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That uncomfortable sense of feeling bloated is one of the most commonly shared digestive issues. But there are several specific steps you can take to beat the bloat when you’ve got it, and fend it off in the future.
Bloating reflects excess stomach gas that hasn’t been released — and it’s a true fact of biology. After eating, it’s perfectly normal to produce some gas, which is released in two ways: burping or flatulence. When these options don’t work, the extra air accumulates in the stomach (or intestines) and causes the dreaded bloat.
Check out these five ways to beat the bloat:
1. Stay hydrated
A big culprit is not drinking enough water, impacting your overall salt and water balance. It’s an important factor in reducing bloat. Try a tall glass of water when you wake up: You’ve been fasting — and while most people focus on breakfast, it’s a good idea to hydrate first thing in the morning. Drink it cold, hot, room temperature, with lemon — or however you prefer. (Skip the seltzer or other sparkling waters, as the bubbles can promote bloating.)
2. Skip the foods that bloat
Foods high in salt (think processed and packaged foods) impact your salt and water balance, which results in bloating. Some nutrient-packed foods — like raw vegetables and some fruits — can be hard to digest. You’ll need to monitor your own intake of foods and figure out which ones can bloat you. Everyone’s digestive tract is different and can respond in different ways.
Limit or avoid these foods:
Raw cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
Processed deli meats
Apples and pears
3. Look for de-bloating foods
These are rich in “probiotics” — living, healthy bacteria that can support a healthy digestive tract. Look for probiotic-rich foods first and consider a supplement only after consultation with your doctor. Your own digestive habits, medications you take, and your overall health can impact that decision.
Foods rich in probiotics:
Plain regular or Greek yogurt (look for added probiotics when you can)
4. Try adding prebiotics
While these are often confused with the term “probiotics” (healthy bacteria), PREbiotics are the food source to support the digestive efforts of the probiotics. Probiotics are living things, while prebiotics are not — they’re just food! Probiotics can flourish in your digestive tract when they are well fueled, so make sure to include plenty of prebiotic foods in your daily diet to boost the action of probiotic foods. As for supplements, talk to your doctor about whether this is a health plus. It’s always best to start with food sources of any health booster.
Choose these foods:
5. Skip these habits
These everyday actions can add a lot of extra air to your stomach and contribute to bloating:
Drinking through a straw
Eating too fast
Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor.