Whether it’s in person or online, one of the questions I get more than any other is how to reduce or eliminate bloating. It’s a really big issue, and so I’m dedicating this entire post to it.
First, let me say that I have some good and bad news about bloating.
The good news about bloating is that often times, we confuse it with fat — when that’s not really the case! Some people call it “false fat” for this very reason. Bloating comes in the form of gas and water weight, adding inches and puffiness to our body, especially around the waist.
This means, when you reduce bloating, you look significantly thinner and healthier — even if you haven’t burned off any additional fat! Pretty great, right? That’s yet another reason to drop our unhealthy obsession with micromanaging weight, pounds and calories! Which is amazing.
Ready for the bad news?
It’s simple: bloating is really a health issue, and as such, there is no quick fix. But there are things you can do to help for sure, which will help reduce the issue more and more from chronically occurring over time. I myself am truly speaking from personal experience. I used to be and feel bloated all the time, and no wonder when I look at my eating and overall lifestyle habits, which included drinking beer and eating dairy and bad food combinations daily.
If you’re currently experiencing bloating, you’ll need to make one (or more!) of the changes I’m going to suggest to you. Some of them will be familiar if you’ve read my book or blog before, but in this post I’m going to relate everything specifically to bloating.
3 Main Causes of Bloating
Beauty Detox puts a constant emphasis I play on the importance of digestion. I’ve written about it extensively in The Beauty Detox Solution and The Beauty Detox Foods and elsewhere. Digestion is such a central process in our bodies, one of the most energy intensive. Digestion is also responsible for not only breaking down food but also helping absorb and assimilate nutrients. When your digestion is efficient and healthy, your entire body functions well.
Yet, when digestion is not working well, that’s when congestion and bloating begins. For instance, the mere act of overeating can create indigestion, because the body doesn’t have sufficient hydrochloric acid and enzymes to digest all the food your body has taken in.
So, it does the best that it can, and then if there’s extra food it can’t break down — it basically begins to turn that food into waste. If that excess food/waste is not eliminated quickly enough, it may ferment and rot, creating growth of unfriendly bacteria to further aid the breakdown of the food.
These unfriendly bacteria then feed on the extra food and produce gas in the process.
So the key takeaway here is: indigestion produces gas and gas creates bloating.
We don’t want any excess gas in our tummy or digestive system! More on this in a moment.
2) Water retention
This is another big one. We’ve all (especially us women!) had the experience of holding onto too much water and feeling “waterlogged” and heavy. It’s hard to describe this yucky feeling, but we’ve all experienced it!
Now, there are many, MANY reasons why your cells might hold onto too much water — sometimes one of the causes is not drinking enough water! Sounds strange, but when you don’t get enough water, your body sometimes holds onto more water and creates that dreaded “puffy” look.
So be sure you drink plenty of water, and also that you get lots of pure water from the fruits and vegetables in your diet. Plenty of pure water will help dilute and eliminate the toxins and impurities, making your body less likely to get puffy or bloated.
Here are several other reasons you might retain water:
Capillaries — Fluid (liquid) rich in nutrients, vitamins and oxygen continuously passes from tiny blood vessels (capillaries) into surrounding tissues – this fluid is known as interstitial fluid (tissue fluid). Interstitial fluid nourishes cells and eventually makes its way back to the capillaries. Water retention may occur if pressure inside the capillaries changes, which can occur from too much stress, an excess salt, too much oil/fat.
The lymphatic system — which consists of a network of vessels throughout the body, drains this fluid from tissues and empties it back into the bloodstream. However, if too much fluid is released in the first place the lymphatic system can be overwhelmed – it is unable to return fluid fast enough, and it accumulates (fluid retention).
The heart — Normal pressure within blood vessels is partly maintained by the pumping force of the heart. However, if the heart starts to fail (congestive heart failure), there will be a change in blood pressure, which often results in serious water retention.
If bloating in a premenopausal woman follows a pattern, it’s likely to be related to the menstrual cycle. During the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase, women can retain water, which causes swelling in not only the abdomen but sometimes in the hands, feet and breasts.
The rising levels of hormones also have a direct effect on the gastointenstinal tract. “This hormonal effect causes the GI tract not to empty as quickly and to produce gas,” explains Dr. Grace Janik, director of reproductive endocrinology at St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee.
Because stool and gas are moving more slowly through the intestines, women often have constipation and bloating in the two weeks before their periods. Of course, this can be greatly ameliorated by eating a healthy diet and using some of the tips I provide below, but it can present another challenging for us ladies than it is for men!
Now that you understand the deeper causes of bloating, let’s get into the actionable tips…
De-Bloating Tip #1: Stoke Your Digestive Fire!
In Ayurvedic and Asian medicine, the digestive system runs on the fire element. Thus, foods and herbs that support warmth and strength in this area are highly valued and encouraged. Some of these include ginger, cayenne pepper, lemon, cinnamon and others.
This is also a big reason why an exclusively raw diet is not recommended in those traditions, because your digestive system becomes “cool” and weakens over time. But when we do eat raw foods, and I still do recommend eating a lot of raw veggies and fruit, as well as some seeds and nuts, we can add “fire” to the mix with these aforementioned foods. So lemon in the #GlowingGreenSmoothie for instance, and cayenne pepper in the Dharma’s Oil-Free Kale Salad.
Keep these “fire” promoting foods on hand to add into recipes easily.
De-Bloating Tip #2: Don’t “Chill” your Digestion!
Of course, it’s easy to just focus on foods. But what and how you’re drinking can have a big impact as well. I cringe when I see people drinking ice cold liquids during meals. This will impede the digestive process by diluting gastric juices, such as your HCL, and cooling your overall digestion at a critical time. You also dilute the digestive enzymes your body needs for the effective digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
If you need water or a beverage between meals, sip on room temperature water or hot tea, but no chugging — and definitely nothing too cold! Best to hydrate between meals—at least 30 minutes before, and wait at least 45 minutes after eating to start drinking large amounts of liquids.
De-Bloating Tip #3: No More Fizzy Drinks!
Soda and other falsely carbonated beverages are one of the worst culprits of bloating. This includes beer, champagne, tonic water and anything with the carbonation added. Carbonated soft drinks have air bubbles that travel to the stomach and release carbon dioxide within the digestive tract, creating an uncomfortable bloating sensation. (Kombucha is okay, in moderation, because the carbonation is naturally created and much milder.)
Not only do artificial carbonated drinks create an acidic metabolic state in your body, but they’re loaded with chemicals and contains HFCS (regular soda) or artificial sweeteners (diet soda) — or yeast (beer), all of which create even more bloating. Yeast and corn syrup are especially bad for bloating because they both feed unfriendly bacteria.
De-Bloating Tip #4: Ditch Hard-to-Digest Foods!
Anything that is hard to digest will leave you feeling bloated, plain and simple. Dairy is known to particularly cause bloating, since it lacks all its enzymes and is one of the hardest foods most people can digest. So avoid it or cut back all together. Excessive meat, or processed foods with unnatural ingredients will also slow down your digestion quite a bit and set the stage for fermentation, putrefaction and bloating.
One of the things that’s very important with Beauty Detox is getting used to feeling “light” after meals. Many of us spent much of our early life feeling heavy after eating, and we associate that heaviness with satiety. Then, later when we start eating a diet more rich in plant foods, it’s easy to feel light and crave something heavy to get that familiar “full” feeling. If this has been your experience, just know that it’s okay to feel light and your body will adjust. Over time, you’ll get used to how good it feels to be light after eating and you’ll never want to go back!
De-Bloating Tip #5: Avoid Excessive Salt and Additives
This one you’ve definitely heard, but it’s really important and worth repeating: avoid processed foods laden with excessive salt. Table salt is really de-natured sodium chloride salt. Table salt is dead, kiln-dried, highly processed, and will also create “false fat”, making you look bloated and up to 9 pounds heavier than you truly weigh. There are many “hidden” sources of bad salt in all kinds of packaged foods, so your best bet is to avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Small amounts of high quality sea salt can be used in strict moderation, when a salty flavor is desired. This is natural salt with all the trace elements intact, and is something our bodies have adapted to eat for thousands of years. Of course, too much of sea salt will create bloating as well, but our bodies are more naturally equipped to eliminate any excess salt in this form. Over time, as you stop eating excessively salty processed foods, you won’t find the need to add as much salt to your foods naturally, and foods will still taste flavorful.
De-Bloating Tip #6: Don’t Eat to Total Fullness
It takes a while for your body to signal fullness, so if you eat until you feel completely full, chances are you will have overeaten, which can lead to a bloated feeling. Likewise, completely stuffing yourself makes it more difficult for efficient digestion to occur and for digestive juices to do their job.
So, if you want to avoid feeling bloated, particularly after meals, then don’t eat until you are full. Instead, eat slowly, chew well and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Stopping when you feel about 75 percent full will maximize your body’s ability to digest the foods you eat and help prevent bloating.
De-Bloating Tip #7: Light-to-Heavy and Beauty Food Pairing
Throughout The Beauty Detox Solution, The Beauty Detox Foods , The Beauty Detox Power and this blog, I’ve mentioned the benefits of starting your meal with a green salad or Probiotic & Enzyme Salad (or both)– to assist digestion.
This not only brings you digestive-enhancing enzymes, it helps you avoid overeating the heavier foods that are more difficult to digest and that cause bloat. Salad veggies contain fiber and healthy nutrients that fill you up and serve as a natural form of calorie restriction. The enzymes in the greens also kick start your digestive processes, preparing the way for heavier foods to come.
A word of caution, however. When you do eat salad, keep it light. Don’t add in heavy cream-based dressings or chunks of cheese, or dressings with lots of bad oils.
Even nuts can be too heavy for a salad (unless it’s an entree salad). Instead, use lemon or apple cider vinegar and perhaps a little bit of avocado for fat in your pre-meal salads! Check out some of our dressing recipes here on the site.
De-Bloating Tip #8: KISS!
In the Standard American Diet, you often see people consume few types of protein (surf and turf, eggs and bacon, etc.), a starchy side dish like potatoes, pasta or rice, and vegetables or legumes like beans. These foods come along with several different condiments, butter, oils and other additives. Is there any wonder we see so many bloated bellies out there?
Eating out can entail several courses with dozens of ingredients, salt, hydrogenated oil, and more — which then all have to be digested at the same time. As we covered earlier in this post — many heavy foods at once can lead to fermentation, which leads to gassiness and bloating, which are two sure signs food is not digesting as optimally as it should.
The easy way to help prevent gassiness and bloating is to use the KISS principle. KISS stands for Keep It Simple Silly! ;) And that means, eating fewer food groups and ingredients per meal. If you make a salad, don’t add 12 different vegetables and spices and other ingredients — try 5-8 ingredients total. At a restaurant, order salad as your starter instead of an elaborate, heavy appetizer. Pair heavier foods, like animal protein or starches with veggies and salads, rather than each other. Making simple meals with raw and cooked vegetables not only saves you time in the kitchen, but it supports your health and prevents unwanted bloat.
De-Bloating Tip #9: Choose the Right Supplements
While there are a seemingly infinite number of supplements out there that can be taken, I generally recommend three primary supplements for bloating. Not surprisingly, they all have to do with optimizing digestion and elimination.
The first is Probiotics. And that’s because probiotics are literally the building blocks of a healthy digestive system. They help digest food, keep pathogens at bay, aid your immune system and so much more. Our Probiotic is especially powerful for reducing bloating, with many of the reviews noting change in the first month.
The next one is DETOXY+ — which is a powerful, magnesium-based internal cleanser that helps remove unwanted waste and increase detoxification in your colon. Given that old, stagnant waste plays a big part in bloating, DETOXY+ is a very potent way to eliminate gas and shrink your tummy by reducing the bloat.
The third is digestive enzymes. These help greatly with the digestion and break down of food, reducing the energy expenditure on your own body whenever you eat. This is especially true when eating cooked food, which are lower in digestive enzyme levels. I generally take enzymes when I eat cooked food and two brands I like are Rainbow Light and Garden of Life. I’ve heard Enzymedica is also very good.
De-Bloating Tip #10: De-Stress Your Life
This last one is probably you don’t hear often, so let me explain. Stress cam have a very strong impact on your digestion, and therefore the level of bloating you experience. Look at this quote from Harvard’s Health Site:
“Multiple factors — biological, psychological, and social — contribute to the development of a functional gastrointestinal disorder. Numerous studies have suggested that stress may be particularly important, however. The relationship between environmental or psychological stress and gastrointestinal distress is complex and bidirectional: stress can trigger and worsen gastrointestinal pain and other symptoms, and vice versa. This is why psychological therapies are often used in combination with other treatments — or even on their own — to treat functional gastrointestinal disorders.” 
I don’t think we necessarily need a scientific explanation, though. Because we’ve all felt a difference when we’ve eaten in a state of fear or distress — how our food doesn’t sit well, our stomach may feel unsettled or upset. For some, this results in downright heartburn.
So take special care to eat under peaceful, joyous circumstances. It will affect your digestion in a very positive way and you’ll feel so much better.
No More Bloat!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. We’ve covered the causes of bloating, and then at least 10 simple actions you can do to dramatically reduce or eliminate bloating in your body.
Following these steps along with the core principles of Beauty Detox will help ensure you have optimal digestion, minimum puffiness or bloating, and feel your best.
Let me know if you have any thoughts, in the comments below.
Thanks so much and we’ll talk again soon! =)
Suarez K, et al. “Psychological Stress and Self-Reported Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders,” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (March 2010): Vol. 198, No. 3, pp. 226–29.