8 Habits That Cause A Bloated Belly

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Ever find yourself feeling bloated, sluggish and uncomfortable with what feels like a swollen belly?  You may be experiencing bloat.  Bloating can come from many things and there are lots of ways to figure out how to prevent it from continuing to sabotage a great day of feeling well.  A Reboot is a perfect time to examine your causes of bloat since you’ll be eliminating many of the potential bloat offenders while Rebooting.  As you gradually add foods back into your diet, see if you experience any bloat to test if you may be sensitive to certain ingredients.

Here’s a quick list of potential bloat culprits and what to do:

Gluten Sensitivity:    
Gluten is the protein in wheat and other grains like barley and rye.  Those with gluten sensitivity may experience bloating, distention, cramping or sluggishness after eating or drinking foods and beverages with gluten.  Not everyone with gluten sensitivity has Celiac disease, which is a condition that can cause damage to the small intestine when someone consumes gluten on a regular basis.  Gluten sensitivity won’t cause permanent damage but may lead to feelings of bloat.  Try gluten-free grains like quinoa, brown rice or teff or gluten-free oats instead.

Check out these recipes:
Sweet Potato Chickpea Chili with Quinoa
Fresh and Easy Herb Tomato Sauce
Trail Mix Oatmeal

Lactose Intolerance or Dairy Sensitivity
One of the primary symptoms of lactose intolerance is bloating or gas.  Milk, ice cream and cream tend to be the most difficult to tolerate while lower fat yogurts like Greek yogurt and hard cheese like parmesan, Romano or feta and goat cheese all contain less lactose.  If you suspect a lactose intolerance, eliminate dairy from your diet for 2 weeks and see if you notice relief.  When you add it back in do you experience gas, discomfort or bloating?  If so, there are many ways to still get enough calcium in your diet, like dark green veggies!  The truth is that we don’t need dairy to get calcium in our diets, read more here.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
IBS is a common condition where the affected person experiences symptoms like gas and bloating, often constipation or diarrhea.  Persons suffering from IBS may benefit from trying the FODMAP diet, which stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols; basically types of carbohydrates that are not absorbed well in the small intestine for some individuals.  Gluten-free is a cornerstone of a FODMAP friendly diet however some fruits like watermelon or veggies like onion are a no-no as well.  Speak with your nutritionist to find out more and if a FODMAP diet might be worth a try.  Check out these 8 Tips to Combat IBS.

Probiotics may also help with bloating associated with IBS or otherwise.  Probiotics are supplements that contain a more concentrated amount of the “healthy bacteria” found in yogurt.

Alcohol is often notorious for causing bloat. It could be from the gluten in your favorite wheat or barley based beer or simply from the effect alcohol, of any type, can have on our guts.

Processed foods:
Foods make in a factory can contribute to inflammation and often contain ingredients that are irritating and may lead to bloat.  Try to eat foods that are closest to their natural state like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds.

Even carbonated water introduces carbon dioxide and those bubbles can increase the likelihood of bloat in some individuals. It’s best to drink filtered water and if you want a little zing, add lemon, lime or orange.

The Way You Eat:
Eating too fast or eating too much at once may lead to bloating.  When we eat quickly we suck in more air which can cause bloating.  Eating too fast or too much volume is a well-known cause of indigestion.  Walking while eating isn’t a good idea either… remember the old saying to wait 20 minutes after eating before going back into the pool?  It’s good advice all year round regarding activity and eating.   Drinking through a straw may also lead to gas or bloating because you’re more likely to ingest air. Try to be more mindful while you eat. Put your fork down in between bites, take time to chew and really savor the flavors of what you’re eating.

Yes, even juicing can cause bloat! This is usually related to the ingredients in your juice or drinking it too fast. Cabbage, broccoli, onion, garlic, or too many beets may be the cause if you notice bloat while on your Reboot.  Eliminate these ingredients to see if you find relief.  Read more about juicing and digestive upsets here.

If you’re feeling bloated, try these simple steps to ease it naturally:

Sip Hot Water with Ginger:
Some studies show that ginger contains digestive-aid phytonutrients that may help to reduce bloating and gas.  Ginger is also wonderful for helping to reduce nausea. Each day of your Reboot, start with hot water with ginger and lemon, but feel free to sip on it throughout the day.

Take a Walk:
Physical activity can help ease digestive upset and is a great way to boost your fitness level, immune system, mood and weight loss potential.

Lay on Your Left Side:
This is one of my favorite tips for alleviating gas and bloating.  It’s one of those, not really “evidence-based” things but the theory is that laying on your left side will allow gravity to help your intestinal tract move air out.  Many people find that it works!

Hopefully you’ve found some tips to help reduce that bloat and get you feeling energetic and well!

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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