Ways to get rid of bloating

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If you have any kind of gastrointestinal ailment, you’ll be no stranger to bloating. For me, it’s just one of those things I’ve come to accept. I think there’s a genetic component perhaps – my mom has been prone to bloating her whole life, and has been diagnosed with IBS – and I started experiencing it myself several years ago.

When my ulcerative colitis was at its worst, bloating was a constant issue. As I experimented with different diets – SCD, paleo, autoimmune paleo, LCHF – it came and went, and I’ve become fairly good at knowing which foods will leave me feeling like I’ve been pumped full of air like a giant balloon.

But then there are those days when you eat all the things you usually do, you drink the same things, and you end up with a distended and uncomfortable belly.

I know what I need to do to help avoid bloating in the first place. While some of these points may differ on a case by case basis, generally it’s safe to say that to help minimise bloating, you should:

  • Avoid gas-producing foods, like certain types of fruits and vegetables (for me, onion, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini are especially bad, but mostly any veg can bloat me up)
  • Avoid gassy drinks (including sparkling water)
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid coffee
  • Avoid chewing gum and anything else with artificial sweeteners (look carefully at ‘sugar free’ or ‘dairy free’ chocolates and sweets too, as these are often made with replacement substances that can lead to gassiness and even diarrhoea)
  • Avoid dairy if you’re lactose intolerant (I am)
  • Avoid eating raw veggies. It’s harder for the body to break these down, and if your gut is already damaged, you want to give it as little work as possible
  • Avoid wearing overly-tight clothing
  • Avoid heavily processed food and/or unhealthy takeaways
  • Avoid drinking large quantities in a single go – i.e, try not to gulp down entire glasses of water
  • Be careful with foods like nuts, eggs and fruits, which can cause bloating in people who are sensitive to them
  • Take good quality probiotics

If you’ve struggled with bloating a lot and have played around with your diet to try to manage it, you may have made some surprising discoveries. For example, if I eat white bread and rice, pasta and even pizza, I experience very little bloating. I can eat plenty of junk food without ill-effect if I’m having a particularly healthy week. In fact, when I flare, I tend to live on basmati rice as it’s the only thing I can keep in.

Obviously though, one cannot live on a diet of refined carbs – particularly if one is gluten intolerant or sensitive to gluten or wheat (thankfully, I am not).

Most of us want to eat healthily, cleanly, but unfortunately it’s the healthiest of foods that often lead to uncomfortable bloating. Give me a burger, and I’ll be just fine. Give me a salad, and suddenly I look like a little Buddha. The same happens when I swallow down a whole glass of water.

So now that I’m bloated, what can I do to make it go away?

Bloating is particularly awful when you’re trying to be productive or have a good time. Ever been out partying on a bloated stomach? It’s the worst. Trying to work at your desk with your belly pressed against your keyboard? Not gonna happen. So what can you do once the bloat sets in? Here are some tips to try:

  • Unbutton your pants. Don’t fight it. Just trust me – you’ll immediately feel a whole lot better.
  • Spend some QT in the bathroom. Obviously you don’t want to force anything, but if you’re able to have a BM, you’re likely to feel a helluva lot better for it.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything for a little while. Give your tummy a chance to rest.
  • Don’t hold in your gas. Go to the bathroom or find a private place, but holding it in is only going to make you feel so much worse.
  • Drink some herbal tea. I haven’t tried this for bloating because I hate herbal tea. But if you enjoy it, give it a try. Ginger, chamomile and peppermint are particularly favoured for bloating, or you could try drinking some lemon water.
  • Get moving. Going for a brisk walk or run or doing yoga could help to ‘get things moving’ and relieve you of some of that gas. I remember many of the old ladies in my yoga class farting while stretching into their poses. Yoga is known to activate the GI system, as is running/walking. Just make sure you’re never too far from a bathroom! The idea is to get the heart pumping and the blood circulating, as this stimulates the release of gas.
  • Make sure your next meal is simple, spice-free, low in salt and won’t irritate your belly. Choose foods that you know won’t leave you bloated.

What are your best remedies for bloating? Please share 🙂

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Day 93: Meat vs veg – my lightbulb moment

These days, you tell people that you eat meat and you may as well have said that you skin kittens in your spare time. In a world of vegan hipsters, meat is murder and using animal products is about the worst thing you can do after using plastic or not having a beard. Don’t get me wrong: I grew up in a house that was 50% vegetarian – neither my mom nor sister eat meat – and I have the utmost respect for the fact that they don’t eat meat – as they do for the fact that my dad and I do.

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Anyway, the point is that SCD had shown me that my body tolerates protein far better than it does simple carbs/veg, and while I could live on veg quite happily… Well I realise that I actually can’t.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll have seen me post photos of my food. Most of my meals consist of a little protein and A LOT of veg. Some meals often don’t contain any protein. And now, having tested my food and my reactions for three months, I know one thing for sure: veg is knocking me for a six, and I need to completely change how I’m eating. It’s a huge mental shift because for so many years, I’ve built my meals around vegetables, and eaten much less meat. It’s not that I don’t like it… it’s just that I preferred veg. But I realise that, if I want to avoid excessive bloating, loose stools, cramps and gas, can’t keep loading up on veg and adding a dash of protein as an afterthought.

I’m not going to radically change anything while I’m still on SCD. I’m going to finish off this last week properly, and then as I mentioned last week, I’m going to transition to paleo, and to a more high-protein, low carb way of eating. It irritates me that this is a ‘fad’ now (have you heard of banting?) – just as it annoys me that it’s a fad to be ‘gluten intolerant’, making all our foods so much more expensive! But at least it might make my belly happier, which is the ultimate goal.

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Parties, booze and little steps forward

The past four days have been interesting in terms of diet. I’ve eaten lots of meat and much less veg, and I feel far less bloated. I’ve also been eating almonds (blanched and slivered this time) and that seems to be a little more tolerable. That said, I know I need to take it easy with them.

Last night, after a long day of celebrating birthdays and family visits (read: drinking), I dove into a packet of vegetable chips at home. They didn’t contain any illegal additives BUT they did contain veg that I shouldn’t have eaten, like sweet potato, so again, I’ve proven to myself (not that I didn’t know this already – doh!) that after hours of champers, I need to be kept away from temptation. That said, I didn’t eat ANYTHING bad or illegal at any of the dinners or parties we went to, which made me so proud of myself. Like several times before, while on this diet, I showed myself that i can have a great time despite not stuffing my face. It’s really been a revelation for me.

NOT yesterday's selfie

NOT yesterday’s selfie

I’m entering my last week of my personal SCD challenge and I’m so excited that I’ve finally had my lightbulb moment (I can’t believe it took me this long). It’s going to be quite a challenge to switch up my diet so radically (for me), but I think after SCD, I can handle anything 🙂

Day 88: Colitis risk factors & a few more tips to beat the bloat

Before I get into this post, I just have to tell you that I fed K another SCD meal tonight, and she loved this one so much she had THIRDS! As a once-vehement opponent to anything SCD, this is AMAZING progress and I’m so proud of us both – me for cooking something awesome and K for being brave enough to try it!

Anyway, onto the important stuff. As you’ll know if you follow my blog, one of my biggest GI problems (now that my UC symptoms are under control) is bloating.

Despite being a super healthy eater (or maybe because of it!), my mom also suffers from frequent bloating, and she has for pretty much her whole adult life. She suspects that she may have a sensitivity or intolerance to lactose, but unlike me, she’s never been tested (I think she’s too afraid to have to give up her cappucinos!).

Do you have similar GI symptoms to anyone in your family? Many researchers believe that there is a genetic link or predisposition to gastrointestinal disorders and diseases like UC and Crohn’s. Of course, no one knows the actual cause for sure, and there are many factors that are known to increase your risk of developing it, such as:

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I tick many (if not all) of those boxes. How about you?

Anyway, now that the most severe symptoms are mercifully under control due to diet and medication, I’m focusing on beating the bloat. Turns out, it’s much harder to conquer bloating than the symptoms of colitis!

That said, here are a few more diet tweaks that can help to minimise bloating (these target all my personal trigger factors):

  • Eat smaller portions of fruit and veg
  • Eat more lean protein and less veg at meals
  • Don’t drink large amounts of liquid in a single go (like downing a glass of water)
  • Don’t wear too-tight trousers or jeans – this makes me feel sooo uncomfortable even before I’ve eaten anything
  • Keep a food diary and track your intake and symptoms to identify problem foods
  • Reduce or cut out dairy (it’s worth being tested to find out if you’re lactose intolerant)
  • Eat less salt
  • Don’t binge eat!
  • Avoid carbonated drinks

What works for you?

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Day 73: Broccoli, bloating and 5 awesome phase 3 treats

I introduced broccoli yesterday and, as with most things I’ve introduced, I’ve followed best practices by eating it at dinner on the first night, lunch and dinner tonight, and I’ll do lunch and dinner again tomorrow.

Unbelievably, I seem (so far) to not be reacting to it. Could it be because I’m cooking it until it’s properly dead, or is it because 2 and a half months on SCD has really started to heal my gut? I like to think it’s the latter.

As for the bananas, I’ve been sticking to my limit of 2 per day, and it’s making a huge difference to my bloating. Right now, it’s 9pm and I’ve eaten all my food for the day, yet I don’t feel uncomfortable, bloated or particularly gassy. Portion control is going well too, and I think all of this is contributing to overall feelings of increased comfort.

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5 Awesome phase 3 treats

I tend to forget that  I can ‘mix and match’ the ingredients that I’ve already introduced to my diet to create some pretty amazing snacks. Here are 5 yummy things I can eat right now:

  • Banana and egg pancakes/scramble drizzled with honey

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  • Butternut roasted with garlic, tomato, onion and coriander

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  • Yogurt, banana and honey smoothie (with optional nut butter)

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  • Soups: Carrot soup made with homemade coconut milk, garlic and coriander; tomato soup with black pepper, garlic and coriander

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  • GUACAMOLE! (mashed avo mixed with garlic, tomato puree, coriander, salt and pepper). Use as a sauce with any meat – works particularly well with fish.

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There are lots more I could make based on the food I’m able to eat, so I really need to experiment a bit more. I’ve splurged on fresh stashes of macadamia butter and almond butter, with which I’ll also need to practice serious portion control. I also discovered that the shop downstairs has started selling freshly pressed apple juice! Life = made. Always such a treat when things just work out!

I’ve been thinking about buying a juicer. Anyone with IBD/IBS  have any experiences to share?

Day 72: Practicing portion control

With 18 days to go on my 90-day challenge and 28 days on my personal 100-day challenge, I’m turning my focus now to troubleshooting the elements I covered last week  – all the issues contributing to my bloating. I feel that the discomfort is my own doing and that I have to power to change this.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  • Getting back into exercise. It’s been about a month and today I picked up my dumbbells again. I can’t believe how much muscle strength one loses in a few short weeks. I think the exercise – apart from all the amazing health benefits – is also the best thing for constipation (still a frequent problem).

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  • Practicing portion control. Not my strong suit, but I’m working on it. K joked that I can have ‘lots of small portions’… but I’m not sure that’s the same thing 😉
  • Cutting back on bloating food. Okay okay, we all know I mean bananas. I’ve made a rule that I can only eat 2 a day – one after lunch (as ‘dessert’) and one as a snack when I get home from work. Honey and yogurt can be my sweet fixes.
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Can totes identify

  • Slowly switching supplements for real food. Now that my diet is expanding, I’m relying less on supplements and more on my food. Fibre is still a big problem: I’m terrified of it because it can aggravate a flare, but too little is not good either. I want to find something I can eat that’ll fill the gap. All suggestions welcome! Also, bear in mind that if a damaged gut can’t absorb nutrients from food, it won’t absorb them from supplements either.

This week’s new food: Broccoli

Tonight I introduced broccoli. Yes, I made an intentional ‘error’ and ate baby gem squash last night and today for lunch, and then introduced broccoli tonight, without waiting for 3 days. This is the first time I haven’t followed the 3-day rule, and I do seem to be okay but my results will be skewed if I react to either of those foods.

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K’s been nervous for me to try broccoli because she thinks I’ll definitely react to it and she’s the one who has to share a bedroom with me 😛 I’ll let you know how it goes…

 

Day 67: Observations part 2 – Besides food, what else can cause bloating?

Yesterday I spoke a lot about bloating and the food that I think is causing my biggest problems.

Today,  I didn’t eat ANY bananas! I know! Amazing! I did experience some bloating and also some cramps after a lunch of vegetables and avo, which I suspect will require further investigation. But I also had a realisation about other factors that could be causing my bloating:

1. Eating too much. I’ve never been one for moderate portions, which is probably what helped get me into this predicament in the first place! Whether I’m eating a bowl of chips or a bowl of broccoli, I eat a lot of it. I’ve always said that I’m missing the ‘fullness indicator’ and that I could just keep eating and eating and eating without stopping until I burst like a cartoon character. Anyone else have this talent problem?

Basically me at every meal, minus the roll

Basically me at every meal, minus the bread

The average adult stomach is roughly the size of a clenched fist and can stretch to fit about a litre’s worth of food in it. I like to take that as a personal challenge and try to pack in around 3kg at every meal. And then I’m surprised when my belly blows up to the size of the Times Square ball.

2. Eating too fast. I’ve never had any reason to eat my food like a prison inmate about to have it snatched away. My parents always cooked plenty of food and there was always enough for seconds and thirds… for us and the neighbours. My dad also eats super fast, and in fact, when I go out to eat with other people, I have to consciously slow myself down so as not to embarrass myself. Thank goodness K and I seem to keep the same pace!

3. Not exercising. In Jan and Feb, the first two official months on the job (prior I was freelancing for the same company), I was able to leave work at about 4.45 each day, and be home by 5.30. I’d exercise until 6, shower and then make supper, with plenty of time to spare. When we hit a crisis at work about three weeks ago, I found myself easily staying at the office until 6 or even 7, getting home after dark and then still having to cook supper. I simply haven’t had the time to work out, and I know it’s so bad for me. Could this be contributing to the bloat?

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4. What I’m drinking. For the first 19 days on this diet, I drank only water. For the first 30, I drank no coffee or booze. Now, I still drink my 2l of water a day – but I also have a glass of wine most days, and one to two cups of coffee. There’s no doubt that drinks can have just as big an impact on your gut as food, and it’s careless to think they don’t.

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5. Stress. When our work crisis hit, our stress levels shot right up. Some days, my colleagues were running to the bathroom with diarrhoea – and they don’t have IBD! I felt a gnawing nausea for days on end, and I was constantly in a state of high-strung anxiety. I’ve no doubt that this not only aggravated my gut, but also contributed to my bloating.

So what’s the next step?

Now that I’ve got a more holistic picture, so to speak, of the root causes of my bloating, I can start to fix the problem (if I can commit to it). It’s almost like working retroactively, going back and fixing what I’ve broken. Now that the bananas are gone, I know I should take a break from booze and coffee too, and keep working backwards like that until I am able to identify the food causes of the bloating – and then of course I need to address the non-food causes too.

I’ve just had dinner and I tried not to overeat. I had yogurt for ‘dessert’, with honey, because I’ve already cut out bananas today and I felt I deserved it!

Ugh, damn bloating. I feel like a stuck record. Imagine how AMAZING life would be without bloat!

Oh, to be a cat and be so unconcerned about bloating!

Oh, to be a cat and be so unconcerned about bloating!