“If I want to be sure I’m not bloated on a certain occasion, I use these tips and they work!”
Ugh, it’s happened again. You woke up this morning with a nice, flat belly, and now at 7pm you look like you’re 6 months pregnant.
Not only is bloating unflattering, it’s also uncomfortable. And it can force you to change outfits at the last minute or ruin your fun pool party plans.
I feel like bloating is my arch nemesis. No…it definitely is my arch nemesis.
And the more I’ve learned about bloating, the more I’ve realized it affects everybody! Yes, everybody. Don’t let Instagram fool you.
For the longest time, I’ve been annoyed by the vague bloating advice out there. It’s always the same, and pretty much always unhelpful. Drink tons of water, have a shot of apple cider vinegar every day, drink a glass of celery juice every morning – gah! I don’t have time, money, or energy to implement all these things, especially when they probably won’t even work!
So is there no hope for preventing bloating? Or reducing it if it’s already occurring? Do you have a big event coming up, like a wedding or a beach vacation, and want to do everything you can do decrease bloating that day?
I feel ya. And I do have good news! As someone who’s done so much research into this topic already, and gotten a few tricks up her sleeve, I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you today.
Our bodies are fickle things, and I definitely don’t have all the bloating answers. Plus, I like food. So sometimes I’ll eat things I know aren’t in my de-bloating best interests.
But! I know how frustrating bloating can be, so I wanted to share my experience with you in the hopes that you’ll find some of this information new and useful!
Why we bloat
Alright, let’s get down to business. Bloating can be caused by two things: water retention and/or gas build-up. There are a number of reasons either of these can occur.
1. Water Retention
Okay, this is kinda bloating 101. Water retention is a really common cause of bloating, and the fixes are actually already widely known.
It’s true what they say. Eating lots of salt (aka sodium) will cause you to bloat.
(For more on this and a recommendation for daily sodium intake, read my post on sodium!)
You can absolutely help prevent and decrease water retention bloating by limiting the amount of salt you eat.
Try these tips:
– Avoid eating out the day before and day of an event (restaurants put so much salt in their food!)
– Don’t add salt when cooking at home
– Avoid obviously salty foods like chips, popcorn, and pretzels
– Check nutrition labels and avoid sneakily salty foods like pasta sauces, breads/bagels, and salad dressings
If you’ve eaten a lot of salt and are suffering from water retention, try out some natural diuretics. these are things that will cause you to urinate, ridding your body of excess water. Some examples of natural diuretics include asparagus, lemon, hibiscus, and dandelion.
Tips for including these foods in your diet:
– Eat asparagus for dinner the night before a big event
– Drink a mug of hibiscus or dandelion root tea that night after dinner, a couple hours before bed
– Begin your big day with a glass of warm lemon water
It’s true what they say: drinking more water helps reduce bloating. This is because when you’re dehydrated, your body will react by holding onto the water already in it.
To counteract this mechanism, drink plenty of water throughout the day. Keep a bottle of water by you and take sips from it frequently.
This is one of those tips that everyone says for a reason. Personally, I’ve noticed a decrease in my bloating over the course of a day just from drinking more water. If you’re not an avid water drinker, having a few more glasses a day could be a game-changer for you.
2. Gas Build-Up
I need to preface this section with reminding you that everyone’s bodies are different! So the food that works for me may not work for you.
But when you eat a food that your body doesn’t tolerate well, it will have a hard time breaking it down to use it as fuel. This will increase your intestinal gas production, leading to bloating.
Food is the number one reason we bloat. Or I should say, certain foods.
It’s still unclear if the huge rise in food intolerances is due mostly to antibiotics, but I personally attribute most of my bloating issues to them. I can pinpoint two times I was on antibiotics in college, both of which preceded worsening stomach issues.
And since then, I’ve had to pay a lot more attention to what I eat.
Take it from someone who’s tried pretty much every food lifestyle: there’s no “one size fits all” diet for everyone. And you don’t necessarily need to fit into any one eating plan.
A few days ago, I was reading an article on bloating with a 3 day meal plan that actually had a lot of really good advice, but the comments tore the article apart. Many people said they could never eat the foods on the meal plan and called out a few of the foods.
BUT EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! Even a 3-day de-bloating meal plan may need to be tweaked a little for each person.
For example, I tolerate dairy really well. Yogurt doesn’t bloat me at all – and actually soothes my stomach – whereas soy, cashew, and coconut yogurts all give me terrible stomachaches 30 minutes later. But for someone with lactose intolerance, dairy will be a no-go!
If one meal calls for yogurt and you’re lactose intolerant, of course you couldn’t eat it. Have another protein-rich food you tolerate instead, such as eggs. If you’re vegan, make a tofu scramble.
I think that’s why bloating has become such a frustrating problem for so many people. Because when they go out in search of helpful information, they find different things that work for different people.
However, there are some overarching bloating trends that dietitians continually share. These are the things that tend to be true for most people, regardless of their individual food intolerances.
– Cut down on sugary foods and processed foods
– Avoid raw, hard-to-digest veggies, such as cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts
– Don’t drink alcohol the night before
– Avoid your specific trigger foods: for me that’s bananas, beans, and hummus
Work out consistently
I’ve definitely noticed a flatter, less bloated belly with regular exercise. Working out keeps our metabolism revved and our GI tract moving. While it’s just one piece of the puzzle, it’s a helpful way to keep bloating at a minimum.
Get tons of sleep
There’s no doubt about it: the more sleep I get, the flatter my stomach. 8 hours is definitely better for bloating than 6 hours, but I’ve noticed that when I completely sleep in – I’m talking 9 or 10 hours – that’s when my bloating’s at it’s least.
While it may not be realistic for us all to get 10 hours of sleep every night (and I definitely don’t have time for that!), prioritizing your sleep will definitely help with your bloating.
Before a big event, try to go to bed early. This is also what model and YouTuber Sanne Vloet recommends the night before a bikini photo shoot. Aim to get at least 8 hours – and if you can get more, then even better!
Watch what you eat before bed
I don’t prescribe to any set plan like “don’t eat 2 hours before bed” or “don’t eat after dinner.” If you’ve read my late night snacking post, you’ll know I have to eat something after dinner.
But when I tried out the Fit Girls’ Guide a couple years ago, I learned something extremely helpful. In the guide (which is often used to lose weight, but I used to tone up), the meal plan suggested light snacks such as a piece of fruit. So after dinner, I would eat an apple or an orange before bed with nothing else.
And I noticed that my bloating decreased immensely!
Yes, fruits have sugars in them. But they’re naturally occurring, and fruits also have fiber, water, and are unprocessed.
So if I really want to make sure I’m not bloated the next day, my only after dinner snack will be a piece of fruit that I know I can tolerate!
Still struggling to reduce bloating?
Lastly, if you still can’t shake the bloating, I’d recommend keeping a food diary.
Personally, I hate keeping food diaries. It’s time-consuming and inconvenient to write down everything you eat. But when you’re stumped, it’s really your best option.
And when in doubt, see a registered dietitian or other qualified health professional. They’ll have way more experience dealing with bloating causes and can be the objective eye you need to help identify your triggers!
Things I didn’t find helpful
Like I said before, I’ve tried pretty much every eating lifestyle and pretty much every bloating tip. But they haven’t all been helpful.
1. Proper food combining
One thing that didn’t help me was proper food combining. This is where you only eat certain foods at the same time, depending on how well they digest together. It’s based on the idea that some foods will travel through your GI tract much faster than others.
For example, watermelon will go extremely quickly, whereas a piece of chicken will go much slower.
While some people swear by it, I didn’t find proper food combining sustainable. I didn’t notice any lasting results, and it was too stressful finding the right foods to eat at the right times.
Any meal plan that’s that hard to implement just isn’t worth it, in my opinion.
2. Mono meals
Along the same lines, eating mono meals – or just one food at a meal – didn’t sit very well with me. A lot people who do this will typically just eat one type of fruit, like bananas, oranges, or mangoes.
For me, although I think fruit sugar is just fine, this was probably a fruit sugar overload. Many dietitians who review these mono meal eating plans also say they’re just not healthy.
And because you have to eat so many pieces of fruit to feel full and get enough calories, I felt too full afterwards. I may not have been bloated exactly, but it would give me a food baby for sure.
My takeaway? Stick with “normal” meals. Any diet that makes you eat odd things at odd times is just not needed – and won’t necessarily help either!
Those are my tips! I hope you found something helpful in here that’ll help you get rid of that pesky bloating on your important day.
I may not be bloat-free all the time, but I can pretty much always identify what it was that I did or ate that caused it – whether that be lack of sleep or a sugary juice I drank. If I want to be sure I’m not bloated on a certain occasion, I use these tips and they work!
Have any other tips on how to reduce bloating? Like I said, everyone’s different! Share your experience below and maybe you’ll help someone else!