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Mind & Body

7 ways to feel less bloated

You’ve cut back on carbs, substituted dairy for various nut milks and eliminated sugar, yet you’re still feeling heavy. SUZANNE SCOTT reveals the causes you might not have considered…

Beauty

Culprit 1: Your smoothie habit

While undoubtedly delicious, that supersized smoothie may not be the elixir of health you believe it to be. “They’re pure carbohydrates and the intestine simply can’t digest that much at once, which means it takes longer to pass through your digestive system,” warns Dr Harald Stossier, medical director of VivaMayr. There’s no cause to ditch smoothies altogether, but if you’re already feeling bloated they are best avoided.

Culprit 2: Your hormones

“Progesterone calms the gastrointestinal system, so if you have low progesterone or excessive estrogen just before your period, you will bloat,” says New York-based gynecologist Dr Adeeti Gupta. However, unusual bloating – constant or throughout your cycle – can be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis or even (as a worst-case scenario) ovarian cancer, so it’s best to see a doctor who can rule out anything sinister.

Culprit 3: Flying long haul

We know we retain water on long-haul flights – our pudgy and swollen ankles are evidence of that – but it’s also not unusual to feel uncomfortably bloated on board, as the air in the stomach expands when the cabin pressure falls. Make things easier on your gut by only eating small portions (nothing too oily or fatty), avoiding fizzy drinks and choosing the fish option from the menu – it will be kinder to your digestive system.

Culprit 4: Rushing your food

Bloating may have less to do with what you eat than it does with how you eat. Eating too fast forces air into your gut and doesn’t allow your brain to recognize when you’re full, meaning you’re likely to overeat. Give yourself time to enjoy a meal and properly chew each mouthful. Eating slowly and mindfully is a more pleasurable experience, and you will also benefit more from the nutrients on your plate.

Culprit 5: Stress

“When you’re stressed you’re less likely to eat well, which means you may lack the minerals needed to produce stomach acid,” says London-based dietician Angelique Panagos. “This starts a chain reaction where food ferments in the gut, microbes get into the digestive tract and the microbiome becomes imbalanced.” It’s not always possible to eliminate stress, but taking steps to manage it is good for the gut and almost every other area of your life, too. It sounds simple, but just allowing yourself time and space to do things you enjoy – whether it’s being outdoors, cooking for friends or even spending some time on your skincare – is good for both your stomach and your soul.

Culprit 6: Eating ‘fake’ bread

The conversation around carbs and bread in particular is confusing, but the real problem lies in how it’s made. Most sliced supermarket bread is highly processed, made quickly and full of ingredients to preserve its shelf life. If you enjoy eating bread, make sure it’s of excellent quality, fresh, risen slowly and free of additives – look for sourdough loaves as they’re made from fermented ingredients that make them easier to digest.

Culprit 7: Food intolerances

Not to be confused with allergies, food intolerances can cause mild to moderate irritation in the gut and a lot of bloating, but the problem ingredients may surprise you – they’re just as likely to be kale and olive oil as wheat and dairy. An elimination diet may bring offenders to light and doctors’ tests will narrow things down further.

SHOP STOMACH SETTLERS

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