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Beat the Bloat this Holiday Season

Is there anything worse than being at a holiday party in a cute outfit and then all of a sudden you get that bulging bowling ball feeling in your belly?

Bloating can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and down right rude, especially when you’re just trying to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family.

That’s why, today on the blog, I’m focusing on all things bloat: what is bloating, why it happens, and some of my tried and true tips for banishing it once and for all.

So let’s get down to it. What is bloating?

Bloating is the feeling of pressure in the abdomen caused by an accumulation of gas, which can result in flatulence, burping and overall belly pain. The causes of bloating can be exhaustive and may range from person to person, but here are a few of the most common things that contribute to that uncomfortable feeling we all know too well:

  • Food sensitivities or intolerances

  • Dysbiosis (imbalanced intestinal bacteria)

  • Slow stomach emptying / peristalsis

  • Sluggish digestion (pancreatic insufficiency, low stomach acid, sluggish bile flow)

  • Intestinal infections like fungal overgrowths (Candida) or Parasites

  • Digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease or Crohn’s disease

  • Constipation

Bloating can also be triggered by:

  • Tight clothing

  • Swallowing air by chewing gum, chewing food with your mouth open or drinking through a straw

  • Eating too quickly

  • Drinking carbonated drinks (you are literally swallowing gas bubbles)

  • Sluggish digestion (pancreatic insufficiency, low stomach acid, sluggish bile flow)

  • Stress (stress shuts down digestion with then leads to bloating)

There are also different types of bloating, and assessing when and where your bloating occurs can be helpful in figuring out what's triggering it. For example, bloating that comes on immediately after eating is usually due to a digestive insufficiency (ahem, low stomach acid) or upper intestinal infection like SIBO, whereas delayed bloating is often seen with food sensitivities or infections in the lower intestine.

We also want to look at the circumstance in which bloating normally occurs - are you feeling stressed, eating on the go, or forgetting to properly chew? These things all matter!

Top tips to beat the bloat

Let me preface this by saying that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, or quick fix for digestive concerns, especially since there are so many different possibilities as to why you may be experiencing bloating (this is why I am such a huge advocate for getting to the root cause of your bloating so we can come up with solutions tailored to your specific needs and banish that bloat).

Having said that, over the years I've compiled a list of my proven and effective things we can all do on a daily basis to reduce bloating when it strikes, and avoid its occurrence in the first place.

  1. Mindful eating: Eat mindfully by chewing slowly and properly (15-20 times per bite). Put your fork down between bites, smell your food, sit at a table and put your screens away. Take 3 deep breaths before your meals to activate your para-sympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system).

  2. Move your body: Physical activity increases blood flow to the muscles in the digestive system, which massage our food along the digestive tract – a process known as peristalsis – causing them to work more quickly and effectively. A new ritual I've been incorporating is a nice walk around the block after a meal. Not only does it help with digestion, but it’s also a great opportunity to reflect on dinner conversations, get some fresh air, and acts as a nice bookend to your meal time.

  3. Digestive bitters: Bitter foods and herbs help to stimulate digestive juices. I encourage you to eat them at the start of the meal to help wake up the digestive process. This could be a simple arugula salad, radicchio, or swiss chard, to name a few. You may also consider a digestive bitter supplement, such as the Digestive bitters by St. Francis Herb Farm. Just mix them with a bit of water before your meals!

  4. Stress management: When your body is in a stressed-out state, your Sympathetic Nervous System is activated and you enter Fight or Flight mode. The SNS is designed to help you fight off danger and threat by shunting energy/blood flow to the muscles in the extremities of your body, while also releasing hormones to boost your alertness and heart rate. So if you’re stressed out while sitting down for a meal, your SNS will lead the way, and your digestion will be thrown on the back burner.