Ever felt like none of your pants fit and your tummy is sticking out due to consistent bloating? You’re not alone. Bloating is a familiar experience for many people. Let’s investigate what it is and what we can do about it.
Characterised by a feeling of uncomfortable fullness, swelling in the lower abdomen or pain, bloating is a common digestive symptom and can be accompanied by gas or burping.
Bloating can cause discomfort and emotional distress, leading us to avoid social events or leaving the house. Persistent bloating can also interfere with nutrient absorption. This can result in malnutrition in some circumstances or could also be an indication of a more serious medical illness, such as coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. If bloating is prolonged or severe, it is critical to see a health professional.
Bloating affects six to 13 percent of the general population and, although bloating can affect anyone, certain groups may be more susceptible than others. Up to 76 percent of patients with gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome experience bloating.
Bloating tends to increase as the day goes on and can happen temporarily after a meal or at random times of the day, usually reducing overnight.
It is normal to have occasional bloating after a meal, due to the process of eating and digesting food. So, if you feel a general movement of gas or a bit of tightness after eating, this is all perfectly normal if it passes after a short period of time.
Additionally, women can also feel extra bloated before and at the start of the period cycle due to changes in progesterone and oestrogen hormone levels resulting in the body retaining more water and salt. [SS1]
Here’s our top seven ways to reduce bloating naturally:
#1 Chew your food and slow down
Eating on the go or inhaling your food quickly can cause havoc on the gut. Aim to eat slowly, mindfully, and chew your food until it’s liquid before swallowing. This makes it easier for the digestive system and increases the surface area of the food, allowing for better nutrient absorption. When you don't chew your food properly, larger chunks of food can enter your stomach, making it harder for your digestive system to break down food, leading to bloating and discomfort.
Chewing your food thoroughly gets the digestive juices flowing – literally. It stimulates the production of saliva, which contains enzymes to start breaking down food.
Aim to spend 15 to 20 minutes eating each meal, away from the computer and phone. Putting your knife and fork down between each bite will automatically slow you down.
Try chewing each mouthful 30 times before swallowing.
#2 Drop the alcohol
Aussies love a drink. One quarter of us exceed the National Alcohol Guidelines, either by drinking more than 10 standard drinks per week or more than four drinks on any one night (aka binge drinking).
Excessive alcohol can be a bloating disaster as it can damage the mucous cells in the stomach, causing inflammation and irritation, leading to bloating. High alcohol content drinks (more than 15 percent), like spirits, can also delay stomach emptying, which can cause abdominal discomfort.
There are so many delicious alternatives now to add in for your alcohol-free nights. A splash of lime or pink grapefruit cordial in water, or try our Watermelon and Lime Nojito for a twist on an old classic.
#3 Eat with good posture
Give the digestive system the best chance to do its work by sitting upright during and after eating.
Ever eat on the couch, leaning on the kitchen bench, in the car, or slouched over your phone or computer? When you slouch or hunch over, your digestive organs can become compressed, which hinders the flow of food through the gut and can lead to digestive discomfort. Sit up at a table on an upright chair with your feet flat on the floor, focus on your food and enjoy every bite.
#4 Reduce stress
Stress can impair stomach motility and cause bloating. When we are stressed, our bodies create more cortisol, which slows down digestion and causes food to linger in the stomach for prolonged periods of time, resulting in bloating. Try connecting to your calm or a guided meditation to reduce stress. Say no to extra demands and carve out more time for yourself.
#5 Wear looser clothes
Tight clothes can put pressure on the gut, making it harder for food to digest and pass through. Have a range of different sized clothes in your wardrobe that make you feel good to wear when you feel a bit bloated. Kicking around it your super-tight active wear all day may not be the best thing for your gut health. Let your tummy relax to digest properly and avoid sucking it in all day.
#6 Drink plenty of water (not soda water though)
Aim for 2.5 litres of water per day, or three litres if you exercise a lot. Buy yourself a fancy water bottle with a straw to make it easier to drink. If you're not drinking enough water, you may become constipated, which can lead to bloating. Drinking enough water can help soften stools and make them easier to pass, reducing constipation and bloating.
Great options for when you are over drinking plain water include herbal teas, cucumber and strawberry slices or elderflower cordial in water.
Although soda water is a lower sugar option than soft drinks, any bubbly carbonated drinks can puff out your stomach as you’re adding more gas into your system which can build up and cause bloating.
#7 Minimise salt
Consuming too much salt not only can result in high blood pressure, but it can also cause your body to retain water, leading to bloating. Good news is, alongside reducing salt in the diet, drinking water can help flush out excess salt from your body, reducing water retention and bloating.
Around 75 percent of the salt consumed in the Australian diet comes from processed and packaged foods (looking at you Pringles, hot chips, and pizza), not from salt added at the table, naturally found in wholefoods or during cooking. So, by reducing junk food, you’re automatically reducing salt intake.
“Australians are still eating almost double the recommended maximum of 5g (or a teaspoon) of salt per day”.
George Institute, 2021
By chewing your food properly, drinking enough water and reducing stress, alcohol and salt, your gut will be forever thankful. Start with one of these habit changes at a time and get ready for better gut health all round.
If you have symptoms such as stomach discomfort, severe bloating, significant pain, consistent or other gut symptoms, please see your health professional.
Interested in Gut Health?
Explore our Advanced Gut Health: enhancing your microbiome short course and empower yourself with the knowledge to unlock a happier, healthier you.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2022) Alcohol consumption
Bode C. and Bode JC. (1997) Alcohol's role in gastrointestinal tract disorders. Alcohol Health Res World. 21(1):76-83.
George Institute (2021) Australia on track to fail on global salt targets, study shows
HealthDirect (2022) Salt and Sodium.
NHMRC (2020) Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol
Ryu.,S, et al. (2016) Clinical Dimensions of Bloating in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility 22(3): 509-516
Victorian Government, Better Health Channel (2023) Salt factsheet.
Sophie Scott is passionate about nutrition, fitness and behaviour change coaching. As a Registered Nutritionist and Environmental Scientist, she takes a wholistic approach to nutrition, focusing on people’s relationship with food and driving a shift to a healthier approach to eating.
With more than 12 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry, Sophie has supported hundreds of women along their health journey through her business, fitandfed.
Sophie is an enthusiastic nutrition teacher and accomplished course creator at Endeavour College of Natural Health, inspiring the next wave of nutrition and wellness professionals.
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