Healthy Eating: Foods to beat the bloat

Feeling bloated? Try banishing certain “bloating” foods while including a few foods that can help you “de-puff” in no time.

sodium label 311 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
sodium label 311
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
Most of us have been bloated or suffered from a swollen belly on more than one occasion. Whether it be the result of eating too much (salty) Chinese food, a food allergy, or even good old PMS – bloating affects all of us. According to the Mayo Clinic, even smoking and stress can cause a person to become bloated. While it is not a permanent condition, bloating is an uncomfortable feeling, which makes you look like you’ve put on a few pounds, especially around the middle, and is not to mention really annoying especially when trying to fit into clothes. No one wants to look or feel bloated, so what's the solution? In short, the “anti-bloating diet” involves eliminating a few of those bloating foods and drinks from your diet, while including foods that help eliminate waste and get rid of water retention so you can get back to feeling and looking your best ASAP.
A few foods/drinks to avoid:
The 3 Ps: Packaged, processed, and prepared foods
While sodium has received a bad reputation lately (for causing increased blood pressure), it is still an essential mineral needed to maintain proper fluid balance within the body. The problem with sodium, however, is that most of us eat too much of it, usually through over-consumption of salt. Aside from increasing blood pressure and leading to many other health complications, a high-sodium diet can also cause your body to retain water, which in turn leaves you feeling and even looking a few pounds heavier. While the easiest solution would be to throw out the salt shaker, unfortunately most packaged, processed and even prepared foods are laden with salt. So if you're trying to beat the bloat, cut down on your consumption of canned soups, take out food, and of course packaged snack foods such as chips and pretzels.
Hubba Bubba bubble
That’s right, gum! Whether it be sugar free or a classic giant pink bubble gum, excessively chewing gum can make you swallow too much air which then gets trapped in your digestive system, causing pressure to build, bloating, and even gas.
Fizzy drinks
Sodas are not only jam-packed with empty calories that will go straight to your hips (or middle), but the carbon dioxide trapped within the tiny bubbles creates gas inside the stomach and intestine which could leave you feeling gassy and as swollen as a helium-inflated balloon. While Coca-Cola, Pepsi or Sprite typically come to mind, tonic water, club soda and even sparkling water can have the same effect.
Certain fruits and vegetables
As we have heard (over and over again) consuming enough fruits and vegetables each day is a crucial part of a healthy diet. Not only are they loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, but they are also rich in disease fighting antioxidants and abundant in fiber. Unfortunately, certain veggies, specifically those that are high in fiber, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, can cause gas and bloating, while beans contain a sugar called raffinose, which can be difficult for some people to digest.
A a few (foods) to consume:
Eating foods high in potassium may help to counteract sodium’s unwanted effect. Bananas and other potassium-rich fruits help to reduce water retention as they balance sodium levels. Aside from fighting “the bloat”, foods that are high in potassium may also help to reduce blood pressure. While bananas are commonly thought of as the best source of potassium, many other fruits, such as papayas, melons, mangoes and avocadoes, as well as vegetables such as spinach and tomatoes are also abundant in this important mineral.
Drinking water is probably the last thing on your mind when you feel as if your belly is expanding by the minute; however, did you know that dehydration is one of the primary causes of bloating? While it may sound odd that drinking more water is the key to de-bloat, the explanation is quite logical.  When the body does not receive enough water, it desperately tries to hold on to any fluid that it can, leading to unwanted fluid retention. Drinking eight 250ml glasses of water a day, as well as including foods that have a high water content, such as watermelon and cucumbers, may help to prevent unwanted water retention.
Pineapples and Papayas
Aside from both being tropical fruits (that are exceptionally tasty and refreshing on a hot summer day), pineapples and papayas both contain enzymes that aid in the digestion of proteins. The core of the pineapple is rich in bromelain, an enzyme that not only helps to fight seasonal allergies but also helps to digest proteins and therefore helps to ease digestion; while papayas are rich in papain, a protein-digesting enzyme, as well as various other compounds that can also fight bloating.
Peppermint and Parsley
Recognized as a "stomach healer”, peppermint’s antispasmodic effect has consistently been linked with relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, stomachaches, general abdominal discomfort and of course bloating. Studies have found that this herb soothes the muscles of the digestive tract, thereby helping the body to rid itself of digestive gas that can make one feel and look bloated. Moreover, when the muscles surrounding the intestine are relaxed, there is less chance of spasm and the indigestion that can accompany it (which can also lead to bloating). Parsley, on the other hand, acts as a natural diuretic and therefore can help relieve water retention resulting from PMS. This herb also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce gas and inflammation in the body.