Beating the Bloat

Summer is fast approaching and it’s at this time of year that many people start to worry about having to expose parts of their body, which have been kept under wraps for the last few months. Feeling body confident therefore is key, but if you are one of the millions of people who suffer from bloating, then feeling good about yourself can be difficult, especially if you are on the beach wearing beachwear! Nobody wants to feel uncomfortable and bloated, especially during holiday season, so if this is something you suffer with, read on and find out how to beat the bloat!

Feeling bloated is not the same for everyone. For some people, feeling bloated is more of a sensation of continual fullness, general uncomfortableness in the stomach or bowel area, or a feeling of tightness like a band around the stomach area. Other people can suffer more physical symptoms with their bloating and can experience swelling and distension of the abdomen, stomach pains and excess flatulence. Whether you suffer some, or all of these symptoms it can lead to miserableness, especially if symptoms are experienced daily. Do not despair however, as there are things that you can do, which can help ease these symptoms.

So what can cause bloating?

There are many answers to this question and what may be the cause of bloating in one person, may not be the cause in another, so it’s important to try and figure out what an individual’s ‘triggers’ may be, or if there is something more serious that is the underlying cause. The most common causes of bloating include a food intolerance (please refer to the previous nutrition article, which addresses this in more detail), a sluggish digestive system, constipation and IBS. There are other, more serious conditions where bloating can be a primary symptom too, especially if accompanied by blood in the stool, chronic stomach pain and weight loss, so if this is something that you are experiencing, it is important to consult your GP so this can be investigated further.

Traveling and your digestive system

With summer around the corner, many people will be soon heading abroad for some sun, rest and relaxation, but for some people travel can really upset the digestive system and if you throw a time difference into the mix as well, then some bowels can get really unhappy! One of the biggest changes that can occur when you travel, especially through different time zones, is bowel sluggishness with constipation effecting many travellers. This is not unusual, as a change in dietary habits, different time zones, dehydration and different food types all have the potential to affect the bowel. On a practical and nutritional level there are a few things you can do to help avoid a constipated and bloated holiday!

One important, yet simple thing that you can do, is to make sure your fluid intake is high, especially if you are travelling somewhere where the climate is much hotter than what you are used to. Water is essential for bowel function and for the formation of looser stools, so keep a water bottle with you and take regular sips of water throughout the day. For many, going on holiday means flying and this is something that can play havoc with our digestive system. Flying not only dehydrates you, but can cause terrible bloating for a number of reasons. Firstly, the aeroplane cabin is pressurised, which puts stress on the body and causes body tissue to become swollen due to lower atmospheric pressure. Secondly, aeroplane food is not known for being gourmet cuisine, it’s usually processed and refined, which is a combination that is not digestive friendly. If your aeroplane food also consists of beans or cruciferous type vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage, then these are definitely best avoided due to their ability to create excess gas (and no one wants to be in a confined place like a plane, surrounded by strangers when we have a stomach full of wind that is difficult to hold onto!!)

Flying dehydrates you, so particularly if you are on a long haul flight, make sure you are taking regular sips of water to keep yourself hydrated and reduce the risk of constipation when you arrive at your new destination. Avoid fizzy, carbonated drinks of any kind as this cause similar effects to cruciferous vegetables (see statement above!). Alcohol and caffinated drinks dehydrate you further, so limit yourself to just one if you are on a long haul flight.

One thing that you can do in the month before travelling and flying, especially if you know you are prone to digestive disturbances, is increase foods that naturally contain probiotics and prebiotics.

Probiotics are ‘good bacteria’ that help the healthy functioning of your digestive syetm and prebiotics are the ‘food’ for probiotics, so both are essential in the diet. Consuming these will help get your digestive system in peak condition for facing the challenges that travelling can present. Natural, cultured yogurt containing ‘live bacteria’ is a good source of probiotics. Onions are a good source of a natural prebiotic called Fructan and goats’s milk, including Delamere Dairy’s tasty offerings, contains high amounts of compounds which act as natural prebiotics. Consuming these will have a positive effect on the good bacteria in your gut and help promote better digestive health, especially as goats’ milk is so easily digested too, which helps ease the load on what may be an already  ‘struggling’ digestve system.

You could also consider taking a good quality probiotic supplement, starting a month or two before you travel and throughout your travel adventures. This has found to be helpful for some travellers in supporting digestive function. If you opt for this, then make sure your supplement contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium, as these two strains of bacteria have been well researched and have shown good effects on the digestive system.  

Friendly food for bloated bellies!

As well as some of the foods mentioned above, there are other foods that can generally help ease the load on the digestve system. Consuming foods that are known to be easily digestable can be helpful, especially at times when you are feeling most bloated. Salmon is not only healthy and packed full of omega 3 fatty acids, but it is one of the most easily digestable foods there is.

Banannas, rice, eggs and avocados are also all easily digestied, so can certainly be welcomed by your stomach if bloat or constipation is causing distress. Banannas and avocadoes are also both high in magnesium, a mineral that is very helpful in constipation as it helps draw water into the bowel and makes stools more passable.

Some foods also contain natural digestive enzymes, which are specific proteins that help break down our food into smaller particles so the body can absorb the nutrients from it . Digestive enzymes are produced naturally by the body and produced in the mouth, stomach, pancreas and small intestine, but in some people these enzymes may not work quite as effectively, or some people can be lacking in them, which itself can be a cause of bloating and other digestive problems. Therefore eating foods that contain good and natural sources of some of these helpful enzymes can be beneficial. So what foods can these be found in?

Pineapple contains the enzyme called Bromelain, which can help breakdown protein and protein based foods.
Pineapple.jpg

Well, if you are holidaying in tropical climates this year, then the following fruits will not only be found in abundance, but could prove to be a welcome friend for beating the bloat and providing you with a good boost of digestive enzymes. Pineapple contains the enzyme called Bromelain, which can help breakdown protein and protein based foods. Some research also suggests Bromelain may be helpful in reducing inflammation, including that caused by ulcerative colitis, but more  studies need to be done to confirm this. Papayas contain an enzyme called Papain, which like the enzyme found in pineapple, also helps breakdown protein based foods so can be useful to consume after a meal with a high protein content. Mangos also contain a digestive enzyme called Amylase, which helps break down carbohydrate / starched based foods. It is this type of food that most people tend to struggle with as they can lie ‘heavy’ on the stomach and can certainly be responsible for feelings of fullness and bloating. So reach for a mango after overindulgence of a carb laden meal.

The magic of herbs & spices

Herbs and spices can be very potent and have, for thousands of years, offered therapetic benefits for a variety of ailments, and bloating is no exception. There are three main ones that can be specifically helpful here: Fennel, cloves and cinnamon. Fennal is known for its anti-flatulent properties, so excellent in reducing gas and therefore definitely something to have after a long flight! Cloves, like fennel, have anti-flatulent properties too and is often thought of as the most effective herbal remedy to reduce bloating and gas, as well as being helpful in alleviating nausea. One reason that cloves are said to be effective in the the battle of the bloat, is that some research suggests that cloves increase the activity of digestive enzymes. The spice cinnamon is helpful for speeding up a sluggish digestive system, so can help resolve bloating caused by this. All three of these can be consumed in a variety of ways, but one of the easiest ways is by making a drink with them or buying a herbal or spice tea bag containing any of the three herbs or spices mentioned above.

Making a tea yourself though will ensure that it’s more potent, but using a tea bag is easier and is also a great thing to pack in your suitcase ready for your travels! 

It may seem simple, but don’t forget to exercise and keep moving whether at home or travelling, as exercise  is essential too for bowel movements and reducing bloating.  So if your holiday is more rest and relaxation rather than active adventure, then try and take some moderate exercise each day. Even a small walk can help bowel motility and can ease bloating. Wherever you are off to this summer, Delamere Dairy wish you a wonderful holiday and one that is hopefully bloat free!

Resources

  • Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties, 2012. International Journal of Food Sciences & nutrition
  • Prebiotics & probiotics: Are they functional foods? 2000. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  • Origin of gas retention and symptoms in patients with bloating, 2005. Gastroenterology
  • Health promoting properties of common herbs, 1999. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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