The first time that I remember having stomach pains and bloating was when I was 9. My mom had recently passed away and my eating habits had drastically changed. I can remember feeling full all the time and I would have to leave my figure skating lessons early because of the pain. I thought the pain was from my leggings being too tight and pushing on my stomach. 20-something years later, I finally feel like I have a better understanding of why I was bloated then and how I can help my sensitive tummy now.
Here is a list of the factors that cause me to bloat and make me look 6 months pregnant.
1. Food sensitivities:
By doing blood work, my naturopath discovered that many foods I was eating daily were triggering bloat in my body. Some of these foods are avocado, tomato, oatmeal, wheat, nuts and seeds. Even though these foods are healthy, my body was becoming sensitive to them. When I eat these foods for a few days in a row or if I eat too much of these foods at once, my body reacts with bloat. I really need to limit these foods in order to enjoy them, and I try to be more mindful to eat a range of foods in moderation as I know how sensitive my body can become when I eat too much of one thing.
2. Lack of movement:
My body needs to move! When I don’t move enough, my digestion is stagnant and food will sit in my gut and weigh me down. Without movement, food will build up gasses and ferment inside my body (which is gross to think about – imagine, food inside your intestines for days!) When I move my body, I can feel the food, air and water moving inside and through the intestinal tract. This is one of the reasons why I named my blog MUVE. (Move was too boring which is why I changed the spelling.) If I happen to eat more than I should have or if I eat a food that seems to have caused bloating, I will go for a brisk walk, dance around, jump up and down, MUVE for 15-20 minutes. This tactic always helps to aid in better digestion for me.
My slow digestion becomes even slower in the winter and on cold days. Naturally, my body is cold in cold climates or if I ingest cold water or food. To help warm my body, I drink water that’s either room temperature or warm to hot. It’s soothing and keeps things moving inside me. In the winter especially, I’ll typically eat only warm heated foods. For years I would eat cold foods and never understand why I would bloat after eating a salad. Now that I’ve experimented more, I find a warm stirfry or soup is a better option during a cold day. In the summer when it’s hot outside and when I’m more active, I can tolerate colder foods and it won’t affect me as much. Having a glass of warm water 30 minutes after I eat has become a new habit that seems to help my digestion as well. A little tip… drinking water with your meal will dilute the acid in your stomach which will slow the digestion and absorption of nutrients so try to drink water at least 30 minutes before or after your meals.
4. Portion sizes:
How often do you feel like your full, yet you keep eating? I used to eat everything on my plate no matter how full I felt because I hate wasting food, and I love to eat. This becomes a problem for someone like me who has slow digestion. It’s already hard work to move a regular meal through my intestines but giving it more food then it needs will take even longer, cause more bloating and discomfort and weight gain. If I’ve eaten a big lunch, I will make my dinner smaller, and if I’m satiated at the time of my meal, I will leave food on the plate. I’d rather not eat it then feel like crap from being too full and bloated. If I want to try a dessert, I will have a few bites and leave the rest. Once I’ve tasted it, that’s often all I need. I know that eating the whole thing will unnecessarily fill me up, so I take a few bites and leave the rest or share with friends.
5. Chronic Stress:
Your body has a natural way of responding to perceived threats, whether the threats are big or small. A combination of nerve and hormonal signals will prompt your adrenal glands, located above your kidneys, to release hormones that will elevate your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. This helps give your body a boost of energy in order to deal with an acute stressor. The hormones released in stressful situations, will suppress the digestive system and impact your mood and motivation. Luckily, the body’s stress response is self regulating and once the possible threat has passed, hormonal levels will return to normal and your body will continue to function as needed. Unfortunately, if you experience chronic stress, these hormone levels will consistently be elevated and can cause lasting havoc on the body. As noted above, stress will suppress your digestive system, as well as have a negative effect on motivation. This combination alone is a cause for bloating. Although I don’t think I’m a stressed individual naturally, I have definitely come across some stressful situations in my life which may be impacting my body. I have read books and listened to podcasts that have helped me learn more about how to deal with stressful situations. I learned that it’s very important to take more time for ME! I also practise yoga and breath work to help with stress. Being mindful of your stress levels and actively choosing ways to help with de-stressing can make a big difference on your tummy and overall health. If and when possible, choose to stress less!
6. Gut Flora:
Your gut flora can have a huge impact on absorption of food and whether or not you will have bloating. Choosing real foods and limiting/eliminating processed foods will help promote good gut health. All the other things listed above will also play a factor in optimizing your gut flora but there are a few other things I like to include to ensure I keep the bacteria in my gut balanced. I take probiotics which help with adding good bacteria. I practice intermittent fasting which gives my gut the time to process foods and heal my gut between. I drink apple cider vinegar and other fermented foods which are known to help maintain a healthy gut. They say your gut is like a second brain for your body and it’s extremely important for optimal health. This topic is definitely needing its own blog post but for now, know that each of the other factors I’ve listed will help promote good gut health.
Of course, every individual is different which means we all have different foods and stressors that could be causing bloating. Above are the things that I find are important for me and my gut. If you’ve been dealing with bloating and are unsure where to start, I’d suggest taking a look at the list above to see if there are any commonalities. I also suggest continuing your own research and experimentation, talking to a naturopath or another health practitioner. Keeping a food or emotional diary of your day can help you determine where your stressors are and how to manage them. If you experience bloating, you can take a look back at your diary and perhaps see a common denominator. Just remember that bloating is often something that can be prevented or at least limited once you know your triggers. Message me below to let me know what are your bloating triggers?
Sending you love while you continue your journey of health and wellness!