Ok, I'll admit it... my friends and I name our "food babies." You know, that big ballooned feeling after you eat too much, that feels a little bit like you're 3 months pregnant?
As much as I wanted to feel good while I was in Italy, I gave myself permission to go a little crazy with the pasta and cheese, two things I don't ordinarily eat very much of. And all the bloating I used to be familiar with on a daily basis came right back to me. In that way, I was relieved to be home again. I'd venture to guess you don't love feeling uncomfortable, gassy and fat either.
"The bloat" used to feel like a big, dark inevitable cloud over my quality of life. Instead of staying out and having fun with my friends, or making love with my partner, or having the energy to go for an evening stroll - I just wanted to go home, lie down and veg out. Blah. Sometimes when I'm feeling bloated, I can't even enjoy what's next because I'm so preoccupied with feeling puffy and uncomfortable. Double blah. I'd much rather feel alive, energized, sexy and adventurous!
You too? So what's going on?
Inside your body, a bloated belly is a symptom of digestive distress! (No kidding, right?) As easy as it can be to beat ourselves up over eating too much this or that, take a step back to get curious and ask what's going on. Most likely, the bloating is a sign that 1.) your body isn't able to fully break down the food it's been given, and the tiny microbes in your gut are making gas, sometimes even causing your belly to cramp, or 2.) your body is not agreeing with or is having a reaction to the food you ate.
If we don't listen to these messages, excess undigested materials can build up and clog up our digestive tract and can actual disrupt digestion even further. We can end up with "Irritable Bowel Syndrome," nutrient deficiencies, or we can miss the signals that we have some kind of food allergy or intolerance. Or just always bloated and unhappy.
Beating the Bloat is Very Possible!
Luckily, there are some really easy ways to minimize bloating so you can feel energized, light and ready for action after every meal.
1. Slow down, enjoy, savor and CHEW your food thoroughly. I don't mean count to 50 chews before you swallow, but chewing (and the release of saliva) is where digestion starts. Do your stomach and digestive tract a favor and break up your food into manageable chunks before you swallow it. As a bonus, you'll feel more satisfied while eating less because chewing is a huge part of what signals to your brain to recognize when you're full - and you'll be taking it slow. Smaller meals = a lighter load for your GI tract = happy belly.
2. Watch out for sugar, dairy, caffeine and carbonated beverages. Yep, the big four for bloat. Experiment with cutting back one or all of these and see what happens. I tell my clients to play around and listen to what their own bodies have to say. They usually say a lot - and pretty quickly (try a week and be amazed). When you do decide to have one of these foods, opt for smaller amounts of higher-quality. Our bellies know better what to do with these than foods that have been messed with. Plus, you'll enjoy it more and feel more satisfied. Indulge without indulging!
3. Start celebrating and eating probiotic foods liberally, including yogurt (check the label for "live culture" ... otherwise they're all dead from a second pasteurization), raw sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, kefir, miso, kimchi and other raw, fermented foods. These foods are all the rage right now, and for good reason. They come with a healthy dose of "good guy" bacteria strains that already exist in your gut, but that can always use some help. Our world right now is full of toxins that kill these little guys off, so make sure to eat foods that help to replenish a healthy gut flora. If you don't love these foods, find a high-quality, few billion multi-strain probiotic supplement to take. I keep some in my fridge and take them a few times a week.
4. Drink your water. It's the lubrication for the whole system. A hydrated body will digest, flow, detox and shine brighter all around. Seems like a small step, but it's a big one.
As with all of my suggestions, find ways to love the process: Savor your foods fully, enjoy high-quality treats without guilt, get excited about trying new things. Because you will love the outcome.