When you’re feeling puffy or swollen around your middle and can’t zip up a pair of jeans that you swear fit fine the other day, bloating is likely to blame. It’s often caused by gas or irregularity, it’s sometimes embarrassing and uncomfortable, but the silver lining is that you can beat belly bloat with some simple strategies, like these:
You’ve heard this advice for a bunch of different reasons—such as to help you feel fuller faster or be more mindful of your meal. But as it turns out, taking your time at the table can help with bloating as well. When you scarf down a meal or drink something quickly, you’re likely to swallow too much air. You might get the hiccups, or the gas may build up in your stomach and intestines and lead to bloating. Take your time and chew well while eating. You may also swallow excess air when you chew gum, suck on hard candy, and drink too many carbonated beverages.
Ease in More Fiber
Fiber helps keep things moving through the intestines, which aids digestion and helps prevent constipation. But, many high-fiber foods—like beans, Brussels sprouts and broccoli—are also pretty potent gas-producers. Upping your fiber intake too quickly can cause bloating, so start slowly and work your way to your daily fiber goal over the course of a few weeks.
Ideally you want to work in some exercise on most days, but even taking a short walk after eating can help prevent belly swelling. Physical activity nudges the bowels into action, so to speak, to help relieve constipation and prevent excessive gas.
Cut Back on Sodium
Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that the general adult population limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day, reports indicate that the average American eats about 3,300 mg of sodium a day—which means chances are good that you are consuming more sodium than you should. And, given that excess salt intake can be to blame for water retention, your salt habit could be causing midsection puffiness. Try cutting back on your salt intake with these simple tips. Or consider a program like Nutrisystem, which falls within the USDA’s sodium recommendation and can be customized to contain even less salt. Already on Nutrisystem? Just make sure that your Grocery Additions aren’t responsible for sneaking in extra sodium.
Pump Up the Probiotics
Put simply, probiotics are good bacteria in your body, which help you fully digest your food. Research suggests that there are many benefits to probiotics. They can stimulate immunity, helping you fight colds and allergies. They may help prevent weight problems—some studies have shown a link between low levels of good gut bacteria and obesity. They can also support healthy digestion by reducing the quantity of bad bacteria in the gut, which can contribute to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea. What’s more, probiotics can help reduce the belly bloat you feel when you don’t have enough of the right kind of bacteria in our gut. Pile on the probiotics by chowing down on fermented dairy foods like yogurt, kefir products and aged cheeses, or opt for non-dairy foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh and soy beverages.