It’s almost officially summertime, a.k.a. swimsuit season, and many of us are scrambling to lose those few extra pounds we put on during the winter holidays (turkey, stuffing, yams, oh my!). But one thing could be causing your stomach bulge to look bigger than it actually is: belly bloat.
According to a study published in the journal Gastroenterology, abdominal bloat affects around 10-25 percent of the general population, and causes the feeling of a full and swollen belly.
There are various causes of belly bloat, including minor ones like gas-inducing foods and major ones like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or celiac disease. But for those of us who deal with bloating on a regular basis without any serious causes, it can be pretty annoying – especially when you’re trying to button your favorite pair of jeans from last summer. Well, have no fear – we have 10 foods that will help you say, “Bye bye, belly,” this summer!
Yogurt is full of probiotics, which are live microorganisms intended to provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora. While using over-the-counter probiotic supplements can actually cause bloating or other gastrointestinal issues, getting your healthy gut bacteria from real foods can be beneficial.
Bananas are full of potassium, which helps the kidneys get rid of salt and in turn reduces water retention. Not a fan of bananas? Oranges and strawberries are also great sources of potassium! So feel free to indulge in a fruit salad while you lounge by the pool.
Fennel seeds are great bloat-busters. They calm the stomach by relaxing the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and allowing gas to pass through more easily. So in addition to helping prevent bloat, fennel seeds can also relieve existing bloat! This makes them the perfect addition to a summertime meal. Try adding the seeds as a garnish to any dish, or sip on some fennel tea to help cut down bloat.
Many nuts contain healthy fats that will leave you feeling full after a meal, but that isn’t the case for all of them. Some nuts contain “FODMAPs” (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), which are carbohydrates that your stomach can’t fully digest. Eating nuts filled with FODMAPs can cause your colon to produce more gas, which leaves you feeling bloated. To avoid this, try swapping out FODMAP-filled nuts like cashews or pistachios with healthier nuts such as almonds, pecans, or walnuts.
While brown rice is usually considered to be healthier than white, white rice is actually gentler on the stomach. Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice, and that fiber is used as a food source for colonic bacteria. When the bacteria have more to eat, they produce more gas, which can cause bloating.
Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach are another good source of insoluble fiber, which means they help your colon produce stool, thereby reducing your gas and bloat. The great thing about these greens is their versatility – you can put them in salads, soups, smoothies, eggs, you name it! And they’re low in calories, so you can munch on them without the guilt!
Lemons can act as natural waste removers for the body. They work as a subtle laxative to help move stool out of the colon, as well as a diuretic to flush out your kidneys, which can help reduce constipation and water retention. Adding a wedge of lemon to eight ounces of warm water each morning before breakfast is a great way to get rid of belly bloat!
Grilled or broiled chicken
If you’re a meat lover like me, chicken is probably on the menu for you at least once a week, and maybe even more. Another great way to avoid belly bloat is to eat grilled or broiled chicken instead of fried. Fried food is tougher on the stomach, as it typically absorbs more of the fat it’s cooked in, which can cause stress on your GI tract. So ditch your fried food, and try eating meat or seafood that’s grilled or broiled.
Many coffee-lovers can probably say that their morning cups of joe are usually followed by a trip to the bathroom, and there’s a reason why. It turns out that black coffee can help keep your bowel movements regular. As long as you stay away from too much sugar or dairy, which can negate the benefits to your GI tract, your daily cup can keep you feeling lighter than air this summer.
Eating ginger can help food pass more quickly through your digestive tract. This allows your food to spend less time in your gut, which stops it from going through the fermentation process that causes gas and bloating. Adding ginger to a cup of tea, or sprinkling it over your food for some extra flavor can help reduce your bloat and get you swimsuit ready.
You can look and feel better by paying attention to what you put in your body. While these remedies are great for a belly bloat quick fix during the summer, it’s important to take care of our GI tract year-round. And if your bloating is consistent or painful, or you think the problem is unrelated to your diet, you should speak to your doctor.