That full, uncomfortable and cramped feeling that makes you covertly unbutton your jeans at a dinner, or spend the whole day dreaming about getting home, just to put your pyjama pants on – ring a bell? That’s bloating.
For many women, bloating is a part of day-to-day life. Many of us continue with our normal lifestyle and diet, and accept the bloating as normal, or at least unavoidable. We take over-the-counter remedies like antacids and natural anti-bloat remedies, but more often than not, what we are eating is the reason we experience bloating.
Bloating can be a symptom of food allergies like coeliac disease or lactose intolerance, as well as disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. It can however, be a symptom of other, more sinister problems and if you are experiencing bloating on a regular basis, a trip to your GP is a good idea.
Targeting bloating through food
Bloating can be caused by a number of reasons; commonly, it is because of how and what we eat. Many of us lead hyper-busy lifestyles – cue first trigger; we eat fast. Eating fast causes us to swallow a lot of air, which is a well-known cause for stomach gas and bloating. As we breathe, our digestive tract naturally receives a small amount of oxygen, which it absorbs without causing problems. When we are gulping food down in a hurry, we cause there to be an over-supply of oxygen in our gut, more than what it naturally absorbs during inhalation, and gas/bloating ensues. So try to slow it down when you are eating. Avoid overeating, eat small meals, and more often – six small meals spread throughout the day is a good guide.
- Take time to chew properly
- Sip at your drinks, rather than taking big gulps
- Eat in silence or take a break from eating whilst you are talking
- Eat foods that you have time for – smoothies are great for busy people
- Avoid fizzy drinks and chewing gum
Food intolerances are a big cause of bloating. Many of us already know certain foods that may cause bloating and queasiness, but so often we don’t cut them out of our diet because they are convenient, ‘normal’ and readily available. Dairy (in particular, milk), apples, pears, bread, cauliflower and peas – all of which are often household ‘staples’ – are well known to cause bloating in many people.
Getting familiar with FODMAPs
Some of you, particularly those who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or endometriosis, may be familiar with the term ‘FODMAP’. It stands for: ‘Fermentable, Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides And Polyols’. Experts in IBS suggest that eating a ‘low-FODMAP’ diet, may help with the symptoms of IBS, and because bloating is a symptom of IBS, the same principles can be applied for anyone struggling with bloating (where other medical problems have been ruled out). Foods are listed as ‘high’ or ‘low’ in terms of FODMAPs, with some being worse than others. It is merely a guide as to which foods you might want to avoid or limit to help combat the bloating you are experiencing.
Common household foods that are high FODMAP include:
- Baked beans
- Stone fruits
- Dried fruit
- Cashew nuts
- Processed meats
- Baked goods
- Cous cous
- Milk chocolate
- Artificial sweeteners
- Fruit juice
Low-FODMAP foods include:
- Baby spinach
- Green beans
- Lean meat
- Wheat-free bread and pasta
- Black tea
- Nut milks
- Lactose-free milks
Both lists of ‘high’ and ‘low’ FODMAP foods are extensive, so my advice is to focus on what foods ARE included on the ‘low’ list, not what aren't. Remember also that to eat well is to have balance. You may be very individual as to what causes you to bloat, so go with what your body tells you. Keeping a food diary may be of help, so that on the days you feel your bloating is bad, you have a record of what you have eaten. You may also be someone that needs to cut out many foods to avoid bloating, or you may find that just limiting your ‘bloat-inducing’ foods does the trick.
As you will also know from my previous posts, or if you follow me on Facebook or Instragram, I am always on the go – so smoothies are my ‘go-to’ quick meal. Not even winter stops me! When I first started drinking smoothies, I was all about normal milk and yoghurt. However I always felt full and bloated after consuming them, so began to introduce nut milk and water as my blending liquid of choice. I now enjoy smoothies daily, and I never feel bloated as a result of them. I have included a recipe for my favourite smoothie of all time – my ‘Peanut butter and jelly’ smoothie. Perfect for busy people – and kids really enjoy it, too. It is aligned with a low-FODMAP diet, and will keep you going all morning (or whenever you have it!).
Peanut butter and jelly smoothie
- 1 banana
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
Blend and enjoy!
Katie Hawkey works as a midwife, based in Auckland. In her spare time (though not much of it!) Katie enjoys creating new recipes, which she adds to her online blog, Facebook and Instagram. In 2011 Katie was diagnosed with endometriosis, which had been causing severe menstrual issues for her since the age of 13. It is because of both personal and professional reasons that Katie's main interests lie with food in relation to women's health. See Katie's website Katie in the Kitchen, or follow her on Instagram: katieinthekitchen or Facebook. If you are looking for more information on endometriosis, check out Endometriois NZ.