All-Natural Ways to Fight Bloating

Most of us are familiar with bloating—that uncomfortable, swollen feeling in your belly. Whether the bloating is caused by water retention, gas or constipation, you don't necessarily need to head to the pharmacy right away to find relief. The edibles below may be able to help, thanks to their natural anti-bloating properties. But before you chow down, check with your physician to make sure your symptoms aren't indicative of a more serious issue.

"The enzyme papain, which is found in papaya, is very similar to some of the digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas to help break down proteins in food," says Timothy Harlan, MD, medical director at the Tulane University School of Medicine and author of Just Tell Me What to Eat. Data, including a 2009 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food, has suggested the tropical fruit may help with many aspects of digestion, which can help ease bloating related to constipation or gas. To reap the maximum benefits of the enzyme, eat papaya whole or blend it into a smoothie—fruit juices are often devoid of essential vitamins and nutrients. And that goes for vitamins, too. "Taking papaya extract (papain) in supplement form would not be as beneficial as obtaining it from the whole papaya because the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes in whole foods interact to impart health benefits greater than an isolated nutrient or compound," says Kari Kooi, RD, corporate wellness dietician at The Methodist Hospital in Houston. Photo: Shutterstock

By now you've probably heard yogurt companies boasting that their products' probiotics aid in digestion. It's true that the good-for-you bacteria—the most common strains are lactobacillus, acidophilus and bifidus—can help regulate your system. But there's no need to spend more on fancy brands of yogurt because, as Kooi notes, "Companies must pay the National Yogurt Association a yearly fee to carry the 'Live and Active Cultures' symbol, so a brand could still meet these requirements even though it’s not carrying the symbol." Dr. Harlan agrees and says all yogurts contain probiotics—it's just a matter of choosing one that has the most live, active cultures. "A lot of highly processed yogurts don't have as many active cultures; avoid ones that contain high-fructose corn syrup or any other artificial sweeteners." Your best bet? Buy a container of plain, unflavored yogurt and add your own jam or honey—you'll reap the benefits of probiotics, plus save money and calories at the same time. To keep digestion-related bloating at bay, Kooi recommends eating yogurt regularly, but says there’s no magic number. "Even one cup of yogurt a day can impart health benefits." Photo: Shutterstock
Black Licorice Root
Don't head to the candy aisle for this natural bloat remedy. Black licorice root (what black licorice used to be made from) can be found in supplement and liquid extract form at most health food stores and is said to help with water retention, due to its natural diuretic and mild laxative properties. "It's been around forever," says Michael Kaplan, MD, board certified physician and founder of The Center for Medical Weight Loss, who adds that its healing effects are well-documented and taught in medical schools. Dr. Kaplan recommends taking 1 ml of black licorice root extract, three times daily, on the few days per month when you feel extra bloated. But if you have hypertension or congestive heart failure, steer clear: Black licorice root suppresses the release of aldosterone by the adrenal glands, which regulates sodium and potassium levels in the body, and can aggravate these conditions. Photo: Shutterstock/Getty Images

According to Paola Mora, RD, CDN, a clinical dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, calcium is a great way to soothe menstrual bloating. "It has been shown to help decrease fluid retention that comes with bloating." However, Kooi says that many women don't get enough calcium and therefore miss out on all the health benefits it provides. "All that’s needed is adequate calcium on a consistent basis and that can be obtained by eating at least three daily servings of calcium-rich foods like yogurt, lowfat milk, enriched soymilk and cheese." Kooi also recommends taking a calcium supplement with added vitamin D, which helps the calcium to be absorbed, to ensure you are meeting the recommended requirements. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,300 mg of calcium daily for women 14 to 18 years old, 1,000 mg for women 19 to 50 and 1,200 mg for women over 50 years old. However, check with your doctor before taking a supplement to ensure you are getting the correct dose of calcium—too much can lead to various health issues, including kidney stones. Photo: Shutterstock

When you have a full-feeling stomach it's tempting to cut down on food and drinks. "A lot of my patients try not to drink as much water when they have PMS-related bloating because they think it will make it worse," says Mora. But, she advises, it's essential to stay hydrated—especially if you're craving salty foods at that time of the month because water is the only thing that will reduce the sodium-related bloating. "Anywhere that sodium is, fluid will follow, and you'll stay bloated." She recommends sticking with six to eight glasses of water daily, and listening to your body's thirst cues. "Staying adequately hydrated throughout the day promotes better digestion and regularity, thereby reducing the chances of getting bloated," says Kooi. Photo: Shutterstock

Fiber can help with digestion and therefore ease bloating related to constipation, but it's important to eat it wisely. "Fiber is like a thermos that keeps beverages cold or hot; it can work in two seemingly opposite ways," says Dr. Harlan. If you drastically increase your fiber intake without drinking enough fluids, it can constipate you, leading to even more bloating. But if you slowly up your intake of fruits and veggies and consume enough water, the fiber will help ease digestion by increasing transit within your system. "The key is to incorporate fiber gradually so that the gastrointestinal tract has time to adapt. Women need around 25 grams of fiber each day," Kooi says. "I tell my clients to get close to 10 grams of fiber with each meal, but when you’re first starting out you want to add it slowly." Photo: Shutterstock

While it hasn't been definitively proven, some small studies, including one published in 2003 in the journal Digestive and Liver Disease, have led experts to look more closely at asparagus' anti-bloating properties. Asparagus appears to function as a prebiotic, which supports the growth and activity of good bacteria in the large intestine, and can ease gas buildup and relieve constipation; it's also been suggested that asparagus may have diuretic properties that can help flush fluids, too. There's no hard evidence, but if your belly's feeling swollen it's worth a shot giving the already-good-for-you veggie a try—though Dr. Harlan adds that research hasn't shown how long it takes for the effects of asparagus to happen, only that it appears asparagus has prebiotic properties. Photo: Shutterstock

Via Women's Day

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