July 24, 2014 at 5:11 PM ET
It’s never the ideal time to be affected by belly bloat, but dealing with it during bathing suit season is just that much worse. The main reason behind uncomfortable bloat is an imbalance of the healthy bacteria in the gut, states Dr. Mark Hyman, family physician and author of “10-Day Detox Diet.” “This is what I refer to as a ‘food baby,’ which is what happens when you eat foods that cause your stomach to bloat shortly after you eat them,” he says.
“We have more bacteria in our body than we have cells in our body, and these bacteria are creating havoc,” Dr. Steven Lamm, Medical Director of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men’s Health at NYU and author of “No Guts, No Glory: Gut Solution—The Core of Your Total Wellness”, further explains. “These bacteria are part of our immune system and digestive system, but for some people, the nature of the ‘good’ bacteria have been altered and the bacteria are fermenting, (a metabolic process that converts sugars to acids, gases and/or alcohol).” That’s what causes bloating.
The promising news—following a few basic guidelines should relieve the majority of sufferers. Here’s how to deflate that balloon and make your abs look flatter within seven days (if not sooner).
Keep your mouth closed
“Taking in excessive amounts of air, otherwise known as aerophagia, can be one cause of belly bloat and intestinal pain,” states Lamm. This happens when large quantities of inhaled oxygen fails to absorb into the small intestine (which would get burped out), but instead lingers in the abdomen, creating bloat and discomfort. A few ways to avoid sucking in too much air include; drinking without a straw, chewing more slowly, limiting the amount of talking-while-chomping, ditching the gum, hard candy and cigarettes, as well as keeping calm (because anxiety tends to bring on fast talking, another culprit of extra air ingesting).
Eat belly-loving foods
Hyman explains that there are some starchy foods that get fermented in your gut (causing gas, bloating, diarrhea) because your body can’t properly digest them—white carbs, wheat, legumes. You want to stay away from these. Also eliminate anything containing sugar or sugar substitutes.
Hyman says the best way to begin the de-bloating process is by eating low-glycemic, low-starch, whole unprocessed foods. “Your diet should consist of proteins—eggs, chicken, meat, fish—and vegetables that are crunchy and/or green, such as kale, broccoli, celery and cauliflower,” he states. Nuts, nut butters and seeds are also on this list, as well as berries and passion fruits. “In other words, foods that feed the good bugs.”
If bloat is a constant problem, Lamm suggests checking out the FODMAP diet (which stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols), a plan designed for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. “While it can seem intimidating and be a bit hard to follow, it’s best to look at it as a type of trial,” he explains. “Then once you feel better, which should be within a week, slowly add back these foods and see whether or not anything upsets your stomach.”
Sip these two beverages
Lamm suggests quenching your thirst with drinks that contain anti-inflammatory and health-promoting properties. His top two choices: green tea (which has been shown to possibly reduce inflammation associated with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, two types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and dark cocoa (one tablespoon of 70 percent or higher, mixed with either rice or almond milk since dairy can contribute to belly bloat). In fact, a recent research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society states that dark chocolate encourages the good bacteria in the gut to produce anti-inflammatory compounds. As for what not to drink—alcohol and fruit juices since both are high in sugar, as well as carbonated beverages, which cause gas.
Supplement your diet
If you’re looking for additional assistance, Hyman says that taking probiotic supplements is another way to help rebuild the healthy bacteria that is essential for good gut health. “Look for those that contain 10 billion CFU of bifidobacteria species and lactobacillus species,” he advises. “Also, if you are constipated (not having one or two normal bowel movements a day), consider taking magnesium citrate capsules, 150 to 300 mg once or twice a day,” he states. Another supplement suggestion—activated charcoal capsules (found in the grocery store or pharmacy in the indigestion-reliever aisle), which can help absorb gas. “However, don’t take the charcoal capsules with any other medications or supplements because they absorb everything!” warns Hyman. (As with taking all supplements and any over-the-counter remedies, consult with your physician and read the label for recommended dosage.)