Beat the bloat at Christmas
Feeling bloated can put a damper on your day & make you feel really uncomfortable. So here are five ways to help you keep the bloat at bay this Christmas
Know your carbs
Tempting though it may be to cut out all the carb-containing festive foods unless you have a medical reason to avoid them completely (such as coeliac disease or diagnosed gluten intolerance), a total purge of these may not only slow down your digestion but you risk missing out on enough fibre. Instead swap refined carbs (like white bread and pasta) for small portions of whole grains containing plenty of fibre, to aid digestion and help regulate blood sugar levels, meaning you should keep everything moving through your body and feel less hungry, too.
Good choice whole grains to include in your winter diet include oats, so start your day with a healthy bowl of porridge to get you through the darker mornings. For lunch and dinner, try adding quinoa, brown rice or whole grain bread to your meal. Don’t forget veg, fruit, nuts and seeds to boost fibre.
Eat & drink mindfully
It’s obvious but probably worth saying again, what you put into your body affects how it looks on the outside and how you feel on the inside. When it comes to beating the bloat, salt isn’t your friend. High-sodium foods can cause water retention, which leads to bloating.
Most of the salt we eat is hidden in everyday foods – bread, cereals, snacks, and ready meals – so it’s a good idea not to add more when cooking or serving. Current guidelines recommend that adults eat no more than 6g of salt a day (about one teaspoon), so get into the habit of checking food labels, choosing those that are lower in salt and have a green or amber traffic light for salt.
Cutting down on foods that cause wind will also go a long way to limiting the effects of bloating. Known culprits include beans (no, we won’t sing THAT song!), sugar-free mints and gum, cabbage, sprouts, garlic and onions, so maybe avoid the cabbage-soup diet for a week or so before an event!
Chewing your food thoroughly and slowly, so as not to swallow too much air, as well as avoiding chewing gum, very hot or very cold foods and eating smaller meals more often can also help beat the bloat.
If you’re stressed or in a rush, it can be tempting to just grab and go when it comes to food, but if you make time to really enjoy your meals (not eating slumped in front of the TV and not wolfing down your lunch at your desk), your tummy will thank you. Your granny was right about sitting up straight!
Forget the fizz
No, we’re not talking fizz fizz, (who doesn’t love a glass of champagne at Christmas time?) but rather carbonated drinks. Both diet and full-fat drinks are chock-full of carbon dioxide gas that once swallowed can get trapped in your digestive system. Replace these with water instead, try keeping a jug or bottle nearby at all times so you’re not tempted to reach for a bottle of your favourite drink. Not a water-lover? Add slices of lemon and lime, or cucumber and mint to jazz it up. Peppermint oil could also be beneficial in reducing the bloat, so swap your usual teabags for some herbal ones. Sip, sip, hooray!
Be a yoga poser
As well as making better food choices over the festive period, gentle exercise such as yoga can help alleviate symptoms of bloating, by stretching out stomach and abdominal muscles and releasing trapped gas.
The classic ‘knees-to-chest’ pose (often called the wind-relieving pose, for obvious reasons) is a great place to start. Begin by lying on your back then take a deep breath in and slowly bring your knees up to your chest, hugging them with your arms. Then rock gently from side to side while breathing deeply and steadily. Hold for 20 seconds to begin with and then gradually increase the time to one minute as you get stronger.
‘Child’s pose’ is where you kneel on the floor, hips on heels, then bend forwards until your hands are stretched as far in front of your head as you can comfortably manage. This also reduces bloating by applying pressure to the lower abdomen, helping to release gas. Why not make yoga part of your New Year routine for a relaxed way to help combat bloating?
Get some Zzzzzzs
With the hustle and bustle of the festive season, you might be tempted to get up earlier and go to bed later so you can pack more into the holidays. But a lack of sleep – or rather lack of ‘quality’ sleep – can play havoc with our bodies.
When we skimp on snoozing, our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol that can disrupt our digestive systems. It may also affect appetite, which in theory could lead to overeating and, you’ve got it, even more bloat. Adults need about seven-nine hours of sleep a night, so at weekends, instead of setting an alarm to wake up, how about setting one to go to bed so you wake up refreshed and revived?