? DO YOU HAVE BUSY bloat
There’s a new wave of symptoms, affecting the ‘always on’ generation – and they could be the reason you’re feeling bloated
If you can relate to any of the following, you qualify as a fully paid-up member of the ‘always on’ generation: you rarely switch off, your next ‘free’ weekend with no social bookings is a few months away, you grab a quick lunch and eat it at your desk/on your way to somewhere else, you prioritise deadlines, friends’ birthdays, the next-big-thing exercise class and mindfulness seminars, and are proud of how well you manage to fit it all in. Your work emails are on your phone for easy access; you take supplements to boost your energy/ efficiency/diet/health and you drink coffee as rocket fuel – but in sensible amounts. (Usually.) Congratulations – you’re a well-rounded, hard-working and maybe over-achieving, regular human being. However, even in this age of wellness and self-care, we still seem to be suffering from a kind of epidemic among women: inexplicable, seemingly uncontrollable and uncomfortable bloating. In fact, nearly 50% of people in the UK experience some form of digestive discomfort*. Case in point: a senior member of the ELLE fashion team. She‘s achingly stylish, with a minimal aesthetic that’s super-cool in its effortlessness. Her hair’s always perfectly sleek, she’s petite, mindful of what she eats (since she’d prefer to maintain her healthy weight), considers her outfits with precision (because her clothes are part of her passion), exercises when she can and, on the advice of a nutritionist, doesn’t touch gluten or dairy. But even so, her belly expands as the day goes on and, in her own words: ‘Every time I’ve got a lot of work on, without fail, my sideways silhouette is
preggo.’ She has ‘busy bloat’ – and it’s becoming an all-too-familiar downside of modern life that leaves us unbalanced and exhausted. It’s most likely that your bloat has little to do with your diet. But we’ll start with eating habits, since your digestive system begins with the mouth. The age-old dietary solution for being wa-a-ay too busy? Skip a meal! Maybe drink your kilojoules at the event you’re going to instead. Note: don’t do that. You’d expect that consuming less would result in a flatter stomach, but a period of downtime for your gut is likely to lead to over-compensation next time you eat. Dr Chutkan, author of The Bloat Cure, explains: ‘If there are long periods when nothing’s moving through the gut, it becomes a little inactive, which can make you more likely to bloat after your next meal.’ When you eat, are you cramming it in between appointments, or quickly grabbing something while you carry on working on that thing you’ve got to do? A fast pace of life can induce a fast-food habit, literally. Eating at your desk – even you, healthier than thou, who eats a perfectly balanced, protein-first, nutritious meal in the company of your laptop – has two unwelcome side-effects. Firstly, without others around for pacing, we tend to subconsciously eat more. Overloading your digestive system in one sitting, even with ‘good’ food, is the most common cause of bloating. Secondly, if you’re doing it because you’re pressed for time, you’re likely to be rushing – and when you rush, you tend to eat ‘wrong’. Aerophagia (excessive swallowing of air) is another symptom of our busy lifestyles. Chutkan explains that gulping air is becoming more prevalent, the more we multi-task. Scrolling through your phone during lunch diverts your attention away from ‘efficient eating’. And think your exercising is helping? In many ways, it is, but anything that encourages you to breathe through your mouth – a cold, allergies, intensive workouts – can also make you susceptible to aerophagia. In all its avocado and green-juice glory, eating ‘well’ can also lead to bloating. ‘Foods such as fibrous vegetables and fruit sugars can create gas by way of fermentation, subsequently bloating the gut,’ says holistic health expert Marie Reynolds. Beans, lentils, pulses, onions and broccoli can all result in bloating. Shabir Daya, MPharm, co-founder of Victoria Health, explains that it’s not just about what you eat, but when you eat it. We already know that eating a large meal late isn’t great for digestion, but how does a constantly changing schedule affect it? ‘Within our body, we have the autonomic nervous system. Of that, one system controls our “feed and breed” responses, while its counterpart controls our “rest and repair” functions,’ he says. ‘These systems ideally switch over at around 7pm, meaning digestive enzymes slow down and digestion is more difficult,’ explains Reynolds. ‘Due to the fast pace of modern lifestyles, our autonomic nervous system is frequently thrown off-kilter, which is why “busy bloat” occurs.’ The coffee (and occasional Diet Coke, if we’re honest) that keeps us going during a particularly manic week isn’t the best thing you could put in your body. The caffeine’s doing other things besides temporarily boosting your energy levels, namely countering the eight glasses of water you’re conscientiously consuming (unless you’re too busy, of course). Caffeine is a diuretic that contributes to dehydration, which leads to a stagnant intestine that – guess what? – causes bloating. Added to that, our meals are sterilised, our water’s chlorinated and our antibiotics are indiscriminate, destroying both the good and bad bacteria in our belly, leaving our microbiome (the community of microorganisms in our gut) unbalanced. ‘While we may be protected from harmful bacteria, we aren’t consuming any of the good bugs that are vital for gut health and robust immunity,’ says Carla Oates, founder of The Beauty Chef. ‘The modern food, water and medicine we regularly ingest eliminate not only pathogens, but also healthy microbes. They’re sometimes necessary, but it’s important to re-colonise your gut with probiotic-rich foods to feed the good bugs that are in your stomach.’ The key is to eat mindfully, allowing yourself time to do nothing but enjoy your meal. Slow down and save your Instagram scrolling for later, while you’re watching TV, to unwind from simultaneously answering your emails. About that: you also need to handle your exhaustion. ‘Stress and fatigue are the plague of busy people, often resulting in run-down, poor health,’ says Dr Sepp Fegerl of the Vivamayr Altausse Clinic. While an on-the-go lifestyle is hardly new, there’s now an additional reason that fatigue is growing exponentially: social media. ‘Women have a greater need for social interacting and networking, and social media is enabling them to do so without limits,’ says Fegerl. Unsurprisingly, this kind of perpetual connectivity has consequences: ‘It’s keeping the mind constantly alert and dramatically reducing the mental time for recovery.’ So how does this relate to your belly? Well, if you consider the common belief that your gut is your ‘second brain’, then the answer’s obvious. Stress, and the cortisol boost it brings, affect your gut and the composition of its bacteria.
“EVEN IN OUR CONSIDERED STATE OF WELLNESS, WE SEEM TO STILL BE SUFFERING FROM SEEMINGLY UNCONTROLLABLE BLOAT
‘The gut is the centre of your immune system, controlling almost all aspects of your body,’ explains Oates. Digestion, circulation and hormones are all partly indicated by your gastro-intestinal tract. ‘It’s where you make neurotransmitters, metabolise hormones, neutralise pathogens, eliminate toxins and manufacture nutrients. So the state of your microbiome has a profound impact on your mood, weight, skin, immunity and overall well-being,’ says Oates. Basically, when your microbiome’s thrown off, so are you. Serotonin, often known as the ‘happy hormone’, boosts your mood – a lack of it can lead to bouts of anxiety and depression. However (and try not to let this add to your stress levels), it’s estimated that 90% of serotonin is made in the gut. And a lack of this gut serotonin can lead to digestive issues, from constipation to, yes, excessive bloating. So how do you keep your gut happy? Consider all the above. Compromising your microbiome can alter your levels of gut serotonin, so certain bacteria are needed to make it a happier place. What can you do to solve this? Throw away your phone? Take up some extreme meditative yoga? Well, if you’re that way inclined and can fit it into your schedule, then go for it. But a simpler solution might be easier for you to digest, as it were. Here’s what we’d suggest.
THE SUPPLEMENT SOLUTION
Incorporating supplements into your everyday routine is a simple and assured way to help ease up your gut. Our favourites: 1. The Beauty Chef Cleanse Inner Beauty Powder, www.thebeautychef.com, is a considered blend of lactofermented superfoods designed to deep clean, nourish and rebuild your gut. 2. Symprove probiotic (www.symprove.com for a one-month supply) is a water-based formula with specific live, activated bacteria strains to help you achieve a healthy balance. 3. Bodyism Clean & Lean Ultra Probiotic, www.bodyism.com, combines a green base with highly concentrated live bacteria to address any intestinal imbalances.
FERMENT YOUR FACE
Probiotic-rich products to strengthen your skin: 1. ESSE Probiotic Skincare Cream Cleanser, www.esseskincare. com, is a creamy formula that nourishes skin’s healthy bacteria and removes harmful strains. 2. Fresh Black Tea Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence, www.fresh.com, contains everyone’s favourite tea and uses its benefits for your face: hydration, balance and luminosity. 3. Bobbi Brown Skin Reviver Power Greens Ferment, www. bobbibrown.co.za, uses fermentation to boost powerful antioxidants in this nourishing serum. 4. Lancer Omega Hydrating Oil, www.lancerskincare. com, adds strains of bacteria to natural oils so that they sink deeper into the epidermis, locking in hydration. 5. Orveda The Prebiotic Emulsion, www.orveda.com, boasts kombucha and marine enzymes to hydrate and treat. 6. La Mer Cooling Gel Cream, www.cremedelamer.com, applies the fermented algae formula to a lighter cream for gentle nourishment.
Consider how, what and where you eat. Sepp recommends chewing up to 30 times before swallowing so that your body produces enzymes to help ease digestion and your gut doesn’t have to work as hard. Focus on your food when it’s in front of you, no matter where you are.
Bring in the big guns. ‘If you really want results, introduce lacto-fermented, probiotic-rich foods,’ says Oates. Lacto-fermentation is a process where ingredients are fermented with lactic acid-producing bacteria. Essentially, it increases the digestibility of foods and increases their nutritional value. Kefir, kimchi and kombucha are all great examples.
BUSY BLOAT = STRESSED SKIN
Many people who suffer from ‘busy bloat’ often also struggle with dull, blemish-prone or prematurely aged skin. It makes sense: if the gut is the root of all inflammatory issues, then your skin will show the results of that extra pressure on your liver, and the flood of toxins your skin wouldn’t otherwise have to deal with. ‘Although the skin is your largest elimination organ, it’s one of the last places in the body to receive nutrients and one of the first to suffer,’ says Oates. When your skin is stressed, it gets super-reactive (think rosacea, acne and psoriasis). While the science of a radiant face is vague, it’s not complicated: a clean, calm gut will ensure your skin is lit from within, while a fermented ingredient-rich diet and skincare routine will guarantee a glow-slow. ‘Biofermentation is the next wave in the beauty industry,’ assures Sue Y Nabi, the founder and CEO of sustainable skincare brand Orveda. ‘It’s about fermenting botanicals to make their molecular structure finer.’ This revolutionary approach allows products to get into the skin in an easier, less disruptive way, treating it without irritation or inflammation – perfect for sensitive skin caused by irritated bellies.
“IT’S ESTIMATED THAT 90% OF SEROTONIN IS MADE IN THE GUT. AND A LACK OF THIS GUT SEROTONIN CAN LEAD TO DIGESTIVE ISSUES, FROM CONSTIPATION TO, YES, EXCESSIVE BLOATING