Feeling self-conscious about your puffed-out belly?
Before you torture yourself with a fad diet and stomach crunches, consider that your "fat" belly may actually just be bloated — and it could be caused by a few common eating and drinking habits.
Take a look at these 10 everyday habits that contribute to belly bloat.
1. You drink through a straw.
Think of it like blowing air into a balloon: every time you suck your beverage through a straw, you're pumping air into your gut. The process is made even worse when you drink carbonated beverages. Ditch the straw and sip your drink slowly from a glass or a bottle.
2. You chew gum.
Air gets swallowed when you chew gum, which leads to bloat and discomfort.
3. You eat too quickly.
Slow down! Wafting down your food can cause air to get trapped in your tummy, which brings on bloat. Take your time to bite, chew, and enjoy the taste, texture and temperature of your food. This kind of mindful eating might even help you drop a few pounds. When you savor every bite, you may need less to eat.
4. You don't move after you eat.
Although you may think you're multitasking by eating breakfast in the car, lunch at your desk, and dinner in front of the TV, you’re actually being counterproductive because you're slowing down the digestion process. Get up and move after eating a meal or snack —even if it’s just walking around your office.
5. You eat gassy fruits and veggies.
The veggies that produce the most gas (and bloat!) are among the healthiest you can choose like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage — all members of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family. Fruits like grapes and melon also bring on gas, but they also provide multiple benefits. Don't skimp on these foods simply to button your jeans. But do watch portion sizes and try not to eat too many different kinds at once.
6. You're not drinking enough water.
Water not only hydrates us when we're thirsty, but it also plays an essential role in moving foods along in our system. When you don’t drink enough, your body actual retains fluids and causes bloat.
7. You eat artificial sweeteners.
See #2 above.
Certain sweeteners and foods that contain sugar alcohols can cause gas, bloat, and in some cases, diarrhea. Read food labels to see if sugar alcohols are in your food. Look for words that end in the letters "-ol” such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol —common ingredients in diet products, gums, and energy bars.
8. You overdo the fiber.
Most Americans don't get enough fiber, but those troubled by belly bloat may be taking in too much. Introduce fiber slowly to reap its benefits without the bloat.
9. You go too heavy on salty foods.
Salt acts like a magnet to water so go easy on foods that are naturally high in salt like pickles, olives, and capers. Read labels of highly processed foods to check sodium content. Our new Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that we try to limit sodium intake to around 2,300 mg/day. Keep in mind, one teaspoon of salt has around 2,300 mg. of sodium. (Still salting food before you taste it? Time to kick the habit!)
10. You eat a lot of frozen yogurt.
Although this treat could be low in calories in a small serving, some people order the pail size! When yogurt spins around in that soft-serve machine air gets incorporated into it —and then into your gut! (I always thought that a great topping for frozen dessert should be crumbled up antacids!)
The bottom line
Foods that cause bloating in one person may not do the same in someone else, says Dr. Erica Sonnenburg, researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine and co-author of “The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long Term Health."
“It’s best to listen to your body and try different types of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans to see how these foods make you feel, and if you feel good, then keep going, adding more over time."
"It’s important to remember that gas production is normal and in fact, is a sign that your gut bacteria are hard at work,"says Sonnenburg.
Meanwhile, a steamy mug of peppermint, chamomile, or ginger tea has been known to reduce bloat and simultaneously soothe your belly.
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For more from Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN go to Better Than Dieting.