There’s a new wave of symp­toms, af­fect­ing the ‘al­ways on’ gen­er­a­tion – and they could be the rea­son you’re feel­ing bloated

Elle (South Africa) - - WELLNESS -

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.


‘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.


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.


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.


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.


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