Why do I look 3 months pregnant when I know I am eating healthy foods? If kale is so healthy why is it that i could fly a hot air balloon after eating it? toot, toot! Let explain a few things about the foods we eat and how they affect us all very differently. First off, kale, broccoli, and cabbage are cruciferous vegetables, they contain something called raffinose which is a sugar that remains undigested until bacteria in your gut ferment it. Sounds like no big deal, I mean you take your probiotics right? So you must have enough good bacteria to complete the task, except this produces gas which *drumroll* makes you bloat. Sorry.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop eating healthy greens, it just means you need to alter the way you eat them. First off start with smaller portions until your body figures out what to do on it’s own. Digestive enzymes and proper probiotics will help. When we regularly eat nutrient dense food like veggies high in fiber, we end up having a stronger, healthier digestive system. You see fiber feeds the probiotics (that makes it a pre-biotic) Which in the end means less bloating… and less gas.
Quick tip: try steaming your veggies just a little bit. This softens the fiber and gets rid of some to the water,it will take up less space in your GI tract, you aren’t going to eliminate the bloat 100%, it will simply make it easier to digest, but over time it will eventually happen.
What about the obvious – beans and legumes: the musical fruit I like to call them. (no they are not fruit)
While beans and legumes are basically a protein packed punch and nutrition powerhouses, they also contain sugars and fibres that our bodies can’t properly absorb. Back to the gut, when they finally reach your large instesine your gut bacteria (microbiome) feast on them leading to gas and causing your midsection to expand. A good way to help prevent this is to soak and rinse them before cooking. The best approach is to eat smaller amounts but frequently so your system has a chance to get used to them, which it will if you give it a chance. However eating them sporadically will not help this process. It’s sort of an all or nothing deal. You can mix them with your favourite grain to help as well, I like to add them to quinoa.
Quick tip: Add some Kombu while soaking them, the amino acids in kombu helps soften beans and make them easier to digest. Add a 4-6″ strip of kombu to a pot of soaking beans, or to the pot while cooking. After an hour or two, the kombu will disintegrate when stirred. (Any stray pieces should be tender enough to eat, or you can remove them.) If adding them to soaking beans just remove after you are done soaking.
What about dairy? If you feel gassy after a few slices of cheese or a bowl of ice cream, you may be lactose intolerant, which means your body lacks the necessary enzymes to break down lactose (the sugar found in dairy products). That can cause gas to form in the GI tract, which may trigger bloating. Don’t suffer, just swap dairy out for a non-dairy alternative, goodness knows there are a ton of options out there.
Fruit: Apples, pears, peaches, and prunes are all known to bloat. High in fiber, they contain fructose and sorbitol, these sugars are hard for most people to tolerate. I’m not saying don’t eat them, but what helps is having them no closer to a meal than 30 min and never eat them after a meal.
Oh and I suppose I should give an honorary mention to salt, table salt that is. I have no worries with sea salt or himalayan salt.
You didn’t think I was going to send you away without giving you some more tips did you?
Add more cucumbers to your diet. You know how you always see people in movies with cucumbers over their eyes in the health spa scene. It’s because it reduces the “puffiness”, well it does the same for your belly. They contain quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that helps reduce swelling and have been shown to inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes. I throw them into anything I juice and all my salads.
I mentioned fruit causing gas but lets discuss ones that help prevent it, such as bananas, kiwis, oranges, and avocados. Oh and I must give an honorary mention to pistachios as well. These all prevent water retention by regulating sodium levels in your body and that means reducing salt-induced bloating. Bananas also have soluble fiber, which can relieve or prevent constipation. Because if you are constipated you will look like you are pregnant, with a poop baby.
Let’s talk fiber. Insoluble and soluble, both of which are found in asparagus and very much required in our diet. Asparagus is an anti-bloating superfood. Yes it gives you stinky pee but it also helps you flush out what is making you bloat- making you pee more frequently. This may not sound appealing for some but trust me it is a good thing. That discomfort you feel from the bloat is going to do right down the drain…pun intended.
It also contains pre-biotics, these feed the bacteria in our gut so we need to get enough of this into our diet.
So you went ahead and had beans anyway and you are suffering for it now, so is everyone else around you i’m betting. That’s ok, I have the solution. Fennel! it’s a digestive tract superhero. The seeds have a compound that relaxes GI spasms, which allows gas to pass and relieve bloating.
Tip: Make yourself a cup of fennel tea after a bloat heavy meal.
Ginger is another staple to have around the kitchen. It is great for everything from upset tummy, colds, nausea etc. It’s a great anti-inflammatory and a fabulous digestive tract aid. It not only soothes the digestive system, it also relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract which can help with bloating. It also contains an enzyme that absorbs proteins, thus reducing protein-induced puffiness and gas.
Tip: In the winter I boil ginger and let it simmer while I cook dinner, after dinner I sip on a cup of this to not only aid in digestion of my meal but also to sooth and calm me before bed. Throw a little camomile in there and some peppermint. Both kinds relax GI muscles to help dissipate the gas that causes your stomach to bloat. Aside from improving digestion, chamomile can also soothe and relax, which can help ease any sort of stomach discomfort. This is what I call my nighty night tea. If you can’t find dried chamomile you can purchase the tea and add it to your brew or skip it altogether if you prefer.
Last but not least, make sure to get enough water and fiber into your diet, cause nothing makes a belly flat like a good old poop.