Nutrition: Simple changes in your daily habits can help prevent a bloated stomach
Nothing is as exasperating as having a bloated tummy just when you are trying to maintain a respectable waistline. Most often, the causes are what one ate at the previous meal, intolerance to certain foods, swallowing air or due to constipation. Certain medical conditions aside, the bloating could also be due to excessive use of laxatives and artificial sweeteners, specific antibiotics and a very high intake of fibre.
Simple changes in your habits can help prevent or alter the discomfort to a great extent.
— Avoid foods that produce excess gas during digestion: Certain vegetables when eaten raw or half cooked such as cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, broccoli, potatoes, courgettes and onions can cause excessive gas. Beans also contribute to bloating for most aged people when their digestion slows down. The items are unique to each person, so not all may be culprits for everyone. Keep a note of bloating attacks after eating; this will help you identify the cause and simply avoid those foods or eat them in minimal amounts. Beans produce less gas when soaked overnight before cooking and if they are cooked well.
— Don’t talk and eat at the same time: This can make you swallow air. So don’t talk while chewing (small talk between morsels is fine) and chew with your mouth closed. Also, since digestion starts with the breaking down of foods by teeth and mixing with saliva, swallowing hurriedly without chewing well can poorly digest your foods and cause bloating. Don’t slouch when you eat. Diet soft drinks, soda, fizzy tablets and chewing gum also let in air.
— Constipation: Deal with this and you will find a lot of relief from a bloated stomach. When you eat high fibre foods, don’t forget to drink lots of water and fresh juices too. Physical activity increases motility of the intestines, which relieves constipation and the subsequent bloating. Certain yoga postures also help.
— Food intolerance: Intolerance to gluten in wheat and lactose in milk and other dairy products causes excess gas production in the digestive tract as a response to the intolerant food and thereby bloating and cramping. If eating lesser amounts of these foods at a time does not help, you may then need to cut them out totally. If you suspect intolerance to any foods you need to visit a physician.
Sometimes the symptoms of bloating and stomach cramps can also be due to certain more serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, obstruction in the gut or inflammatory bowel diseases that need medical help.
(The writer is a nutritionist)