My key tips and tricks for a flat stomach.
Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great relaxing weekend. I was celebrating this big holiday weekend with friends and loved ones, as I'm sure many of you all were as well! As with most celebrations, we celebrated by joining everyone together at the table for a celebratory meal. In our culture we go all out for the holidays and feast on a mouth watering spread. Which is great, but can sometimes lead to over-eating and... I have no poetic way of saying this so I'll just cut to it: bloating.
Glamorous, I know- but being women with our hormonal cycle, and susceptibility to GI issues and stress, it's a common complaint. Bloating is weird because it can be caused by many things: food sensitivity, FODMAPS, salt content, etc.
It used to frustrate the hell out of me because many times I couldn’t figure out WHY it was happening. I’d have a salad or something healthy, and then 30 minutes later I’d be a balloon animal! Only to then later have french fries with no bloat. What. the. f**k?
Straight up confusing.
I've since done some personal research, and found methods to prevent bloating and support my digestive system. Let’s talk causes and remedies and banish the balloon animal in us all, k?
Identify the cause
We really shouldn’t have more than 1500 mg a day. Check the sodium label on your food, you’d be surprised where it’s hiding. Salad dressing is a SERIOUS offender. When salting your food use a good quality sea salt. High quality salt will you give you the salty taste you crave with a lot less when compared to refined salt. I even keep a sea salt grinder in a drawer where I work (along with a container of olive oil).
Emulsifiers, stabilizers, Gums, preservatives, additives
Even foods that are seemingly healthy (like almond milk!) can oftentimes contain emulsifiers, stabilizers, and additives. Look out for these culprits: xanthan gum, carrageenan, guar gum, sulfites, nitrates, and BHA/BHT that can irritate our stomachs and cause us to bloat. If you see it on the label, or don’t recognize some weird science-y sounding word - don’t eat it! At one point, I was having a hard time figuring out what substance in my gluten free products was giving me hell. Until I realized the emulsifiers and stabilizers were to blame. Products where additives are commonly found: nut mylk, yogurt, gluten free products, protein bars, sauces …. CHECK YOUR LABELS PEOPLE.
Alcohol is very acidic and can irritate our stomach and digestive lining, causing bloat. Not only that, but depending on what the alcohol is made out of, and what you are sensitive too, we may be more sensitive to one type of alcohol over another. This takes some trial and error to figure out. For me being gluten sensitive, beer and other alcohols derived from grain are a no go. As a rule of thumb, always eat a meal before imbibing, and stick to clear alcohols (like vodka) that are low in sugar.
Fruit? Wait...But fruit is good for us!? Yes, fruit has many great vitamins and minerals to offer. But whether fruit is friend or foe to our digestive system largely depends on proper serving size and time of consumption. After all, Fruit sugar is still sugar. Even more important to note: Fruit is digested VERY fast. For example, say we have a chicken and avocado salad for lunch and two hours later have melon for a snack. The melon will be digested and start fermenting (gag) before our body has finished digesting the protein and fat from our salad. The protein and fat take 3-4 hours + to digest, and blocks the melon from moving through our digestive system the way it wants to. The fermentation of the fruit is what causes us to balloon. Food combining has helped me IMMENSELY with this issue. Resources for food combining will be included at the end of this post. As a rule of thumb, eat fruit alone or first thing in the day. Or, wait 4-5 hours after your last meal has had time to properly digest before consuming fruit.
I have a sensitivity to dairy and gluten (among other things) and try to avoid it as much as possible because my body can not digest it well. If you know that you have a sensitivity- avoid it. If you have an inkling you might, read more about identifying and supporting food sensitivity in my post here.
FODMAP is an acronym for short chain carbs and sugar alcohols that are found naturally occurring in certain foods, but also encompass many preservatives and additives. FODMAPS, when consumed by individuals who are sensitive, ferment (gag, again) and are not well absorbed by the body. For some people, these foods are not a problem. If you’re like me it's better to limit these foods if your body can’t handle FODMAPS. High FODMAP foods include garlic, onions, apples, wheat products, etc.. Find a link to a list of FODMAP foods at the end of this post.
Sugar alcohols and sweeteners (like xylitol,sorbitol, malitol) are FODMAPS that are used as a no calorie sweetener in a lot of sugar free or low sugar products that can cause digestive “distress” (understatement). So if you're sensitive to FODMAPS, steer clear of artificial sweeteners. Trust me, it's not worth the stomach ache to use that sugar free syrup on your paleo pancakes.
The idea here is that macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) take different amounts of time to be digested. Each macronutrient require different enzymatic environments to be digested fully. Fruits and carbs are digested faster than proteins and fats. Starchy vegetables need an alkaline environment to be digested; which is opposite of the acidic environment that protein needs to be digested. So if consumed together, the environment to digest the starch weakens the environment to digest protein. This makes it hard on your body to digest either macronutrient without being able to provide the proper environment for digestion! Check out Melissa Wood's blog post and food pairing article with bandier at the end of this post.
Avoid any of the culprits from the list above that you are sensitive to. Easy, right? Eat intuitively. If you find that a food doesn't react well in your body, respect that, and avoid it. If you don’t know what you are sensitive to I would keep a running note in your phone or a food journal to find a pattern for what foods are causing you to bloat. Investigate what ingredients could be irritating you and avoid them.
Think of digestive enzymes as providing the ammo and muscle to help your body digest foods that it has a hard time digesting. I like pure encapsulations digestive enzymes ultra (link at the end of the post).
The balance of your micro-biome is integral in maintaining your health. If you are not already taking one (seriously, why the hold up?) take a high quality probiotic daily to support your gut bacteria, so that they can support YOUR digestion!
I would advise that you try to use methods of prevention as much as possible, because ridding yourself of bloat isn't always easy.
I take a coconut charcoal capsule by Bulletproof. But, if you don’t have charcoal pills, you can go to just about any juicery (there's one on just about every corner in NYC) that should have charcoal water of some sort. The charcoal will pull out toxins and help relieve bloat, gas, and digestive distress.
water and exercise
Drink a f*ck ton of water and workout. The water will help restore electrolyte balance and help you excrete any excess salt. By getting your blood pumping you increase your metabolism and get things moving. Both of these together will help dissipate the bloat faster!
Give yor digestive system a break
Try not to snack if you're bloating from your last meal, allow your body to have enough time to process what it's already digesting.
Peppermint and/or Fennel Tea
A little hot water with these herbs will help fight inflammation and bloat. If you don't have access to tea, hot water with lemon will help stimulate your digestive system and balance your pH.