirt which threatens to cut off your circulation after your lunchtime sandwich is no fun for anyone. According to the experts, however, there are some easy lifestyle swaps we can make to help beat the bloat. But first, you need to get to the bottom of what’s causing your distended tum.
What’s causing my bloating?
According to nutritionists, bloating is usually caused by a combination of diet and external factors. In most cases, a sensible diet and lifestyle, as well as a little observation, can go a long way towards addressing its root causes:
1. Lack of fibre and constipation
Fibre is a crucial component of any diet and it’s recommended we have 30g a day. however most Brits average only 20g according to the British Heart Foundation,which explains why many of us suffer with digestive discomfort on a daily or weekly basis. Fibre helps food transit through the body. A lack of it causes constipation.
How to reduce bloating
The solution is to increase your fibre intake. Swap out white flour and pasta for healthier alternatives and include slow carbs such as oats in your diet. You should aim for the daily recommend amount of 30g of fibre a day, but if you’ve been well below that for some time, reintroduce fibre slowly, or you might make your bloating worse!
Try swapping crisps, croissants or biscuits for high-fibre oatcakes topped with a scoop of nut butter.
“Fibre in our diet is vital for a healthy gut and helping with regular bowel movements,” explains nutritionist Cassandra Barns. “When it comes to grains, the less processed they are, the better. Nairn’s Rough Oatcakes are a great choice as they’re made with coarse, wholegrain oats and are high in soluble and insoluble fibre.”
Try swapping frozen pizza for a Lo-Dough crust
For bread and pizza lovers, there’s no need to forego your favourite treat altogether: Lo-Dough is a gluten-free, low-calorie flatbread – containing only 39 calories and a huge 9.9g of fibre per piece.
“It’s ideal for anyone who just wants to eat in a healthier way this summer,” says Cassandra.
2. Poor gut health and inflammation
The BBC reported last month that only 43% of the cells which make up our body are human. The rest is our microbiome: bacteria and other organisms. These microbiomes have a huge impact on our immune system and digestion. But that balance can be disturbed by a steady diet of processed food or something unavoidable, such as a course of antibiotics when we’re sick. In some cases, an imbalance in gut bacteria can cause a serious condition called SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).
How to reduce bloating
The solution is to make sure your diet regularly includes probiotics (beneficial bacteria and yeasts). Your go-to should be fermented foods with live cultures. For example, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kefir and kombucha are teeming with beneficial bacteria that will sort you out and slim you down.
Try swapping Diet Coke for a bottle of Kombucha
“We’re learning more and more about the importance of the ‘friendly’ bacteria and other microbes that live in our gut,” says Cassandra.
“They’re thought to influence our immunity, mood and weight, as well as our digestion of course. Traditional fermented foods such as kombucha can be a key way to maintain the healthy bacteria in our gut – in fact, some research suggests that they’re much more effective than taking probiotic supplements for this purpose.”
To reap the probiotic benefit, be careful to only select unpasteurised kombucha with active cultures, such as Equinox Kombucha (available in four delicious flavours).
Do you normally reach for the olive oil or sunflower oil when you start cooking? Stop right there, because these ingredients may promote inflammation when used to cook food at high temperatures. Try switching to organic ghee, which has a higher smoke point and is suitable even for the lactose-intolerant.
Try swapping butter and cooking oils for ghee
Ghee is a form of clarified butter, which contains butyric acid. “Butyrate acts as a fuel for the cells lining the large intestine, helping to keep the gut lining healthy,” explains Cassandra.
“Butyrate may also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the gut. On the other hand, vegetable-cooking oils such as sunflower oil may actually have the opposite effect on the gut, promoting inflammation. Try GHEE EASY, available at Sainsbury’s.”
3. Dehydration and fluid retention
If you had one too many glasses of wine after work last night, your body might be holding onto water for fear of not having enough. To avoid fluid retention, make sure you’re always sipping on something, especially in hot weather. This, paradoxically, will communicate to your body that it’s okay to let go of some water.
How to reduce bloating
Drink more water and, if you find yourself forgetting to hydrate, you can download an app to remind you at regular intervals throughout the day.
Try swapping coffee for herbals teas and water, water and more water!
4. Food sensitivities
Another culprit for bloating? Food sensitivities and allergies. Many people have reactions to gluten, eggs, and lactose, but eat all three regularly. It might be worth eliminating them from your diet one at a time to see if this helps.
How to reduce bloating
With the free-from market exploding, there are tons of gluten and dairy-free alternatives to experiment with. Reduce the quantity of other foods that are known to cause bloating.
Try swapping normal beer for gluten-free, naturally carbonated Celia Lager
If you want to eliminate or reduce your gluten intake, Lo-Dough (mentioned above) is a great option, as is Celia Lager, an organic beer that’s specifically designed to be safe for those on a gluten-free diet. It’s also traditionally brewed to allow natural carbonation to occur, meaning it can be gentler on the digestive system than a highly carbonated lager.
Try swapping crucifers such as kale and broccoli for spinach and rocket
You can get too much of a good thing: ingredients you may want to limit without eliminating from your diet entirely. Cruciferous veg such as broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts have lots of vitamins and cancer-fighting compounds known as glucosinolates – but they cause wind, so avoid in the 24 hours before a beach outing, first date, or job interview.
Try swapping full-dairy chocolate for probiotic-rich, raw treats such as Ombar Chocolate Bars
Avoiding lactose isn’t as difficult as it used to be: there are loads of amazing nut milks in every supermarket, and if you miss butter, you can use GHEE EASY on toast or for baking. You don’t need to limit yourself to mouth-puckering dark chocolate, either. Ombar is made from raw cacao, with coconut cream that more than makes up for the lack of milk (bonus: the raw cacao may have a variety of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and supporting heart health).
Waking up and downing a cup of coffee before jumping on the tube? Gulping down lunch in front of the computer? Staring at screens all day?
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, but our bodies will respond by flooding us full of the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to a gain in belly fat and an increase in bloating. Additionally, eating in front of a screen can mean we gulp our food, introducing unwanted air into our stomach.
How to reduce bloating
Small changes to our routines can have a huge effect on our stress levels. “Exercise is a great stress reliever”, says Cassandra. “Take a brisk walk to stimulate anti-anxiety effects, this helps to clear your thoughts and feel more relaxed upon returning to the office.”
Try swapping lunch “al desko” for a quick stroll
Every hour, remember to get up from your desk and move around. Introducing even 10 minutes of exercise a day can have a powerful effect.
Try swapping late nights for lots – and we mean lots – of kip
Make sure you get sufficient sleep (at least 8 hours), and don’t drink coffee the minute you wake up. If you do love caffeinated bevvies, use them as a pick-me-up later in the morning.
Tried everything and still wondering “what’s causing my bloating?”
In some rare cases bloating can be the sign of something more serious. If you notice anything unusual such as a fever, vomiting, or hives, make sure to see a GP and discuss your symptoms.