How to Reduce Bloating & Improve Digestion

a cup of bone broth with a fresh rosemary spring being held on someone's lap.

One of the most common digestive symptoms I see people experience is bloating. Although bloating once in awhile can happen to all of us, chronic bloating is definitely not normal! This can be an indication that something deeper is going on in your body and that your digestive system isn’t working optimally.

There are a variety of reasons why someone can experience bloating and more often than not, there are a few factors going on that are contributing to this discomfort. Some of these can be easily corrected and others may be more serious and require more attention and care. Maybe you’ve already tried cutting out certain foods or changing up your diet, but are still experiencing bloating. Although the food we eat can certainly play a role, something that is often overlooked is our daily habits and HOW we eat.

Today we’ll be looking at some lifestyle factors that affect gut health and simple steps you can take to support your digestion and reduce bloating.

Eating habits to reduce bloating and improve digestion

Slow down and eat mindfully

How often do you find yourself sitting down for a meal without any distractions and truly just focusing on the food that you’re eating? For most people, mealtime is often paired with scrolling on social media, answering emails, catching up on a tv show or eating on the go or in the car.

Eating is a time when we really benefit from putting away any distractions, slowing down and trying to be more present in order to really support digestion. Cooking your own food not only supports your health, but it’s also a great way to prepare your body to digest your meals. While cooking, the aromas can stimulate your body to release digestive enzymes that are important for breaking down food. While eating, focus on how each bite of your food tastes and try putting your fork down after each bite. This helps us to slow down and gives your body enough time to recognize that it’s full so you can avoid overeating, which can also lead to bloating.

Chew your food well

Chewing is an essential, but often overlooked, part of healthy digestion. When you chew, it stimulates saliva which contains enzymes that begin breaking down food. It also signals to other digestive organs that food is on its way. Chewing food well helps to break everything down properly, allowing nutrients to be fully extracted and supporting optimal digestion. This can make a huge difference on how you feel after a meal, especially if you experience bloating or gas after eating.

We should really be chewing our food until it’s almost liquid, about 30 times per bite. This might seem like a lot at first, but overtime it will become something you’ll begin to do naturally. It also forces you to slow down and to be more mindful during eating.

Lifestyle habits to reduce bloating and improve digestion

Stay hydrated 

Your body needs water – a lot of it! Staying hydrated is essential for good health, but it can also help prevent bloating. When we’re dehydrated, it can exacerbate constipation and worsen any bloating. This is especially true if you’ve increased your fibre intake without enough water.

However, staying hydrated is more than just drinking water, especially in the warmer months or if you’re quite active. It’s important to make sure that you’re also replenishing electrolytes. This can be as simple as adding a pinch or two of a good quality sea salt or pink Himalayan salt to your water. You can also add an electrolyte powder to your water, such as Ultima electrolytes or LMNT electrolytes

When you first wake up, make sure that you’re reaching for water before having any coffee. If you don’t like the taste of plain water you can easily flavour it by adding fresh lemon or lime juice, sliced cucumbers or fresh herbs like mint or rosemary. Herbal teas are also a delicious way to stay hydrated! Ginger, peppermint, and fennel are all great options as they can support digestion and soothe an uncomfortable belly. It’s also best to limit carbonated drinks. These can trap gas in your digestive system, leading to gas and bloating.

Address stress

In order for our bodies to release the saliva, stomach acid and digestive enzymes needed for optimal digestion, we need to be in the “rest and digest” state. Unfortunately, a lot of people are often going through their day in a constant state of stress, which puts the body into “fight or flight” mode. In this state, your body pumps out cortisol and the body systems that are non-essential to your immediate survival, such as the digestive system, are turned off to preserve energy for protection from the “threat” it believes we’re facing.

Managing stress is essential for our health overall, but it can also be a huge game changer when it comes to optimizing digestion and reduce bloating. Try adding more self-care or stress reducing techniques into your daily routine. Deep breathing, meditation, journaling, yoga, taking a warm bath with magnesium and calming essential oils, a massage or just cozying up with a hot tea and a good book are all great ways to reduce stress and help calm the nervous system so that you’re not in that “fight-or-flight” mode while eating.

Another trick that has really helped me personally, is taking a few deep belly breaths before meals. This triggers the relaxation response of the body, “rest-and-digest,” which will support digestion.

Move your body

Regular movement helps your digestive system function optimally and can improve intestinal gas clearance. If you’re experiencing chronic stress, light exercise such as yoga or walking can be a better option over intense exercise. These can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, whereas intense exercise can cause the body to go into a stressful state.

Bottom Line

Digestion plays a major role in our health and how we feel each day. These simple steps are a great first place to start if you’re experiencing bloating. However, if bloating symptoms persist or you’re regularly experiencing GI symptoms, it’s important to dig deeper and get to the root cause. Bloating can be complicated and what works for one person might not work for someone else. I recommend working with a holistic nutritionist, like myself, or another health care provider to help you get to the root cause and support you in making the necessary diet and lifestyle changes!

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