Digestive bloating is not a comfortable feeling.
“Bloating can be caused by a number of things, such as rushing through your food which contributes to poor digestion, not regularly eliminating, and an imbalance of bacteria, or dysbiosis in the gut” explains naturopath Rebekah Russell.
Thankfully, there are some simple dietary and lifestyle-based steps you can take to help improve your gut health and beat abdominal bloating.
Here are 5 of the best natural ways to get started.
1. Practise mindful eating
Rather than hurrying through dinner and lunch, use mealtimes as an opportunity to relax, slow down and properly chew and savour your food.
“There’s something we term the ‘green zone’, which is when your parasympathetic nervous system is dominant, and healing, restoration and digestion takes place,” says Russell.
“And that’s the zone you want to be in when you eat, compared to the sympathetic state where you’re anxious and rushing and blood actually gets diverted away from the stomach.”
2. Eat probiotic-rich foods
“There are some intestinal bugs that are okay in small amounts, but when they become a dominant strain they ferment and produce gas, causing bloating and indigestion,” says Russell.
To help improve the balance of good to bad bacteria in the gut, eating probiotic-rich foods will help reduce digestive complaints. Try adding probiotic-rich yoghurt or traditional fermented foods and drinks such as miso, tempeh, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut to your daily diet.
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3. Move your body
Regular exercise can go a long way towards deflating a bloated belly. “Exercise promotes peristalsis, which is the movement of food through the digestive tract – without it, the body has to work a lot harder to move food through the intestines,” explains Russell.
You don’t need to spend hours at the gym to make a difference: a UK study into the effects of exercise and irritable bowel syndrome suggests that aiming for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days per week may help to get you more regular which will help you keep bloating at bay.
4. Sip ginger tea
A digestive tonic, ginger stimulates the flow of saliva, bile and gastric secretions, and may help to promote the movement of food through the digestive tract.
“You can make your own ginger tea by adding chunks of ginger root to boiled water and letting it steep for 20 minutes before drinking the brew,” suggests Russell. “It’s very soothing for the stomach and can help if there’s any discomfort.”
5. Try diaphragmatic breathing
Deep belly breathing helps to activate your diaphragm, the large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs.
“That in itself will exert some pressure on the digestive system and help keep things moving, as well as switching your nervous system into the parasympathetic ‘green’ zone, which aids digestion,” says Russell.
To practise diaphragmatic breathing, simply inhale through your nose, so that your belly moves outward. Then, breathe out slowly through pursed lips, letting your stomach muscles fall inward as you exhale.
Try doing this for five minutes, three times a day (or whenever you catch yourself shallow breathing).
Want more advice on how to tackle bloating? Ask a Blackmores naturopath for free, personalised advice.