Beat the Bloat: 10 Tips for a Flatter Stomach
Maya Brosnan, author of 'KIS and Lose Weight', is a Gold Coast mum who is a Nutritionist, Iridologist, Fitness and Yoga teacher. Her wholistic health and nutrition book, ‘KIS and Lose Weight’ already inspired numerous Australians to lose weight and live a healthier life.
A flatter stomach is something so many of us often dream of, but for some of us, getting that flat, sexy looking belly is not just about losing the fat around the mid-section. It can also be about looking after our digestive and overall health to help us ease bloating, wind and abdominal water retention.
Here are a few tips to help achieve not just that flat belly you always desired, but a ‘happier flat tummy’ with less digestive irritation, bloating and wind:
1. Crunches Don’t Cut It!
If you have been trying to shed a few kilos from the tummy area by doing abdominal exercises such as crunches, planks or knee lifts, I have some bad news for you. Some of your efforts will, unfortunately, go to waste... As much as we can feel those abs burning when we do our crunches, there is actually no such thing as ‘spot reduction’ – while we are working and strengthening the muscles in this area, we cannot direct our body’s attention to burning our abdominal fat by doing ab work only. This fat cannot magically disappear. If you are looking at reducing fat from any area in your body, you should firstly look at what goes into your moth and adjust that: Avoiding processed and highly refined foods like sugary treats, white flour based products (like croissants and doughnuts, ice cream chips etc.), and sticking to wholesome, ‘clean’ food is a great place to start.
A combination of resistance training (where you use at least your own body weight as resistance like pushups, lunges and squats for example, or a full body weights workout) and cardio work (power walking, running, swimming, bike, dancing etc) is the best choice as well as interval training when it comes to fat loss. But remember, when the body burns fat, it decides which area to let go of first. As much as we want to, we cannot force our bodies to lose fat from a particular area, stomach included. So remember to eat well, do your exercise and practice patience.
2. Make Eating a Ritual:
In this fast paced world cortisol and adrenaline, two of our naturally occurring stress hormones, can rule our lives and the way we digest. While these ‘Fight or Flight’ hormones were originally designed thousands of years ago to help us fight a predator or take off in order to save our lives, they were certainly not designed to help us digest. When we are stressed physically, emotionally or mentally, our body sends plenty of energy to our limbs and our brain but not much is happening in our poor old gut. Digesting is not a priority when your life is under threat... These days our stress response is hyperactive as sitting at our computer desk at work, watching TV, driving, using our phone and even reading the paper can switch our ‘Fight or Flight’ response on. In order for us to digest well and not get bloated, we need to have a certain degree of stomach acidity, as well as enough digestive enzymes to help us break down our food. We need to send our brain the right signals to prompt it to communicate with our gut so it can begin to increase our stomach acidity and release digestive enzymes. It is therefore highly important we consume all of our meals away from distractions; away from our desks, the TV, steering wheel and our phone. Practicing eating our food in a quiet and relaxed environment, will help our brain better communicate with our gut, resulting in better digestion and less bloating.
3. Gotta keep’em seperated
Although we are all aware of how drinking more water can benefit our health, timing is important when it comes to digestion and bloating in particular. As mentioned earlier, our stomach needs certain degree of acidity in order to be able to break down our foods, especially proteins. If we drink water or any other liquids while we eat, we physically dilute our stomach acids and digestive juices resulting in poor digestion and bloating. Separating liquids and food consumption by at least 10 minutes can have an incredible effect not only on our digestion, but also how comfortable and confident we feel in our skinny jeans as we bloat less.
4. How about them apples?
One tablespoon (or more, depending on the individual) of apple cider vinegar mixed with warm water can help increase our stomach’s acidity and digest our food better, avoiding bloating later on. Choose only good quality organic apple cider vinegar containing ‘the mother’ – an important component in digestive health helping fight bad bacteria in the gut. Apple cider vinegar can also be used in salad dressings, but if it doesn’t quite get the job done, you may need to make an appointment with an accredited nutritionist or naturopath to prescribe digestive or pancreatic enzymes.
5. Fruit to the Rescue!
Kiwi fruit, pineapple, fig and pawpaw contain natural digestive enzymes including Proteases, Bromelain and Papain. Consuming a serve of any of these fruits about 10 minutes before a main meal may help improve digestion and ease post –meal bloating.
6. First in Line
Consuming the protein portion of your meal first (for example your meat or fish) and your vegetables later, will help increase gastric acid production, digest your food better and avoid any abdominal discomfort.
7. Probiotics – Anti bloating
Many digestive complaints, bloating especially, can be caused by an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Increasing your consumption of probiotics can help heal the gut and improve any symptoms including bloating. As many of us already know, unsweetened yoghurt is a fantastic source of probiotics. But just be aware - dairy can be quite reactive and not that easy to digest for some people presenting with post – eating abdominal symptoms, in those cases having yoghurt can actually cause bloating rather than relieve it. The solution would be to go for goats’ milk yoghurt or coconut yoghurt. Otherwise non – dairy sources of probiotics include miso soup, sauerkraut, olives, sour pickles, sourdough bread and kefir.
8. Be your own master chef
Being your own master chef and preparing your own food in a relaxed environment will send signals to your brain to produce more gastric acids and digestive enzymes to help digest your meal. Cooking with love and good intention will improve not only your own digestion, but those dining with you as you share vibrational energy through your food.
9. Who’s the Culprit?
If you tried all of the suggestions above, but still find it hard to zip your pants after a meal, you may be dealing with a food intolerance. The most common ones are intolerances to wheat and dairy. Eliminating both or one of those for a minimum of two to three weeks can help determine if you are reacting to this type of food. Use a diary to record all your meals and digestive symptoms. When re – introducing wheat or dairy, check for any reactions, and adjust your diet accordingly. A qualified nutritionist or naturopath will be able to get you tested for other food intolerances if needed.
10. The Feminine Twist
Many women complain of premenstrual abdominal bloating. For some, the water retention around the abdomen can be so severe that they go up a full dress size around that time of the month. Supplementing with good quality B6, Magnesium and zinc can help achieve hormonal balance and reduce water retention. Consuming foods high in potassium including all green vegetables (especially the green leafy veggies), bananas, potatoes, salmon, avocados, mushrooms, beans and lentils can help correct water retention too.