By Dr. Niket Sonpal
Regardless of weight or body type, it’s common to see some belly bloat. The foods we choose, how we’re digesting and simply the air we’re swallowing, can all add up to feeling and looking bloated. To help us keep our bellies as bloat free as possible, is Dr. Niket Sonpal, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Board Certified in Internal Medicine specializing in gastroenterology, digestive health and nutrition, who shares what to eat and what to avoid, and why.
“It’s really important to pay attention to bloat, especially when it either comes on suddenly or is prolonged with pain. It is possible to develop an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine which gives that distended belly and full feeling,” explains Dr. Sonpal.
The discomfort caused by bloating is a fixable issue. Watching the choices you are making and the way your body is reacting to them is key.
According to Dr. Sonpal, here are some foods to steer clear of when it comes to banishing the bloat.
1. Simple Carbs
The general population is aware that foods like soft drinks, sweets, desserts, and white bread are not conducive to a healthy diet. Simple carbs are processed into the bloodstream very quickly and have little nutritional value other than the energy they add to your body. When there is an overflow of energy being stored in your body versus what you are burning, you begin to gain weight and feel bloated.
2. Processed starches
Limiting pasta or bread to a once per week treat can really make an impact when addressing bloat. These foods are like sponges when it comes to water.
When you cut starches, you’ll notice bloat minimizes pretty quickly.
3. Sugar substitutes and faux sweeteners
Here’s the catch, you may think you’re doing the right thing by opting for “fat-free” or “sugar-free” food options that say they are “derived from real sugar.” Dr. Sonpal clarifies that these kinds of sugars are actually low-digestible carbohydrates. Our bodies metabolize them differently due to their chemical structure leaving them hanging around in our small intestine, leading to bloat.
4. Raw cauliflower (and other uncooked cruciferous vegetables)
Cauliflower has become the “it” vegetable because it takes on the flavor of anything it’s mixed with. We see recipes for cauliflower mashed, cauliflower pizza, fried “rice,” and even mac and cheese; all created with cauliflower as the main ingredient. When cooked, these vegetables are great sources of nutrition and fine side dish substitutes for pasta, rice, and potatoes. However, when cauliflower is chopped up and eaten raw, along with kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts, you can expect bloating to occur. Cooking is key!
If you want to reduce water retention, which always leads to a bloated stomach, cut out the salt. In fact, if you have a lunchtime meal you can significantly reduce the bloat and puffiness simply by avoiding salty foods for the remainder of the day. People who are mindful of their salt intake, prepare their own foods and avoid things like canned soups, chips, bacon, sausage, and lunch meats will look and feel leaner.
What not to fear:
1. Ripe Bananas!
What’s not to love about bananas. You can grab one on the go, they are high in potassium, which is another thing that rids water retention.
They’re known to reduce swelling and contain the flavonoid antioxidant, quercetin. Cool, crisp, and delicious they’re common to salads and they can also be eaten solo as a snack. You can also add them to water.
Chunks of watermelon are low calorie and very low in sugar.
Watermelons are mostly water — about 92 percent — but this refreshing fruit is soaked with nutrients. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants, and amino acids. There’s even a modest amount of potassium.
4. Fermented Foods
Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and kombucha are all good sources of fermented food. These high probiotic, bacteria-friendly foods are key to maximizing digestion and maintaining a healthy gut.
5. Drink water and green tea!
Since carbonated beverages contribute to bloat, stick to water and flavored teas. Sipping on these beverages throughout the day keeps the digestive system moving. When you are water deprived, your body will hold on to the water already in your body without excretion, leading to bloating.
Things to avoid when dealing with belly bloat include:
1. Drinking from a straw
The mechanisms of straws make it so that you suck air in to take sips of your drink. An excess of this can fill you up with air and cause bloating.
2. Sleeping right after eating
Many people get drowsy right after a meal. The best course of action is to go for a walk or do something that gives you a bit of energy and helps your body process your meal. Going to bed right after eating cripples your digestive process, slowing down the breakdown of your food.
3. Eating Too Rapidly
If you find yourself struggling with bloating, observing the pace at which you eat can help reduce the amount of air you intake while consuming the foods you love. Generally, taking more time to enjoy your meal will help to reduce this.
About the doctor:
Dr. Niket Sonpal is Adjunct Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Clinical instructor at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Brooklyn and on the board of the NY‐ American College of Physicians (NYACP). He is completing his Fellowship in Gastroenterology at Lenox and has spoken and presented at over 25 national and regional conferences on his research and is a regular participant in national courses.