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Seven steps to banish bloating

Battle of the bulge: avoiding refined carbohydrates and soaking nuts can help relieve bloating

Of the 14 million hashtags used last month on social media, right at the very top was #fashion, followed closely by #style and #beautiful.

Fortunately, #love was right in there too, adding something a little deeper to the mix.

It’s easy to criticise apps like Instagram for being superficial but it’s a great tool for generating amazing images. And as long as we recognise it for what it is, it’s all good.

We just have to remember that we can’t apply all those filters in real life (damn it …) so it’s important to keep our expectations in check.

The sunsets you see with your own eyes are the best anyway, even better if you have your toes in the ocean and look up for long enough to drink it all in.

Fortunately, it’s not all abs and pictures of people’s breakfasts. Instagram gets used a lot for change and awareness too.

Tags like #metoo and #turnthetideonplastic have helped draw attention to major social and environmental issues.

I’ve loved #ihaveembraced, designed to help women embrace body confidence no matter what their size or self-perceived flaws.

It’s hard to be at ease when our media images are so heavily adjusted and manipulated, but that’s the goal.

Joining the body-lovin’ ranks today was #bloatisbeautiful, aiming to get women to relax their pursuit of a perfectly flat stomach.

Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch — it’s so annoying when your stomach is tight and sore at the end of the day, especially if you made a stream of healthy choices!

I’m cool with recognising that our stomachs just aren’t always going to be flat (especially post babies!) and I’m also good with letting the struggle go sometimes.

The thing is with bloating, there’s actually lots you can do about it and so, if it’s OK with you, I’m going to reject #bloatisbeautiful and give you #banishbloating instead.

Here are seven easy steps! It doesn’t cover everything under the sun — and I’m overlooking food sensitivities entirely — but it’s a good place to start.

(PS I’m actually writing this with the children in the office and the bagel crumbs and hyperactivity are somewhat out of control. Belle has found a book on my shelf called Birth and Beyond; she’s just traumatised herself with pictures from a water birth. I feel like I’m failing at parenting right now. Most appropriate hashtags? #passthewine #andastraw)

1, Soak your nuts!

Ah, just about my favourite nutrition joke. But you really should soak your nuts! And your beans, lentils and grains too.

All of them have enzyme inhibitors on the outside that can interfere with digestion and cause you to puff up if you’re sensitive.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to do it with everything but most important is to rinse any beans or chickpeas you use from a can.

All the liquid in there is packed full of enzyme inhibitors so, even if your recipe says to use it, don’t!

If you’re cooking things from scratch, then they require different lengths of time for soaking and I have a super-handy chart that lists the recommendations. I’ll share it on Facebook and Instagram today so check it out there!

2, Avoid refined carbohydrates

Refined carbs like white rice, white bread, white pasta, cookies, cakes and candy are classic culprits for triggering bloat!

Replace them with wholegrain versions, fresh fruit, beans/lentils (rinsed or soaked), butternut squash or sweet potato instead.

Always go easy on portion size though — as a very general guide, up to one-quarter of your plate!

3, Address dysbiosis

We have approximately 5lbs of friendly bacteria living both in and on our bodies. Weird, huh? Most of them are “friendly” bacteria but some will be “unfriendly”.

Sugar, birth control pills, steroids, antibiotics, alcohol and parasitic infections can all cause overgrowth of bad bacteria, resulting in intestinal dysbiosis.

You can help rectify this by cutting your sugars and increasing fermented foods and live yoghurt.

You can also take a probiotic supplement but you need to make sure it’s top quality. My favourite is the Innate Choice probiotic from Inside Out Wellness Centre, but the Solgar brand (Down to Earth) is good and Rock On and People’s Pharmacy also have quality options too.

Note that while a general formula is often effective, you might sometimes benefit from clinical testing to determine the details of an overgrowth and identify the best strains of friendly bacteria to help rectify the situation.

4, Try apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains live enzymes that can help improve digestion.

Try one tablespoon in warm water (with a little honey or maple if need be) to kick off your day. My favourite is the Bragg brand (Supermart) but please note that it’s unpasteurised.

5, Avoid carbonated drinks

Drinking bubbles can give you bubbles! If you are going to drink anything carbonated, I suggest you do it between meals.

6, Try and relax at meal time

Clients with bloating are often convinced they have food sensitivities or worse. Sometimes that’s the case but it’s all too easy to go down the road of excluding foods when there’s something more simple at play.

Stress causes peristalsis to seize up. Peristalsis is the muscular motion that drives food through your digestive tract.

So if you eat when you’re stressed, it’s not uncommon to get heartburn or bloating.

7, Include anti-bloat options!

Asparagus is a diuretic and can help reduce bloating. Cucumber can be helpful too. Lemon water can kick-start your digestion in the morning (try lemon juice in warm water when you wake up).

One of the most effective strategies for dealing with an already-bloated tummy is simply drinking peppermint tea.

Dandelion and fennel teas can also be helpful — especially if you boil them really well and sip them slowly.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda