Do you think anyone will notice just how totally bloated I am right now?
This was a worrisome thought that played on repeat in my mind for close to 2-years before I realized.. I do not have to feel this way every day! (Que light bulb moment).
I truly believe that we all have access to this hidden power where we can overcome almost everything that life throws at us. More of us just need to tune-in to the language that our body speaks.
How is this all relating back to being bloated?
When you experience anything 'negative', whether that's a thought, feeling, emotion, symptom or whatever - I tend to take this as a clear sign that something in your life has to change.
If you find that you struggle with bloating on the regular, yet you continue in the same routine (maybe with a few slight modifications) - I have a classic comeback that nobody likes to hear:
'YOU CAN'T KEEP DOING THE SAME THING AND EXPECT A DIFFERENT RESULT'.
This saying goes for many things in life - but let's focus on digestion right now - and the BLOAT, specifically.
It's time to get on your way to Better Digestion.
RULE OUT SENSITIVITIES
Let's start a simple food journal to track your meal intake. I want you to keep an eye out for foods that contain wheat/gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, corn or artificial/processed ingredients that may be contributing to your discomfort. It's always best to focus on getting in whole-foods that don't require an 'ingredient list', opposed to pre-made and pre-packaged foods which have many processed and unnecessary ingredients, additives and preservatives. It can be hard to put your finger on a sensitivity if you rely on foods that you aren't making from scratch (which 1-of-20 ingredients in your protein bar is causing the bloat?). A proper food sensitivity test may be helpful, if your food journal does not provide the answers; you can work with a Naturopathic Doctor to get tested for these results. Other foods to be mindful of that are known for creating that bloat are sulfur rich vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussles sprouts and cabbage and indigestible carbohydrates known as the 'FODMAPs'.
SPACE OUT YOUR COFFEE
Hey now, not telling you that you've got to give up the coffee. But you DO need to be mindful of when you're enjoying it, and how often you reach for it. You should never drink coffee with a meal, and one-cup-a-day should be your maximum. Coffee overexcites your digestive tract and may stimulate bloating. Not to mention, if you're constantly speeding up your digestion with caffeine, you may be missing out on proper nutrient absorption and the breakdown of foods. Create a healthy relationship with coffee, not a dependency. Remember quality also counts, and what you use to 'jazz it up'. Source out organic and fair-trade beans, try some non-dairy milks, natural sweeteners like maple syrup, add collagen powder or try out the Bulletproof Coffee trend.
Many of us are accustomed to a classic case of the 'disappearing snacks'. You know.. The bowl was full a second ago, and now suddenly it's empty. You didn't really enjoy that snack or pay any attention to it, and now you likely want seconds. Make the new habit of 'setting the mood' at meal time. Whenever you take a bite of food you are really giving your body fuel and hopefully some quality nutrition (depending on your choices). If we're multitasking while eating, or choose to 'fuel up' on-the-go, while we're stressed out or rushed - we end up munching way too fast. If we're swallowing quicker than we can chew - hello gas build-up (your stomach doesn't have teeth!). Practice mindful eating to reduce stress and digestive inflammation. Your gut is known as your second brain; what soothes your mind (calm thoughts and less rush), can also help to soothe your gut!
RAW MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT
I realize that the maximum amount of nutrients and enzymes will be found in your raw veggies, but raw food is not raw-some for all. When you lightly steam, or saute your vegetables in coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee (especially cruciferous vegetables) - you will begin to break down some the fibre and plant cell walls, which makes it easier for your body to digest and absorb the nutrition within. The digestibility of a food is important because your body can only receive a food’s health benefits if it’s able to absorb the nutrients. Skip the huge raw salads: decrease the portion size of raw leafy greens, add some lightly steamed or sauteed veg, include clean proteins, maybe some microgreens and fermented foods.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS LEVELS
It can be good stress or bad stress, but if we are anxious about anything, or are simply overwhelmed with a busy-bee schedule - many of us immediately feel it in our gut. When your body enters the 'flight-or-fight mode', which some of us live in day-in and day-out - your body is actually working to conserve your energy for vital organs that are needed to either fight, or flight. Unfortunately your digestive system is not a high priority function during this time. You can be eating the healthiest meal ever, but if you're stressed out - your body may be working against you, and that meal is likely going to make you bloated, due to a decreased amount of energy being directed to your digestive tract. Mindful eating in addition to stress management is a undeniably powerful combo for Better Digestion.
DRINK ENOUGH WATER
Skip the fizzy drinks and the one's that make you feel silly (you know which one's i'm talking about). Keeping hydrated with plain ol' water actually helps to discourage water retention. When you're well hydrated your body isn't in this constant struggle of trying to hold on to the only water it has. Since your body is in a constant state of detoxing and water keeps things moving; from carrying nutrients to our cells, aiding digestion by forming stomach secretions, flushing out wastes, and keeping our kidneys healthy - make proper hydration a priority!
UP YOUR MINERAL INTAKE
Even in organic farming, mineral-rich soil is hard to come by these days. Minerals are essential for more than building strong bones and teeth, we need minerals for nerve function and for metabolic processes such as creating ENERGY from the foods you eat (hola, Krebs cycle). Up-ing your mineral intake may help with combating inflammation; maintaining fluid balance; blood pressure and pH levels; supporting your adrenals and thyroid; keeping your energy levels up, brain sharp and immune system strong. All of which alsobenefits your gut - aka your second brain! Switching to a himalayan salt is an option for getting in a balance of trace minerals, or use a trace mineral supplement like Concentrace, which you can add to your water!
TAKE BITTER GREENS & HERBS
It's time to fall in love with bitterness. Not a bitter attitude - i'm talking bitter herbs and greens. This class of plants activates the taste buds that simultaneously stimulate your enzyme production and bile flow - which promotes Better Digestion. Better than digestive enzymes capsules for most, bitters actually stimulate your body to produce digestive secretions (instead of replacing them). Bitter greens and herbs promote natural detoxification of the liver, which regulates cholesterol, balances hormones, detoxifies the blood, and metabolizes fats. It's important that we include all of the 'tastes' for better health: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Unfortunately we are more accustomed to sweet and salty, and we lack in taste balance. Use dandelion greens, arugula, kale, rapini and mustard greens in your cooking or try out the St. Francis Canadian Bitters Tincture which contains bitters such as globe artichoke, dandelion, burdock, ginger, black walnut and more. Another benefit is that bitters may reduce food cravings and aid in healthy weight loss!
OPTIMIZE YOUR GUT FLORA
So many of us do not have a magical and lush microbiome, with the ideal ratio of healthy microbes. I'm talking probiotics for gut health. We are actually more bacteria than human, but don't get the heebie-jeebies - good bacteria is your friend! Your gut flora is extremely delicate and is very easily disrupted by our environment, food choices, sugar, alcohol, medications (notably antibiotics and birth control pills), and stress. It's important for us to include foods that are naturally rich in probiotics - these include cultured or fermented foods that contain “live” or “active” bacteria, such as organic kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, water kefir and kimchi. A healthy gut flora enables proper digestion and absorption of the nutrients from your foods, a healthy gut also facilitates noticeable improvements on mood - decreasing feelings of anxiety and depression, it supports a strong immunity and decreases gut inflammation. For more therapeutic amount of probiotics, a good quality supplement is key - particularly if you’ve been ill, are not down with fermented foods, have been struggling long-term with digestive issues, or have been on antibiotics recently.