Stomach feeling fat? Heres how you can beat
bloating tolook and feel better.
Youd love to have a flat belly for the party tonight, butthanks to one too many sodas or that basket of tortilla chips, zipping yourpants is a real struggle. Abdominal bloating not only looks bad but can alsocause physical discomfort. The good news? Experts say stomach bloating is acondition you can avoid pretty easily.
Were not talking about extra pounds of stomach fat here.Were talking about the temporary abdominal distention that plagues mosteveryone from time to time. Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrinologist and obesityresearcher at Mayo Clinic, says unless your stomach bloating is caused by amedical condition such as liver or heart disease, the only real cause isintestinal gas not water weight.
It is a myth that bloating in the stomach is from fluidaccumulation in healthy adults, because the abdomen is not a place where fluidsaccumulate first, Jensen says. Instead, you would see it in your feet orankles as long as you are upright.
So what causes gas to accumulate and wreak havoc on how youfeel and look? Here are answers from experts plus their stomach-slimmingadvice.
1. Avoid Constipation.
Too little fiber, fluids, and physical activity can lead toconstipation, which can result in bloating, Jensen says.
To avoid this, eat a diet high in fiber (25 grams per dayfor women and 38 for men) from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts,and seeds. Also, drink plenty of fluids (aim for 6-8 glasses a day) and aim forphysical activity for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.
If youre eating a low-fiber diet, gradually bump up thefiber level,
making sure you also drink plenty of fluids for better tolerance.
2. Rule Out Wheat Allergies or Lactose Intolerance.
Food allergies and intolerances can cause gas and bloating.But these need to be confirmed by your doctor. Many people self-diagnose theseconditions and unnecessarily eliminate healthy dairy and whole grains fromtheir diets. If you suspect you have an allergy or intolerance, see your doctorfor tests.
You may benefit from reducing the amount of the suspectedfood or eating it with other foods. In the case of dairy, it can help to chooseaged cheeses and yogurts, which are lower in lactose.
3. Dont Eat Too Fast.
Eating quickly and not chewing your food well can cause airswallowing that leads to bloating, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of TheFlexitarian Diet.
So slow down and enjoy your food. Your meals should last atleast 30 minutes. Also, keep in mind that digestion begins in the mouth and youcan decrease bloating just by chewing your food more, Blatner says.
Theres another benefit to slowing things down. When youtake your time to thoroughly chew and taste your food, your snack or mealbecomes more satisfying. And studies have shown that if you eat more slowly,you may end up eating less.
4. Don't Overdo Carbonated Drinks.
The fizz in carbonated drinks (even diet ones) can cause gasto get trapped in your belly, Blatner says.
Instead, drink water flavored with lemon, lime, or cucumber.Or just reduce the number of fizzy drinks you consume each day. Try somepeppermint tea for a soothing beverage that may help reduce bloat.
5. Don't Overdo Chewing Gum.
Chewing gum can also lead to swallowing air, which can causebloating.
If you've got a gum habit, alternate chewing gum withsucking on a piece of hard candy or eating a healthy, high-fiber snack likefruit, vegetables, or lower-fat popcorn.
6. Watch Out for Sugar-Free Foods.
"Many of my patients suffer from bloating because theyconsume too much sugar alcohol in artificially sweetened foods anddrinks," Blatner says. And that can lead to bloating.
Experts recommend consuming no more than 2 or 3 servings ofartificially sweetened foods and drinks per day.
7. Limit Sodium.
Highly processed foods tend to be high in sodium and low infiber, both of which can contribute to that bloated feeling, Jensen says.
Get in the habit of reading food labels, Blatner advises.When buying processed, canned, or frozen foods, shoot for no more than 500 mgof sodium per serving in any product -- or a total of 1,500 to 2,300 mg ofsodium per day. Look for labels that say "sodium free," "lowsodium," or "very low sodium."
8. Go Slow with Beans and Gassy Vegetables.
If you're not used to eating beans, they can cause thatgassy feeling. So can the cruciferous family of vegetables, such as broccoli,Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
That doesn't mean you should give up on thesesuper-nutritious, high-fiber vegetables.
"Dont be nervous about beans," Blatner says."Just work them into your diet slowly until your body adjusts to thecompounds that can initially cause gas."
Or, you can take an anti-gas product, which can help reducegas from beans or vegetables.
9. Eat Smaller Meals More Often
Instead of three big meals per day, try eating smaller mealsmore often. This can keep you free of the bloated feeling that often followslarge meals (think Thanksgiving). Eating more frequently can also help controlblood sugar and manage hunger.
So go for five to six small meals each day, but make surethe quantity of food and calories are proportionate to your needs. To create adaily meal plan that includes the recommended amounts of all major nutrients,visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate web site.
10. Try Anti-Bloating Foods and Drinks.
A few studies suggest that peppermint tea, ginger,pineapple, parsley, and yogurts containing probiotics ("good"bacteria) may help reduce bloating.
"These are safe foods that are good for you when usedappropriately, so why not try them and see if they help you de-bloat?"Blatner says.
A Final Word About Stomach Fat
Experts agree that you shouldnt fast, skip meals, or uselaxatives or water pills to help you de-bloat or lose weight.
If you're looking to flatten your belly for the long term,there's no substitute for losing a few pounds, Jensen says.
"For most everyone, when you lose total body fat, yourbody reduces belly fat preferentially," he says. "Even though peoplelose weight differently, there is a little more lost in the abdominal regionthan elsewhere.
Experts also say that doing ab exercises all day long wontget rid of the excess belly. Although you cant necessarily spot reduce, you canstrengthen abdominal muscles with routines like Pilates and exercise ballworkouts. And, stronger muscles can help your belly appear flatter.
"Toning and strengthening the abdominal muscles canhelp you look less fat [and] improve your appearance, muscle tone, and posture,which is also very good for your back," Jensen says.