No matter whether you’re athletic or over weight, active or a couch potato, the uncomfortable feeling of bloating is an issue that we will all face from time to time. Even the ab-wielding fitness bloggers plastered across our Instagram feeds will sometimes suffer from the uncomfortable stretch of a bloated stomach.
But when bloating can seem to strike out of the blue, how are you supposed to know what’s caused this build-up of excess gas and more importantly, what we can do to reduce the risk of it happening?
Well simply put bloating can be described as any or increase in diameter or swelling of your stomach. This swelling may result in sharp pain and stomach cramp and will leave your abdominal area feeling stretched and tight.
Unfortunately deciphering what the cause of this discomfort which isn’t as straight forward as you might think, as there are a handful of factors (both health and lifestyle related) which could have contributed.
Eating right without the risk
We’re massive advocates of getting your five a day, (or even seven as some studies suggest ) but getting in your vegetable intake can actually leave you feeling less than comfortable. Vegetables such as beans, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are all well-known culprits of causing excess wind which can lead to bloating. However, with a plethora of fruit and veg available, it’s easy to avoid these triggers, switching in alternatives instead. The NHS  have a handy guide giving you inspiration on how to get your five a day without the perils of trigger vegetable however, below are two of our top vegetables for fighting…
Containing quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant which helps to reduce swelling, the humble cucumber should be among the food staples you put in your basket when hoping to reduce abdominal swelling. Quercetin has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties  which have a wide range of health benefits and is one of the reasons you will often see people reaching for cucumber slices to help reduce puffy under eye bags.
One of the most refreshing ways to get more cucumber into your diet is by opting for slices in your glass of water. A lot of people will often cut down on water when they feel bloated however, if you're having a bloating problem, that's the time you want to push fluids, not restrict them as your body will hold on to fluid if it is dehydrated.
Asparagus is also your friend! As a diuretic, asparagus helps to provide you with all important fibre whilst flushing out your body and helping to de-bloat.
Be good to your gut
There’s a lot of talk about “good bacteria” but what does this actually mean? Well, usually this will be used to refer to probiotics. Research  into probiotics have lead the health world to believe they play very important roles in regulating proper intestinal function and digestion.
The easiest way to introduce these active cultures into the diet is by opting for yoghurt instead of milk. The natural sugars found within milk are already broken down in yoghurt and side-steps the intestinal process which can create gas.
Increase your fibre uptake
Bloating can often be a side effect of suffering from constipation however, tweaking your diet to include more fibre and increasing the amount of exercise you’re undertaking can help to ease and prevent constipation, as can drinking lots of fluid.
Often referred to as “roughage” fibre is important in keeping regular and reducing the risk of bloating. There are two types of fibre that can be used to treat and prevent constipation -soluble and insoluble. The combination of both types of fibre help to retain water and act as bulk, all of which helps to keep your intestinal system running smoothly.
Government guidelines  published in July 2015 say that our dietary fibre intake should increase to 30g a day, as part of a balanced diet. The NHS reports that most adults are only eating an average of about 18g day, so it’s important to find ways of increasing your intake.
Below are a few examples of food which are rich in fibre:
- Brown rice
- Sunflower seeds
Physical inactivity has also been linked to constipation and The National Institutes of Health advises that “exercising every day may help prevent and relieve constipation.” The NHS recommend that even a 20-30 minute brisk walk four times a week could considerably improve your bowel function.
With many variables potentially contributing to bloating issues, it can seem like a bit of a wild goose chase trying to determine which is causing trouble for you personally. However, with small changes and a systematic approach, the power of deduction should help to lead you to your answers. Although most of the time bloating is a minor inconvenience, it’s important to remember to get the opinion of a GP if it is persistent or you are worried.
Change your eating habits
Believe it or not how you eat is also a determining factor when it comes to bloating. It turns out that listening to the age old advice of not eating with your mouth open could make all the difference.
Talking whilst eating and eating quickly can both be triggers of bloating as it allows more air into your stomach. Whilst advising a national news organisation, Professor Whorwell of medicine at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester concluded that, “As we eat we swallow roughly the same amount of air as we do food. Therefore, gulping down food quickly or large amounts in one bite means that you’ll swallow more air and increase the risk of bloating.”
It’s for the same reasons that you should cut down on chewing gum. Chewing on gum allows excess air into the body increases your likelihood of suffering from the effects of bloating. He added, “Sugar-free versions are worse as they contain ingredients such as sorbitol and xylitol which are fermented by bacteria in the gut and may also cause bloating.”