10 nutritionist-approved ways to soothe a bloated stomach

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From Red Online

You're not expecting and you haven't just eaten a huge meal – so why do you have a bloated stomach?

Most of us have experienced the uncomfortable feeling of a stretched, bloated stomach at some point or another and it can be caused by a variety of factors.

'Understanding what may be causing a bloated stomach can be a bit of a jigsaw puzzle as there can be many factors at play such as stress, sugar, imbalance in the gut flora (microbiome), medication and food sensitives, to name a few,' says Nicola Shubrook, a nutritionist at Urban Wellness.

Here, we take a quick look at the science behind a bloated stomach and the surprising foods that can cause bloating.

Does diet cause a bloated stomach?

Of course, the most common causes – which are an unlikely cause for immediate concern – are overeating or eating certain foods known to cause bloating in some people, such as high-fat, spicy, or greasy foods, as well as fizzy drinks.

According to Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, director and GP at Your Doctor, even healthy foods, such as pulses, beans, broccoli, cabbage, chestnuts, onions and sprouts can cause uncomfortable bloating. 'Swallowing a lot of air can cause bloating, as can constipation. Some women experience bloating before their periods,' he says.

Other causes of a bloated stomach

Bloating can also be caused by other things that aren't necessarily related to your diet. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, diverticular disease, candida and coeliac disease can all cause your stomach to swell.

Bloating can also be an early warning sign of ovarian cancer, so it's important to be aware of potential signs and speak to your doctor if you have any concerns. Other symptoms include feeling full quickly or loss of appetite, pelvic or stomach pain, needing to wee urgently or more frequently than normal.

Symptoms of bowel cancer are numerous and can include bloating as well as fatigue, weakness, changes in bowel habits, diarrhoea or constipation, red or dark blood in your stool and weight loss, advises Dr Riccardo.

10 ways to get rid of a bloated stomach

Although bloating will usually get better on its own, Nicola recommends some ways to reduce your bloat...

Reduce stress as much as possible

Often easier said than done, says Nicola, but practicing mindfulness or meditation, just 10 minutes a day, has been shown to reduce the stress response in the body, which in turn could ease bloating.

Eliminate suspect foods

'If you suspect a food intolerance, such as gluten or dairy, remove that food completely for a minimum of 21 days and see if your symptoms improve. It's important that this is adhered to strictly as the body can take a while to remove all existing gluten, for example, and any small amount during that phase could still cause a reaction,' advises Nicola.

Take a probiotic supplement and add fermented foods to your diet

If you've taken a lot of antibiotics over the years, been travelling and picked up a stomach bug, or your diet has been high in sugar and low in fibre, taking a probiotic is particularly important.

Nicola says: 'Our gut microbiome is very sensitive and certain medications and dietary choices can easily affect bacteria levels, so using a probiotic for 4 weeks can help to reset this. Probiotic supplements such as Optibac or ProVen are a stronger dose than a probiotic drink, and may be good as a boost while you make changes to your diet.'

Add foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi because these act as prebiotics to the gut bacteria.

Fill up on fibre

A probiotic is great for putting the good bacteria back into the digestive system, but we need to keep it there and bacteria loves to feed on fibre.

'The NHS recommends 30g of fibre a day for adults, but estimates that most of us get just 18g, so making a concerted effort to increase fibre may really help,' Nicola says.

High-fibre foods include fruit, vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, oats and potatoes with their skin on.


Stay hydrated

'Dehydration can cause the digestive system to slow down and may cause bloating, so make sure you are getting at least 1.5 litres of water a day,' Nicola says. 'Sorry, this doesn't include tea with milk, or coffee!'

Chew your food

Your food should almost be like mush or baby food before swallowing it, explains Nicola, but all too often we eat at our desks, in front of the TV or in a rush.

'This means we tend to swallow bigger chunks of undigested food, which can put extra burden on the digestive system and cause bloating,' Nicola explains.

Eat cooked or lightly steamed vegetables rather than raw salads

Cooking your vegetables starts to breakdown the structure of the food, and can actually enhance their phytonutrients, making it easier for the stomach to digest them, rather than raw foods which may cause more bloating.

Cut back on salt

'Salt encourages your body to retain water, especially around your stomach. Not all bloating is caused by gas,' Nicola says.

Try the FODMAP diet

For those with IBS, the FODMAP diet can be a good way to see which foods are causing the bloating.

FODMAP is an acronym for a range of short-chain carbohydrates and certain foods within these groups can cause abdominal discomfort and are best avoided, says Nicola. Check out the FODMAP app to help you navigate your way around key foods and ingredients.

Note: The FODMAP diet is used to identify which foods cause discomfort. It is not recommended as a long-term plan.

When should you worry about a bloated stomach?

Whilst we all suffer with abdominal bloating from time to time, it's important to get it checked out by your GP to make sure there's nothing more serious present – especially if you have other symptoms such as unexplained fatigue or weight loss, fever, difficulty passing or blood in your stools or urine, constipation or diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting, a rash, any allergic reaction, irregular periods or haemorrhoids.

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