Dietitian and nutritionist Leo Pemberton reveals the facts about bloating and how you can avoid it.
Bloating affects millions of us but, with so much information out there, few people really know how to combat it. Before you start cutting out bread and sipping on lemon water, nutritionist Leo looks at how to really help you tackle the bloat for good.
1. Bread and starchy foods make you bloated
“I’m always defending bread. It doesn’t necessarily cause us to bloat or to gain weight. If you tolerate wheat then bread is fine, though I would suggest going for a healthier wholegrain variety and varying sources of carbohydrate.”
2. Drinking lemon water first thing helps with digestion
“This will help you hydrate and the lemon contains vitamin C, so it won’t do any harm, but there’s no proof it helps your digestive system. The talk around it helping to ‘wake up your gut’ or ‘set up your immune system’ isn’t backed up with solid evidence.”
3. Eating after 8pm makes bloating worse
TRUE AND FALSE
“Eating your evening meal around three hours before bedtime is a good idea as this allows your stomach to empty, helping you get a better night’s sleep. Otherwise, eating earlier doesn’t necessarily help your digestive health. The calories are the same whenever you have the meal, and you don’t need to abide by rules like no carbs after 7pm.”
4. Salty foods cause you to bloat
“It’s really just high fibre foods and foods that create a lot of gas when you digest them, like fibrous vegetables (onions, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) or grains that can cause bloating. It’s still important to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg per day. Simply overeating – even healthy foods – is a common cause of bloating.”
5. Mint tea helps to ease bloating
“Mint can definitely help. Peppermint oil and menthol have also been shown to soothe the stomach and ease digestive transit, so they’re often added to digestive medicines for this reason. Try a nightly mint tea after dinner. However, peppermint products should not by used by those suffering from gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and repeated episodes of indigestion should be investigated with your GP.”
6. You’re more likely to bloat when you eat on the go
TRUE AND FALSE
“I’d always suggest dedicating time to proper mealtimes. Running for the bus with a croissant or eating at your desk in front of your computer screen might not hurt every once in a while, but it means you’re not eating mindfully. If you’re not taking the time out to eat, you may not digest your food properly. Plus, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that people eat a significant amount more when they’re not focused on what they’re eating.”
What can I do to keep control of bloating?
- Eat balanced meals. Make sure you eat a varied diet (a good meal will include protein, vegetables and wholegrain carbs) and don’t focus on single food groups. A very high fibre diet, for example, can contribute to bloating because it can be more difficult to digest.
- Watch the fizzy drinks. While there is conflicting evidence on whether they can actually help with symptoms of bloating or not, reaching for the cola is not the best way to combat it. Dental erosion, excess calories and even damage to bone health are all linked to high carbonated drinks. An over-the-counter medicine is often the best way to neutralise acid that may be causing the bloat.
- Don’t cut it out until you’re sure you’re intolerant. Links to dairy and bloating in those who are lactose tolerant are unproven, and it’s the same for gluten. If you cut out food groups without consulting your GP, you could be missing out on important minerals and vitamins.
What should I do if my bloating persists?
If you have severe or chronic bloating or other symptoms such as constipation or diarrhoea, consult your GP as it could be a sign of a food intolerance, IBS or other digestive problems. It might also be helpful to see a dietitian who can offer changes to your diet. The low-FODMAPS diet is a non-faddy, evidence-based approach to treating the causes and symptoms of IBS.
Visit here for more information on bloating or book an appointment with your GP.
Leo is a registered dietitian (RD) and nutritionist with experience of working within three large NHS Trusts in London. He’s a keen advocate of an active and healthy lifestyle, trains regularly with a running club and has completed three marathons. Follow him @LeoNutrition