Getting rid of that bloated feeling
Dr Libby tackles common problems
Wellbeing expert Dr Libby answers questions about how to live a healthier life.
Each afternoon I become incredibly bloated and uncomfortable. How can I stop this from happening?
Bloating can be caused by a number of things. One of the first is stress. The production of stress hormones causes blood to be diverted away from digestion to your periphery so that you are powered with a good blood supply and oxygenation to get out of danger.
However, too many people are often stressed regularly due to their pace of life or perception of pressure and urgency.
When we eat in this state there may not be an efficient blood supply supporting the digestive system.
Stomach acid production can be compromised during stressful periods – or every day of some people’s lives – and this can compromise optimal digestive processes right from the outset.
Think of your food as a big long string of circles, or pearls on a string.
Your teeth and saliva go to work first on breaking the circles apart. Stomach acid then continues that process.
Poor stomach acid production can lead to bloating.
When food is not broken down sufficiently it may arrive in the intestines in a form that is still too large.
Here the bacteria that inhabit the large intestine will begin to ferment whatever food is delivered to them, and produce gas, leading to the bloated feeling.
Proper chewing is the first step to helping reduce bloating.
Sit in a calm state and focus on chewing your food properly.
You might be surprised at how much of a difference this can make.
Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in water before meals can be helpful help to increase stomach acid production, which further helps with proper digestion of food. It is also a good idea to drink water away from meals rather than with them to maximise the action of stomach acid.
Sometimes bloating is caused by the consumption of foods that your body cannot digest efficiently.
Having done a PhD in biochemistry and worked with people for 17 years, I’ve found that many people feel better after the removal of gluten from their diet.
However, if there is a food that you suspect may be causing your bloating, see a health professional experienced in this area and they will likely guide you to trial its removal for a four week period, while still ensuring you obtain optimal nutrition. I try to eat well but am not sure what I should be including and excluding from my diet?
Rather than focusing on what to exclude from your diet, think about how you can increase the nutrient content of your diet.
Focus on including nutrient dense plant-based foods, in particular. Vegetables are superstars and less than 10 per cent of New Zealanders get the recommended number of serves of vegetables each day.
Altering this would change many people’s lives!
When it comes to food, Mother Nature gets it right and it is human intervention that can get it so wrong.
With that in mind choose foods that are as close to nature as possible.
As soon as you start to include more real food, you will find that your consumption and desire for food that doesn’t serve your health begins to dissipate.
Email your questions for Dr Libby to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. Finding relief from bloating may require just a couple of simple changes at mealtimes.