Written by: Jen Cox - AdvDip NAT + WHM. @keeperandkin
What’s enough to make you avoid tight clothing and feel very nervous during the quiet portions of a yoga class? It’s the health gripe so common - in Women especially – that it warrants these wise words from friend of mine: “unless you see a baby physically exiting her body, do not ask a woman when she is due. There is every chance she’s having a food baby, not a human one.” Because, bloating.
While graphically visual, my friend does have an excellent point. Parents of food babies are everywhere, one in six adults suffer with regular bloating. The common nature of this is likely due to its multiple, interactive causes. The major culprits are:
You’re into food, but it’s just not that into you.
Bloating happens when you eat the wrong food for your body. This may be something you are allergic to, sensitive to or which has gone bad. It can occur by accident (AKA food poisoning) though is frequently done with consent, as I have never, I mean NEVER met a lactose intolerant person who does not love cheese.
Ensuring you drink plenty of water before meals and having activated charcoal on hand to help with bloating first aid are great for when you fall off the wagon. Considering an elimination diet like the Whole 30 is a great way of figuring out what you may be reacting to if you don’t know already.
You’re too stressed to digest.
If you constantly have mental tabs open and a to do list that grows rather than shrinks – this may be your culprit. Stress causes bloating in a few ways:
~ The ‘rest and digest’ phase, where food is properly broken down and nutrients assimilated, happens in the exact opposite state of the permanent ‘fight or flight’ that is so common in our modern environment. This means that while the right food may go in to your body, it likely spends time fermenting in the gut while it waits for digestion to become a priority. If you are stressed all the time, this will not happen often (if ever) which causes bloating.
Taking time out to eat meals and committing to 5 deep breaths before you eat will help bring your body into the focus area for digestion. It’s time to stop eating lunch at your desk, people.
~ Stress causes us to make poor food choices. You are more likely to crave salty, sweet or fatty foods when under pressure, or opt for fast food. While easy, these are all notoriously hard to digest (and can contain unexpected ingredients.) Couple this with not chewing properly because your mind is already moving on the next task and ta da! Food baby town.
Carrying snacks to help tie you over till an appropriate food choice appears are a great way of avoiding the sugary, salty, delicious but not so friendly snacks our stressed bods crave. Things that help balance blood sugar are always a good option and they don’t have to be fancy! Activated nuts, cut up veggies, apples and enzyme rich foods like kiwi, blueberries and pineapple are all great choices.
~ Over the longer term, stress creates systemic inflammation. This does a bunch of things that are not so great, including potentiating gut permeation and allergy reactions – both of which can cause bloating. This means stress by itself will make any other bloating culprits worse.
Including anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, oily fish, activated nuts and ALL THE GREENS into your diet will help with this. Also, prioritise stress management in whatever way suits you. Gentle regular exercise or meditation are both excellent choices.
Your hormones aren’t playing fair.
There are a bunch of reasons hormones impact our food babies and PMS as well as various contraception methods have a lot to answer for. Hormones can make our bodies retain water which translates to bloating. When we don’t process out hormones well, or get a build-up, they float about in the body and create drama.
If you’re carrying too much water due to hormones, this often means we need to drink more water to shift it because water helps in the processing and elimination of hormones. Herbal teas for the liver are great to incorporate also – the liver is your hormone processing hub! Think Raspberry Leaf, Dandelion or gut soothing peppermint and chamomile for a flavoursome hydration increase with added hormone balancing benefits.
Your microbiome is out of whack.
Digestive imbalance will cause bloating all by itself. An out of whack microbiome will actually interact with other bloat boosters too – poor diet, stress, hormones. Conversely, a healthy balance in your gut bacteria improves stress, depression and anxiety, helps to break down food and can provide a buffer in hormonal or cyclical flare ups (anyone who has had recurrent thrush will know about this).
This means that taking a broad-spectrum probiotic will lead to less bloating, but also improve many other issues. Adding in fermented foods to your diet and consuming plenty of green vegetables will help to support a healthy environment for good bacteria as well. Make sure you take a good quality probiotic every day to refeed your microbiome with the good stuff.
There’s something more going on.
Regular bloating can sometimes be due to something more serious going on (often digestive or reproductive in nature) so please don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help if you need it.
See your health professional if you’re worries and get that food baby checked out!