Feeling bloated after a meal is so uncomfortable, and if it’s really bad it can even be quite painful. Here are a couple of little tips for reducing the incidence of bloating and also my favourite natural ways to manage it. xx
- Avoid eating on the move. If you’re tucking into something while walking (or running!) you’re sending your body confusing signals; it’s being asked to direct energy toward (i) moving and (ii) digesting at the same time! Blood flow will be directed toward your legs not breaking down your meal, and you may end up feeling full and uncomfortable, yet also unsatisfied, as your body has not had a chance to take in the food. I know that it can be hard to make time for formal “meals” every time you are hungry, but please don’t eat on the go. Sit down somewhere.
- Manage stress before you start to eat. Similar to eating on the move, eating when stressed means overloading your body with tasks. Your energy is directed toward getting you out of perceived “danger”. If you eat at your work desk (I know I do!), try at least to give yourself ten minutes clear time to just focus on eating your meal, even if it’s just turning your head away from the computer screen and looking at your plate/lunch box. Another technique I like to use is to take a 10 minute walk around the block before eating my meal, just to put a little space between me and whatever it is I am stressing about.
- Chew your food thoroughly. The mechanical process of breaking food into smaller pieces facilitates the next phase of digestion (i.e. the chemical breakdown of food in the stomach/intestines) as smaller particles can be “attacked” more effectively. Also, chewing kickstarts the next stages of digestion. It signals your digestive tract to start secreting the necessary acids and enzymes, the first of these actually working before food has even left your mouth (saliva contains amylase, which breaks down starches). (p.s. chewing also gives your body time to properly signal to your brain that you’re full, improving satiety and limiting overeating.)
- Avoid drinking lots of liquid with meals (or for meals). Consuming a lot of liquid with food can dilute stomach acid and weaken its effects. Sip water, teas, juices etc. in between meals but try to limit the amount you have while eating. Don’t be afraid to have a sip of water, just be mindful of how much liquid you consume. Also think about whether liquid meals might be causing you discomfort. Although I don’t mind the occasional smoothie, drinking a liquid meal bypasses the digestive signalling process that happens when you chew, especially if you drink fast! Swap some smoothies for solids and try topping liquid meals with something crunchy (try my Cinnamon & Ginger Granola as pictured above!).
- Track suspected food intolerances (sensibly). Intolerance doesn’t just mean dairy or gluten. There are a variety of foods which can cause discomfort, and there is also a scale of reactivity i.e. you might be able to tolerate a small amount of certain foods but they cause problems in large quantities. If you frequently experience discomfort try keeping a simple food diary and see if you can make any connection; common culprits (alongside dairy and gluten) are certain fruits like apples or pears, legumes and some vegetables like brussels sprouts and leeks (these are higher FODMAP foods – some basic info here and here). Please seek professional help if you are experiencing a lot of bloating/pain or would like more detailed advice.