Digestion truly begins in the mouth, but also revolves around our mental and emotional states. Here are 10 simple steps that you can easily start incorporating into your lifestyle that may help decrease belly bloat
“Chew your liquids, drink your solids”
A saying that I was taught and in turn love teaching clients and constantly remind myself as well! I can’t stress the importance of chewing your food thoroughly enough. Chew your liquids, meaning that even if you’re drinking a juice or smoothie be sure to swish it around your mouth, let it take its time to get your salivary glands and digestive enzymes ready and receptive to food/drink that’s about to hit your stomach. Drink your solids, meaning you want to chew your food to get a consistency of applesauce, soft and pureed enough to swallow and “drink” easily- no more gulping down food or drink or quickly eating.
Avoid carbonated drinks
I think this is the most obvious one. If you think about it, what do all carbonated beverages have in common? Added CO2, literally adding air and bubbles to your drink- i.e. into your belly! Some of us aren’t affected so much by carbonatation, but if you’re tummy is sensitive to bloating, give up carbonated drinks even the club soda or sparkling water. This goes without saying, refined sugar loaded soda and carbonated drinks are out of the question, these are the worst and not only contribute to air in your gut but also teaspoons upon teaspoons of refined sugars.
3.Get excited about whole foods, especially veg and fruits!
Whole foods are loaded with digestive friendly fibre, prebiotics (the food for good bacteria) and nutrients to keep our bodies healthy. Eating more of these foods and less of processed foods will ensure that you’re getting enough nutrients, fibre without all the additives of salt, processed fats and sugars, preservatives, and many chemicals and additives that can easily bloat our bellies. Whole foods keep our digestive system running smoothly, although some whole foods like the cruciferous family (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.) may actually cause gas and bloating in some - just be mindful and don't over do it.
Drinks liquids away from eating food
I personally find this extremely helpful and have so many clients report better digestion after making this simple step. Drinking glasses of water right before a meal to “fill” you up is just a waste of time in my opinion. You’re not only filling up on water and slightly stretching your stomach, but you’re also making your stomach and digestive system work a littler harder to get those digestive enzymes and stomach acid to where the pH needs to be for optimal digestion. Try this next time, drink water or liquids away from your meals, at least 30 minutes before or after.
Using straws may help us keep our fabulous red lip on without a smudge, but it’s also an easy entry way for air to get straight into our bellies. The action of sucking a straw forces air along with your beverage into the stomach, hence why many people burp afterwards!
Peppermint essential oil and teas are one of my favorite instant go-to for relieving bloating. Peppermint actually works to decrease and relax the function of the lower esophageal sphincter (i.e. it helps relax your digestive muscles), if you suffer from chronic or serious GERD (Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease), then I don’t recommend peppermint tea as it’ll make your reflux worse because of it’s relaxing action. I always travel with an emergency peppermint tea bag just in case bloating occurs - this especially is great for those of you, like me, who may accidentally eat gluten or dairy.
Sounds a cliché but true! Watch your portions and stick with meals that are a little smaller that you eat more frequently if bloating tends to get you down. This also means refraining from overeating, we’ve all been there, it’s Christmas or a special outing and we’ve simply eaten far too much. My advice once you’ve hit this, is to try taking a digestive enzyme to give your digestive system a little boost and support in digesting heavier foods, but first try to set up yourself for success in the first place and take portions on the smaller side.
Incorporate more healthy fats
My favourite healthy fat has got to be coconut oil, I love using it from smoothies, desserts, cooking oil, on my skin and so much more. Coconut oil does far more than help bloating. It’s incredibly moisturizing on your skin so think about that action of it lubricating your insides, it’s great to help get digestion moving especially if you lack healthy fats in your diet. Avocado is another healthy fat to incorporate, it’s high in fiber, potassium, and nutrients that help digestion moving along; raw nuts and seeds are also great for giving a boost of fiber, protein, and minerals such as magnesium which help relax muscles which may decrease belly bloat. I recommend further increasing the digestibility of nuts and seeds by soaking or soaking and sprouting.
Keep movement light after eating
I’m sure we’ve all had our parents tell us to not swim right after swimming, well guess what there’s some merit to that! Our digestive systems require immediate attention and a lot of energy to digest food, especially if we’ve overeaten, eaten large amounts of fat (takes longest to digest) or eaten foods that may be a little tough on our digestion. Therefore, we need to allow a little time before we go jumping, swimming, and hopping around! All of those activities and exercising requires a lot of energy as well from our muscles, it’s best to keep exercise light after eating such as leisure walks, stretching, light yoga or foam rolling.
Eat mindfully, de-stress
I saved the biggest and most important in my opinion, for last. Slowing down our minds and bodies before we eat is VITAL to healthy digestion. Our bodies have two major responses, 1) sympathetic nervous system (SNS) or “fight or flight” when we’re amped up, excited, stressed, overwhelmed, moving, springing into action, etc.; or 2) parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) or “rest and digest” mode where our bodies are in a relaxed state to take care of vital rebuilding functions.
Both the PNS and SNS have their role and place in our bodies- one is not “bad” nor “good”, they’re both vital to the way we live, BUT many of us are constantly living in a state of chronic stress and anxiety. Not being present causes our stress hormones to go in overdrive switching into “fight or flight” mode. Again, if you’re constantly living in this state of “fight or flight” how are you able to digest food let alone give your body a break to do what it needs to do to be at it’s healthiest such as detoxing, elimination, rebuilding, building immune function, and of course digesting. It may do it, just not as affective or optimally as it could be.
MY TIP FOR AN INSTANTLY GETTING INTO DIGEST MODE…
Take 10 deep breathes before each meal to rebalance and reset your nervous system. Start by inhaling from your nose to a count of 8-10 seconds, hold for 8-10 seconds, and slowly release for 8-10 seconds. Repeat until you’ve cycled through 10 times. I promise, you will instantly feel more relaxed and calm, ready to mindfully enjoy your meal and digest those amazing nutrients!
Please comment below with any digestion specific question you may have that you’d like answered on the blog next time!
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!