Bloating is one of the most physically uncomfortable things our bodies can put us through (that isn’t actually health-threatening). You don’t always know why it happens, and you don’t really know how to stop it once it does. It’s usually more of a “ride it out” situation, which can affect your mood and body image, not to mention the ability to zip up your jeans.
So why do we bloat? It’s usually caused by the processes that occur during digestion and characterized by the accumulation of gas in the intestine.
But here’s the funny thing: Despite the fact that eating and drinking certain foods can lead to bloating, consuming other foods can actually reduce the problem. Here are a few of the foods that can help relieve that puffy feeling — or prevent it.
1. Water with Lemon
Because a buildup of fluid can contribute to bloating, a lot of people think they should avoid taking in more liquid when they are already bloated and retaining fluids. But that mentality keeps them from doing something that could really help lessen their bloating: drinking water. You see, retaining water is the body’s way of holding on to fluid so that you do not become dehydrated. So it’s especially important when you are bloated to push fluids through your body, not eliminate them. That way your body is no longer is in fear of dehydration and will let go of the excess water it’s storing. And lemons, being a natural diuretic and a gentle laxative, can reduce the amount of salt retained in your body. Add lemon juice to warm water for maximum effect.
The chemicals that reside in stalks of this vegetable have been known to decrease fluid retention. That’s one of the reasons celery is commonly used as a digestive aid to regulate bowel movements and control intestinal gas. But keep in mind that when you’re bloated, it’s best to lean toward cooked veggies over raw, as the fiber structure is broken down when vegetables are cooked, making them more easily digestible.
Almost all melons are beneficial to your health in some way, but watermelon is by far the juiciest, consisting of 92 percent water, which we now know is instrumental in reducing bloating. Watermelon also has natural diuretic properties and is an excellent source of potassium, making it very helpful in balancing the levels of sodium and potassium in the body, which is also important to taming bloating.
Rosemary has been traditionally used to treat all kinds of ailments, including muscle pain and spasms and alopecia. But did you know that the herb is also used to treat indigestion that can lead to bloating? Consuming a sprig on its own would be a little weird, so steeping some in your next cup of tea or combining it with some celery to make a broth is a good way to get what you need from it.
5. Beans and Lentils
Taking in too much sodium and not enough potassium and fiber can keep you suffering from bloating on a regular basis, so lowering your sodium intake and amping up your potassium levels can be the fastest way to reduce bloating. Dietary fiber-rich lentils are an excellent choice for aiding your digestion when bloated, and potassium-packed beans, like white beans, soybeans, and lima beans are actually the highest-fiber vegetables you can get. And the gravy on top of those beans? They are naturally high in both estrogen and protein and can assist in relieving period-induced bloating.
Now that all sounds great, but I know you’re still thinking, “How can beans truly help me with bloating if they are known to make you gassy?” And you’d be totally right. They do make you gassy. Initially.
You see, if you aren’t used to eating beans on a regular basis, they can give you a gassy feeling. But if you slowly work them into your diet, your body will adjust to the compounds that cause the gas. And then you will only see the benefits of the bean.
Certain foods, especially some carbohydrates, are either completely indigestible or can only be partially digested in your stomach. These foods are to blame for gas buildup and therefore contribute to bloating. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, rice and rice flour are a good substitute for starches like like wheat, oats, corn, and potatoes, as rice is fully digested in the small intestines, giving it the least chance of forming gases in your gut.
If you want to try using yogurt to fight bloating, you first need to make sure you know what you’re looking for in that yogurt, namely active cultures. This is because, though most yogurts are generally a healthy choice, consuming yogurt that contains active cultures on a regular basis increases your levels of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium — known as “good” bacteria — in your digestive tract. Doing this will keep things moving and prevent your belly bloat. Your best bets are plain, non-fat or low-fat yogurt. If you have a sweet tooth, it is better to mix in fresh fruit at home rather than to buy flavored yogurts, which can be high in added sugars.
Though we’ve talked about gas playing a big part in bloating, sodium is also a cause. Because there is so much sodium in processed foods and restaurant meals nowadays, it is much easier to consume large amounts without knowing it. And that sodium attracts and retains water in the body, while potassium counters those effects. Keeping an eye on your overall potassium-sodium level is important for water balance in the body. If you suspect today’s bloat is a result of last night’s salty dinner, add a sliced banana to some oatmeal this morning to bring back the balance.
Inside of this tropical fruit is a white, milky substance called papain, a proteolytic enzyme that promotes digestion. Now, I know it may not be the most popular fruit or easy to find in your standard grocery store, but the papaya is still worth considering, as you can easily pop some slices into a breakfast smoothie.
Cucumbers are a great way to deflate a puffy tummy. The high water and high dietary fiber content of these veggies can cause increased urination, which will make you feel less full. And since bloating is a temporary state, and not a reflection of the actual size and shape of your normal body, feeling like your normal self again can at least give you mental relief, even if you might suffer through a few more days of physical discomfort.