I hear this question time and time again. Tummy issues, food intolerances, constipation and feeling bloated are the new social norm because the symptoms are so common! How many times have you thought about what to wear to hide your “food belly”? Or that feeling like your pants have suddenly become 2 sizes smaller after dinner?
It’s normal to feel a little bloated and gassy every once in a while, after an indulgent night out. In some cases, simple dietary and lifestyle tweaks may be all you need to get back into your skinny pants. When your symptoms become more prevalent or cause you pain and discomfort, it’s time to take a closer look at your digestive system.
Listen to Your Body
Our bodies are very intuitive and we should listen to what they are telling us. The actual feeling of bloating is caused by trapped gas in your stomach and intestines.
This can be caused by:
- gut dysfunction
- food intolerances
- bacterial and/or yeast overgrowth
- hormonal imbalances
- thyroid dysfunction
The stages of digestion
While the culprit of your bloating may be difficult to pinpoint, start by paying attention to how you react to different foods and stress during eating. When you sit down to eat, your body literally starts to prepare digestive processes from the moment you smell or see deliciousness. This begins the cephalic phase of digestion which starts secreting saliva in your mouth. A signal is then sent down the vagus nerve (gut-brain connection) to get ready to secrete other digestive juices. This is why it is so important that you sit down and slow down while eating. Inadequate chewing hinders further digestion because the enzymes in your saliva won’t have the time to begin predigesting on the nosh in your mouth. From there, food then descends the esophagus and into the stomach. If you are eating protein, it is broken down by digestive juices in your stomach. From here, food is turned into a lovely sludge called chyme which then makes it’s way over to the small intestine where the pancreas provides enzymes for the final break down of food. Although this process is quite complicated in our bodies, excessive gas is caused by the inadequate digestion in one or all of the above stages of digestion.
Why am I bloated and gassy after eating certain foods?
Gas is a result of undigested food or the inability to break down protein and carbohydrates. Gas is also caused by bacterial or yeast overgrowth which then feed on undigested food causing them to ferment and release gases into your intestines. This is normally triggered by certain types of foods which are high in fermentable sugars (FODMAP). You know how you may feel quite gassy after a pizza? Well those critters are doing the same thing but in your gut. Gut dysbiosis is a major cause of symptoms of bloating, diarrhea, constipation, brain fog, hormonal imbalances, food intolerances and much more. In your digestive tract, there are trillions of friendly and unfriendly bacteria that compete. If you have an imbalance and are feeding the unfriendly bacteria (sugar is a main culprit!), then the bad bacteria wins, crowding out your friendly guys. This can lead to bloating and excessive gas.
How to Kick the Bloat – Skinny Pants Tips:
1. SLOW down when you eating: Allow the body to get ready for digestion. Thoroughly chew your food so that undigested food does not arrive into your stomach.
2. STRESS LESS: Most people don’t realise what a major part stress has on your digestion.
Have you heard of “rest and digest”? When you are stressed, your body releases stimulating hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which literally tell the body to prepare for a “fight or flight”. This is part of your Autonomic Nervous System which is your bodies control center for heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate , urination and those whoo-hoo let’s get it on feelings (sexual arousal). When you’re stressed and in “fight or flight” or sympathetic nervous system, your body moves energy away from digestion. This is why you may experience either diarrhea or constipation when you’re stressed.
3. Reduce fluid intake while eating: Downing loads of water will only dilute your digestive juices leading to undigested proteins and carbs. Try to hydrate yourself away from main meal times.
4. Identify Your Food Offender: Food intolerances may be the culprit to your symptoms or it could also be the dysbiosis which is causing Leaky Gut and resulting food intolerances. Food intolerances can be tested by practitioners for IgG response. It may also be that you have issues with foods called FODMAPs. These are basically foods which are highly fermentable and can contribute to bloating. If you feel this is the case, please get tested for an overgrowth which so often accompanies people sensitive to FODMAPs
5. Eat foods rich in probiotics: Foods like kimchi, saurerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kombucha will help to feed the good guys. You may also take a high quality probiotic supplement. If you are suspicious of a bacterial or yeast overgrowth, be careful with certain fermented foods as it could aggravate your symptoms.
6. Test your stomach acid: Many people have low levels of stomach acid. You need stomach acid to digest your food and if it is low then you will wind up with undigested food in your stomach and intestines. There is a simple at home test you can do with sodium bicarbonate. Also, one of my previous articles discusses symptoms of low stomach acid. If you have low stomach acid, taking a bit of Apple Cider Vingear before your meals may help.
7. Digesting Herbs and Spices: Aloe Vera is wonderful for improving digestion and it’s something that I personally take a swig of daily. Ginger can help the muscles in the digestive tract to relax, relieving constipation. Also, digestive bitters are amazing to take before a meal.
8. Work with a Qualified Practitioner: If you suspect that your symptoms are caused by food intolerances or bacterial and/or fungal overgrowths, you should work with a qualified food practitioner who can stool or bacterial/fungal metabolites and help you with a program to eradict the overgrowth and boost the population of your good guys!
Written by Melanie Mack
About the author
Melanie Mack is a health and fitness enthusiast who has been passionate about holistic wellness for over 12 years. After dealing with the uninspiring approach of Western medicine, Melanie decided to change careers and work towards truly healing people through functional and integrative medicine. With a core belief that you can heal the body through food and lifestyle changes, Melanie’s approach is “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates. Melanie is currently studying to become a Nutritional Therapist and Naturopath at the Natural Healthcare College & College of Naturopathic Medicine, both out of London. She looks forward to opening her own practice in Mallorca in January of 2018. Melanie currently lives in Mallorca with her husband and 2 dogs.