I’m posting this during gut health week, so I wanted to talk about the most common gastrointestinal complaint I hear — bloating. What better way to achieve a happy gut than by beating the bloat. Bloating, that uncomfortable distention of the your abdomen after or even in-between meals, is most definitely something you don’t want to endure for another day of your life. Fortunately, at the Happy Gut Kitchen, we have the tools and resources you need to beat the bloat for good!
First, let’s take a little inventory check to see if bloating may be an area of concern for you.
Do you suffer from serious abdominal distension more often than not?
Do you look like you’re pregnant by the end of the day?
Are you uncomfortable or even embarrassed to be in public because of gassiness?
Do you bloat after meals?
Do you suffer from insomnia because of a bloated belly?
Do you skip meals because of frequent bloating that keeps you feeling full between meals?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading to learn how to truly beat the bloat for good through the foods you eat.
Let’s just be clear, bloating is nothing to be ashamed of. It is also something you should not have to deal with on a regular basis, either. More than 34 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders, while 10-15% suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Approx. 66-90% of individuals with IBS experience bloating, while women experience this more commonly than men. These numbers are staggering. When digestive issues are not taken care of, they can even lead to chronic health conditions and have an effect on the quality of your life. Women who suffer from bloating may actually experience heightened depression and anxiety. 1,2,3
There are a few underlying reasons why you may be suffering from bloating, making it more than just a “food baby bump” after an indulgent meal. It can be really challenging to pinpoint what the underlying triggers are. Let’s get into it. I want to help you understand the root causes of your bloating!
Root Causes – Imbalances that make for a Sad Gut
Studies show that even just minor disturbances in gut microflora can lead to staggering changes in gut function. Those with IBS, particularly constipation, are known to endure greater bloating, gas, and distention of the abdominal region.1 Candida overgrowth is an extremely common contributor to bloating. Candida — an unfriendly yeast that can overgrow in your gut — normally resides in the intestinal tract, mucous membranes and skin without causing issues.4 However, several triggers may lead to yeast overgrowth. These include things like stress, poor diet (high in processed sugar and refined carbohydrates like pasta, white bread and bagels), overuse of prescription medications (i.e. antibiotics) and a weakened immune system. In the right setting, Candida albicans, an infectious strain of Candida yeasts, takes over.
Certain foods contain sugars and simple, short-chain carbohydrates that contribute to gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating, diarrhea and gas. These sugars are most problematic when they are fermented in the small intestine by harmful or even normal, commensal bacteria, as opposed to being properly fermented in the colon. If digested in the small intestine, the bacteria will produce gases that can contribute to bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation.2 If you suffer from extensive bloating, distension, gas, and/or constipation or chronic diarrhea, it is beneficial to work with a functional provider to assess any underlying bacterial or yeast imbalances. In the meantime, check out the groups of sugars listed below, and the accompanying foods that may contribute to bloating.
Simple Carb + Sugar Groups to Avoid
Oligosaccharides (legumes, wheat, onions and garlic)
Disaccharides (lactose-containing products like yogurt, milk and cheese)
Monosaccharides (fructose-containing foods like many fresh fruits, such as apples, mangoes and melons)
Polyols (sugar substitutes, chewing gum, candy and baked goods)
On Your Way to a Happy Gut
Now that we understand what contributes to the bloat, make sure to ditch the foods that cause discomfort. Check out the strategies below and be sure to stock your cabinets with favorites from The Happy Gut Kitchen!
Happy Gut Pantry Options
Kick the Sugar. To combat yeast and the bloat, eliminate all processed sugars and refined carbohydrates. You will also want to consider limiting your sweetener intake, even if they are natural options like honey and maple syrup. Be mindful of your fruit consumption as well. It is something that can easily sneak by you as a “healthy” option, because we don’t normally think of fruit as sugar. Instead of choosing fruits with higher sugar content, opt for mixed organic berries or organic cherries. As we enter the fall and winter season, try frozen options in your breakfast smoothie. When thawed, they also create a delicious “syrup” making them the perfect “substitute” for other sugar substitutes!
Eliminate Food Sensitivities. Take out any inflammatory foods you may be sensitive to. The most common include wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, legumes, and occasionally nuts. There are simple carbohydrates or sugars in various foods that can be difficult for individuals to digest.2 I always suggest eliminating gluten, dairy, corn, soy, most legumes (except for chickpeas and peas at moderate levels) and all highly processed foods (packaged snack items). As mentioned above, consumption of foods like garlic and onions, brussel sprouts and cabbage will vary depending on the person. Try eliminating them altogether for up to 3 – 4 weeks, then having small to increasing amounts to assess whether they make you gassy or not.
Add Ins. Here at the Happy Gut Kitchen we look for other delicious options for you to enjoy while you eliminate offending foods!
Gluten-Free Grain Options:
Steel Cut Oats
Dairy Free Options:*
*unsweetened options only; must be carrageenan-free
Non-Processed Snack Options:
SunButter and celery sticks
Hummus and carrot sticks
Alkali-free organic coconut flakes, walnut and sprouted almond trail mix
Toasted, sprouted pumpkin seeds
Chia Seed Pudding:
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon, to taste
Organic blueberries (for topping)
Mint leaves, to garnish
Mix well in a small mason jar or glass cup.
Soak overnight, top with blueberries, garnish with a mint leaf and enjoy like a pudding.
Soothe the Gut. While you are healing the gut, try gut-soothing functional foods like ginger, fennel and celery. These foods help to reduce spasms in your gut and decrease bloating. Make this a daily habit with these Happy Gut pantry favorites.
½ cup filtered water
2 celery stalks
Juice from ½ fresh lemon
1 inch square ginger root
Blend well in a high-speed blender. Enjoy with a straw.
Now you have your own tasty, anti-bloat beverage right at your fingertips! Be sure to check out my other beat the bloat smoothies here.
Just Say No. Cut the artificial sweeteners. Numerous studies support the detrimental effects artificial sweeteners have on your health, including increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack. Not to mention, they can also contribute to bloating and gas.5 Instead, when you get that craving for a little something sweet, try organic stevia, dark chocolate, or frozen and thawed berries.
Feed the Gut. Enjoy prebiotic– and probiotic-rich foods. These foods are incredibly beneficial for the microbiome, allowing the beneficial bacteria to flourish and diversify. Try traditionally fermented, unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and brine-cured olives.
Another Serving of Fiber, Please. Make sure you are consuming plenty of leafy greens throughout your day. They are a rich source of insoluble fiber, which helps push the food along inside your GI tract. Eating fiber-rich foods helps to alleviate constipation — a major contributor to bloating. If you are not used to consuming high amounts of fiber, be sure to start slow and work your way up to larger servings.
Tip: Try sneaking greens into your morning smoothie, like our Green Vitality smoothie. You can also quickly saute a side of spinach in coconut oil to accompany your sunny-side up pasture-raised eggs for breakfast. Or even make delicious salads with fresh greens from the farmer’s market! The options are truly endless. It takes less than 5 minutes to put a salad together to go with your dinner. Easy, breezy!
Drink Up Between Meals. Be deliberate with your choice to stay hydrated. So many people forget to drink water throughout the day. To add to the problem, these same people are drinking 1 – 2 cups of coffee per day, further dehydrating their digestive tract and bodies. Hydration is a really important when you are increasing your fiber intake to combat constipation as well. Grab a glass or stainless steel bottle and fill it up with filtered water throughout your day. Avoid plastic water bottles as much as possible. Aim to reach a personal goal of at least 64 ounces of H2O daily to keep you on track. If plain water bores you, try adding fresh mint leaves, lemons, limes or cucumber slices.
Breathe. Remember to breathe! Stress has a significant effect on your overall health, especially digestion. Breath work before and between meals and at bedtime helps reduce belly discomfort and brings your body back to the “rest and digest phase.” Not to mention, breathing calms and balances the brain, resulting in a happy mind with a happy gut.
Be sure to implement these changes, try a new, anti-bloat recipe and most importantly, stock up on Happy Gut Kitchen favorites to beat the bloat! I’d love to help you reset your gut health with my self-guided, easy-to-follow 3-Day Gut Reboot Diet. It plans everything out for you for 3 days so you can be on your way to gut bliss. Click here to download this free e-book today!