Contrary to what you may have been told, avoiding apples and hitting the gym are not sufficient methods to get rid of bloat. Everyone has different triggers, and what may be bloating for you, may not be bloating for me. But perhaps more importantly, Who goes to the gym when they’re bloated? Squeezing into Lululemons and watching yourself in the mirror as you weigh down the stationary bicycle is never a good experience for anyone.
Media outlets doling out dietary advice are more often than not ill-equipped to do so. Only a Registered Dietitian can lead you to safety. But the journey starts with you. Confront your bloat point blank – with a ballpoint pen and a blank piece of paper.
You’re going to scratch everything you’ve heard (from a non-nutrition professional), clear your head with a therapeutic walk to Kate’s Paperie, and purchase yourself a pretty Kate Spade journal in which to log your daily intake.
A food/symptom diary will give you a clear picture of your eating pattern and provide a timeline of your symptoms. The connection between food and symptom is not so easy to make, as symptoms are often delayed. You will need to consult a Registered Dietitian for this. Visit the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics website to find an RD in your area.
Once you identify the bully interfering with your ability to wear skinny jeans, eliminate it completely from your diet and see if symptoms resolve. If they do, great. If they don’t, take out something else. Rinse and repeat (sulfate-free; don’t ruin the keratin) until you’ve got yourself a baseline feel-good diet.
Once you are symptom free, you can start the process in reverse by slowly adding food items back in one at a time, assessing symptoms, adjusting accordingly.
This seems pretty arduous, and trust me, it is. I’ve done it enough times. However, done right, it can be helpful. Or, you’ll lose your patience, throw up your hands in defeat, and end up looking pregnant for the better part of two years like Jessica Simpson did from 2011-2013. Sadly, unlike JS, you don’t get a baby at the end of it.
In that event, there are diagnostic tests available to identify food intolerances or sensitivities. However, while helpful, it isn’t possible to screen for every item. Only a few intolerances are readily tested for. Other than that you’re on your own. You are your best diagnostic tool. For sensitivities there is the highly recommended Mediator Release Test (MRT), which I will cover in an upcoming blog. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, though I preach against a one-size-fits all approach to nutrition, I will leave you with this:
This is the artificial sweetener in your diet soda drinks and sugar-free gum. It can be VERY bloating. Aspartame is completely unnatural, processed, and will make you feel uncomfortable. Like a bad dye job.
Chewing gum, sugarless or not, lets air into your mouth and through the intestinal tract, causing bloat. In a word of advice, always chew with your mouth closed.
If you must chew gum, skip the sugarless. Sugar-free gum typically contains just 1 gram of sugar alcohol – aspartame, sorbitol, any other -ol, etc. – per piece, which may seem trivial. However, that 1 gram is enough to cause stomach upset. I know. I used to be a pack-a-day chewer. Rule of thumb, – ol in your gum, no; –ol in your glass, go.
Speaking of alcohol…
I love it. I’m drinking some wine right now. When it comes to distilled beverages, I say nix the mixer, save yourself the calories and potential GI irritation (especially if using diet soda), and throw back a shot like a champion. One shot, 80 calories. Done. (Fun fact: The amount of calories in a shot of hard liquor is usually the same as the proof.) Also no beer. Beer has gluten, you’re all afraid of that, enough said.
Wheat exists in its own entity separate from gluten. You may be unable to tolerate wheat yet be fine with other gluten grains. This is why we need to review our food log, and my previous post, Gluten-Free is NOT the New Black.
For those with suspected or confirmed lactose intolerance, I recommend switching to a lactose-free brand of milk. It does not taste different; the only ingredients are milk and tasteless lactase enzyme. Lactaid® pills work for some, others experience no relief. I say skip them and avoid trouble foods in favor of better tolerated dairy products such as aged hard cheeses and Greek yogurt with probiotics.
Caffeine in itself is a potential GI irritant, however even decaffeinated coffee can be an issue. The beans are the problem here. Beans in general are a problem. Consume with caution if you are concerned about being able to zip up a dress later.
Keep in mind, however, that beans are a very good source of fiber. A note on fiber: If you ingest a large amount of fiber without drinking enough water to aid with motility, you may become constipated…and bloated. All signs lead to bloat.
In conclusion, don’t trust “quick fix” food lists, consult a professional in the field, and in the meantime use your bloat for good and get a seat on the subway.