Diet

How to avoid belly bloating

Six common causes and solutions for abdominal upset and bloating.

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Whether it’s the large holiday dinners, the unusual foods or the high-carb treats, sooner or later your tummy will let you know that it’s not very happy. Indulging in holiday food fare seems to be worth the uncomfortable indigestion, flatulence, bloating and excess abdominal fat at the time, but it can sadly become an unhealthy lasting effect.

While abdominal bloating is sometimes related more to the function of the digestive system than to the storage of fat, when it comes to the holidays the old adage “calories in – calories out” rings true. All extra calories consumed will eventually be stored as fat somewhere, which may or may not include the belly area depending on your body type. If your stomach is flat on December 1st when you wake up in the morning then looks like you are four months pregnant by the end of January 1st, you can pretty much guarantee it’s a result of those high-calorie holiday treats.

Here are a few of the main culprits that can be causing your season-specific bloating or digestive woes:

1. Food allergies

At no time is this more common than during holiday season, when we consume ample amounts of the most common allergenic foods, including: wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, gluten and citrus. An anti-inflammatory detox can help you to identify your tummy-bloating culprits, though the holidays certainly fail to be the ideal season to start one. However, you can make it the first activity on your resolutions list. Within just three days of eating a simpler dietary approach, you can expect to enjoy better digestion, sleep, energy and healthier-looking skin. You’ll also benefit next year by knowing which foods to avoid and which to enjoy, since you will reintroduce the foods you have eliminated one at a time.

2. Low levels of stomach acid

Low stomach acid may be the cause of your bloating if you feel full after eating or if you experience heartburn, indigestion, constipation or see undigested food in your stools. If you are searching for a simple way to determine your stomach levels, take a peek at your fingernails. If you have vertical ridges, it’s a key sign of low stomach acid. You can also download the instructions for the stomach acid challenge from the “book extras” page on The hormone diet.com.

3. Lack of digestive enzymes

A supplement of digestive enzymes taken at meal times can often provide relief as they assist with the proper breakdown and absorption of the nutrients in your foods. If you wake with a flat stomach but suffer from uncomfortable bloating by the end of day, a lack of digestive enzymes may be the cause. Look for a brand that includes pancreatic enzymes, plant-based enzymes, papaya, bromelain or pepsin and take one to two capsules with each meal.

4. Lack of fibre

Ensuring proper fibre intake may also help bowel function, and in turn may help you to de-bloat your belly. High-fibre foods include whole grains like oatmeal and rye, lentils, chickpeas, vegetables and fruit. You may also want to consider a fibre supplement. Simply adding ground flaxseeds or a psyllium-free fibre combo to your smoothies twice daily will ward off constipation and improve your bowel habits. If you find your bowels still appear to be sluggish, take 200 to 600mg of magnesium at bedtime. It will not only improve your sleep and reduce sugar cravings during the day, but it is also a wonderful natural laxative.

5. Add a probiotic

If you have recently ran a course of antibiotics or are having an abundance of foods containing sugar, you may benefit from supplements containing probiotics such as acidophilus and bifidus. Probiotics are the healthy type of bacteria living in our digestive tract. They can help reduce bloating, optimize digestion, improve immunity and add a nice glow to your skin. If you experience digestive upset, probiotic supplements taken daily on an empty stomach may bring you some relief – even once the holidays are over.

6. Chew it out

Remember that proper digestion begins in the mouth with good chewing habits and choosing the right types of foods for you. By taking your time to enjoy and chew each bite, you will not only improve digestion, but you will get full faster. Avoid eating while you are in the midst of other activities, such as watching TV, working, surfing on the computer etc. Instead, focus on chewing your food and relaxing during meal time. It’s a small change, but it will make a world of difference.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and founder of Clear Medicine. She is also the author of the bestselling book The Hormone Diet.