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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.

  5. Calming Herbs: Peppermint, chamomile, lavender and fennel leaf help to relax the intestinal tract which can relieve gas and bloating. I typically recommend these as teas (steep for 10 minutes minimum) or tinctures, however peppermint capsules are also great.

  6. Spacing fluids away from meals: Drinking fluids close to meal time dilutes stomach acid (HCL), which is a crucial component for healthy digestion! When we don't have enough stomach acid, food sits in our stomach for longer than it should. Eventually it starts to ferment, which causes gas and bloating. Spacing your fluids by 15-30 minutes before and after meal time can be really helpful here. You can also try using apple cider vinegar shots before your meals to stimulate extra stomach acid production - Just mix 1 tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar with 1oz of water and drink 10 minutes before eating (avoid if you have heartburn, reflux, gastritis, or are prone to ulcers).

Healthy foods that might actually be contributing to your bloat

In the midst of my IBS journey I was constantly trying to 'clean up' my diet, but there were so many 'health foods' I was eating that I later learned were making my bloating worse.

If you're worried about bloating this Holiday, best to steer clear of these!

  • Kombucha: Kombucha is a fermented drink that contains Probiotics. Yes, it’s healthy – But more isn’t always better, and we don’t need to be drinking it in such large quantities. The gas bubbles in carbonated drinks directly contribute to bloating, and your gut may not be ready for so many probiotics all in one go. Stick to 1 cup of booch if you’re craving it, it’s more than enough!

  • Huge Raw Salads: if your digestion is compromised in any way you may have a difficult time breaking down so many raw fibers. Try swapping your kale salad out for simple leafy greens with cooked veggies, instead.

  • Boxed Nut Milks: Most of the plant based milks on the market contain more additives and junky ingredients than they do actual nuts. I’m talking sunflower oil, gums, and natural flavorings. If you have a sensitive Gut, these can definitely cause bloating.

  • Sugar Alcohols: I’m seeing Xylitol, mannitol, isomalt, etc. in all the new and trendy “sugar free” snacks. They are definitely much less harmful than aspartame, but they are poorly digested and often lead to bloating, cramps and even diarrhea.

  • Inulin: Inulin is a Prebiotic (aka a food source for Probiotics). If you tolerate it well it can be super helpful, but it’s important to start slow here because it can take some time to adjust to. Never go from 0 to 100!

  • Kale Smoothies: I love my morning green smoothie, but for those with compromised digestion, a glass full of raw cruciferous veggies can be really hard on the Gut. Try swapping your smoothie for something like chia pudding or Oatmeal instead.

Here’s the thing: when you have digestive issues, the Holidays can often be really overwhelming. The combination of social events, a surplus of food, and in some cases, heightened emotions and volatile family dynamics, create the perfect recipe for that holiday bloat. Come back to the tips above to help you set yourself up for success this holiday season and beat the bloat, once and for all!

And if you've tried everything above and are still chronically bloated - let's chat! It may be time to do some deeper digging with a practitioner to figure out your personal root cause. Learn more about working with me here.

Happy Holidays!


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