This amazing post was written by Tisha Riman, a Holistic Nutritionist, a Wellness Chef-in-training and the blogger behind The Nourished Mind! You can check out her website here and follow her on Facebook and Instagram!
Has this ever happened to you?
You wake up, feeling good and skinny on an empty stomach—maybe you even give your reflection in the mirror a nice hey-good-looking-wink—and then, suddenly after eating breakfast, you’re in Bloat City. So you change out of your body con dress and into your very unflattering burlap sack (or oversized sweater), and for the rest of the day, you’re not focusing on menial tasks, like your work. Nope, you’re focusing on the waistband of your pants digging into your stomach, cursing the moment you touched that spoon of oatmeal to your lips.
Bloating after eating is such a common issue and one that I hear a lot about on the daily. In fact, often I have friends and family who have just accepted that feeling bloated all the time is a normal part of life! Not surprising, since somewhere between 15-30% of Americans suffer from bloating, and, if you have a digestive disorder, like IBS, that number shoots up to 66-90%. And while yes, chronic bloating could be a sign of a more serious condition, and you should check with your doctor to rule that out, most of the bloating is actually a sign of something else: inadequate digestion.
What if, by understanding the underlying causes that make bloating your reality, you could keep your flat tummy (and crop tops) all day every day?
Top 5 Causes of Feeling Bloated After Meals
1. Low Stomach Acid
Stomach acid is crucial for proper digestion and our immune system. It breaks down food and kills off bacteria, parasites, and pathogens. Stomach acid can be depleted by eating sugar, processed foods, drinking cold drinks with meals, inadequate chewing and a high consumption of animal protein—in other words, low stomach acid can be caused by a nightly trip to the Drive-Thru. As an added bonus (like a happy meal toy), low stomach acid can cause constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux and acne .
2. Leaky Gut
Also known as intestinal hyperpermeability, this is when particles that usually wouldn’t be able to pass through the lining of your small intestine—like proteins from gluten, dairy, and grains; bacteria; and undigested foods—suddenly have a VIP pass, because the pores of your intestine are larger than they should be. This can happen from eating a poor diet, a bacterial imbalance, chronic stress or a toxin overload.
3. Food Sensitivity
When you eat the same foods every day with limited variety, the repeated exposure to these foods can trigger an immune response, causing symptoms (like bloating) to appear . Some foods—like dairy, wheat, potatoes, beans, Brussels sprouts, onions and FODMAP carbohydrates—are simply harder for your body to digest, and are more likely to cause gas .
A fancy word for an overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast or parasites, dysbiosis basically means you have more bad guys in your gut than good—and considering that bacterial cells in your body outnumber the human cells of your body 10 to 1, it makes sense that you want the majority of your gut bacteria to be on your side. Especially because good bacteria can prevent you from getting leaky gut , keep your immune system healthy and help your body be able to tell the difference between you and foreign particles so it doesn’t attack itself (autoimmunity) . Gut dysbiosis can happen if you have a history of taking antibiotics if you eat too many processed foods if you are constantly stressed or it can even happen as a natural side effect of aging .
Chronic stress raises cortisol, which can degrade the gut lining and cause cravings for sugar, fat, and salt, while excess stimulation to the adrenals decreases blood flow to the gut, impairing digestion and causing bloating .
Ready to throw out your fridge and try a Breatharian diet? Well, good news, there’s actually a lot of steps we can take to prevent indigestion and strengthen our gut health.
5 Ways to Prevent Bloating After a Meal
1. Be a Ritual Eater
Eating in a calm and present state is key to improving your digestion. Known as the cephalic phase of digestion, this is the process of digestion that happens before you even eat your food: your body uses its senses—smell, sight, touch, and sound—to trigger gastric secretions (like saliva and stomach acid) and hormones . But this only happens if you’re in the rest and digest mode—meaning you’re present and not stressed out—so move away from the couch, pull out the nice silverware, and sit down at the table. Take a deep, calming breath and chew, chew, chew your food—digestion literally starts in your mouth with the mechanical breakdown of your food.
2. Avoid the Trigger Foods
Eliminate sugar, processed foods, refined grains and artificial sweeteners from your diet, and, if you suspect food allergies, try temporarily removing common allergens—think gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, nightshades, etc—to see if that makes a difference. I recommend keeping a food journal, and slowly introducing one food at a time, to help you pinpoint what food sensitivities may be contributing to your indigestion.
3. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water is essential to prevent constipation—which can lead to bloating, as water is needed to keep the colon hydrated. When you’re dehydrated, the body has to pull water from your stools, making them small and hard to pass. Aim for 2 liters a day.
4. Feed Your Gut and Your Gut Bacteria
Be sure to eat a diet rich in probiotics—fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir—and prebiotics, the foods that feed the probiotics—foods like chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, onions, and bananas.
5. Get a Digestion Tool Kit
Keep an arsenal of tools to ensure proper digestion:
Digestive Enzymes: Take one to two capsules of a multi-enzyme formula with your meal.
Probiotics: Look for a high-quality daily probiotic that has a variety of bacteria, including multiple strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, with at least 15 billion CFUs. A study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that these two strains of bacteria were effective in easing the bloating of its 60 participants over the course of eight weeks .
Collagen: Essential for a healthy gut, collagen boosts gastric juices, binds to water to help pass stools more easily and it contains amino acids proline and glycine which are needed to repair damaged intestinal lining. Look for collagen that comes from grass-fed cows, and try powdered collagen peptides if you want something that you can easily sneak into your morning coffee or smoothie, as it dissolves in liquid and has no taste.
Herbs: Try including carminative herbs and spices, like ginger, fennel, chamomile, peppermint and cardamom to alleviate bloating. You can sprinkle ground spices in your smoothie, into your meals or drink as a post-meal tea.
The Takeaway: When it comes to indigestion, eating real, whole nutrient-dense foods, and staying clear of artificial and packaged food-like items, can put you on the yellow brick road to bloat-free happiness.
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