IT'S an all too familiar feeling for many women – a puffy, uncomfortable and bloated stomach.
One day your tummy is looking flat and your favourite jeans fit perfectly, the next day you can hardly do the buttons up.
Bloating is an unfortunate fact of life for many people and the foods we eat can play a big role in how our stomach looks.
It's essentially caused by too much gas in your digestive system.
Most people describe it as feeling full, tight or swollen around the tummy.
So it makes sense that what we are putting into our stomachs can have a big impact on how it feels.
It goes without saying that things like fizzy drinks and booze – think beer – can cause bloating, and chewing gum has even been linked to the problem.
But there are foods you're probably eating every day that also contribute to the problem, dietitian Helen Bond explained.
"Typically, foods known to cause excess wind or bloating are cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage," she said.
"However, it is still vital you eat at least your five portions of fruit and veg a day.
"A good way to determine what might work best for you, so you aren’t unnecessarily cutting out food groups and in turn missing out on important nutrients for overall health and wellbeing, is to try keeping a food and symptom diary for a couple of weeks to pinpoint if certain foods are the cause of your bloating.
"See a registered dietitian or nutritionist for expert advice on what foods to limit and what to replace them with, to ensure that your diet is nutritionally balanced.”
The five main foods that cause bloating
If you're regularly suffering with bloating, you may want to limit how much of these foods you eat.
- Brussels sprouts
- Beans and lentils
These veg cause bloating because they contain a sugar that our digestive systems can't break down.
As the sugar ferments it creates gas, leaving your tummy feeling less than impressed.
"Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals and will give a fibre boost to help feed your microbiota [gut bacteria], as well as getting your digestive system moving," Helen said.
"But be careful of ‘windy’ veg, like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beans and pulses if you suffer from bloating and wind."
The food to eat to beat the bloat
Just as some foods can cause bloating, other foods can keep your digestive system in good shape to help you avoid that uncomfortable full feeling.
Next time you suffer with bloating try upping your intake of:
- Wholegrains like oats, brown rice, wholegrain pasta and wholegrain bread
- Jerusalem artichokes
“A lack of fibre in our diet means all those friendly bacteria in our gut go hungry and are unable to flourish and work at their best," Helen explained.
"So fill up on prebiotic foods, such as wholegrains, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, onions, garlic and bananas.
"We can’t digest these, so they arrive in our gut intact and provide a feast for the billions of friendly little helpers living in our gut – feeding, stimulating and supporting their growth.
"This in turn, may help to keep our digestive tract in good health."
EASY FOOD SWAPS TO HELP BEAT THE BLOAT THIS SUMMER
NUTRITIONIST Cassandra Barns has put together her top food swaps to help you deflate your stomach.
Swapping these foods may help you deal with constipation, gut inflammation, fluid retention and food sensitivities.
- Crisps, croissants and biscuits for high fibre oatcakes and nut butter
- Frozen pizza for a low-dough crust
- Diet Coke for Kombucha tea drinks
- Butter and cooking oils for ghee
- Coffee for herbal teas and water
- Kale and broccoli for spinach and rocket
- Full dairy chocolate for raw chocolate treats
What else can you do to beat the bloat?
If you're constantly suffering from bloating there is a good change you're not eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with plenty of fruit and veg.
The odd burger or slice of pizza every now and then is OK, but if this makes up the majority of your diet then you need to make some changes, not just for your gut health but for your overall health as well.
Ditch junk food
"Fat slows down the speed your stomach empties, so food sits in your tummy for longer when you've eaten fatty foods – including chips, fast foods, pies, better, cheese, pizza, creamy sauces, snacks such as crisps, chocolate, cake and biscuits," Helen added.
"That's why you can feel uncomfortable after eating a burger and chips or a curry shop chicken tikka.
"As a guideline, foods that contain three grams of fat or less per 100g are considered to be 'low fat', whilst foods that contain more than 17.5g fat are considered 'high in fat'.
"Also, try to watch out for saturated fat, as it is considered that a diet high in saturated fat can lead to an increased cholesterol level."
Drinking plenty of water is essential to keep things moving in your digestive system.
Being hydrated can cause constipation and uncomfortable bloating.
"Drinking more and more often aids better digestion by helping food pass more easily through the digestive system," Helen said.
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"Equally, not drinking enough can cause constipation, which can lead to a bloated tum – not good news for fitting into that bikini.
"As a rule of thumb, women need to drink around 1.6 litres a day and men around two litres but drink more if it is hot outside or you are exercising.
"Don’t forget that around twenty percent of our fluid needs also come from food – think veg, fruit, soups."
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