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7 Ways to Beat Belly Bloat

When you’re uncomfortable, gassy and your clothes don’t fit, these tips may soothe and shrink your midsection.

Ever feel like your clothes are suddenly hugging your midsection, your belly has grown in size or that you’re extra stuffed or gassy? You may be dealing with belly bloat.

Bloating and gas are things we all get at one time or another, and the cause can be hard to confirm. So, if the bloating is chronic or painful, or if it starts happening all of a sudden, check in with your health care provider. It’s important to rule out any causes for belly bloat that can be more serious, explains Linda Ann Lee, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

For instance, ovarian or uterine issues can cause bloating symptoms, Lee says. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — a condition characterized by a combination of symptoms including bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation that last for three or more months — or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, also can be causes, reports Harvard Medical School.

That said, if your bloating is more of an occasional annoyance, there are things you can do to help manage it, including diet and lifestyle changes.

For instance, sometimes bloating happens when your body has trouble digesting sugars. Key offenders? A group of foods called FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) that includes everything from wheat and onions to asparagus, milk and dairy products.

Eating beans and lentils also can figure in, adds Michelle Stewart, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Yes, beans. You’re probably not surprised.) Although these foods are loaded with nutrients, they also contain indigestible sugars called oligosaccharides that can cause belly bloat. And cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower can be culprits.

So now that you know the possible causes, here’s how you can help prevent bloating issues.

Review your diet. When you talk with your health care provider, take note of which foods may be contributing to the issue and ask whether you may have allergies or intolerances. Then consider reducing, eliminating or replacing these foods. For instance, if cow’s milk is off the table, consider alternatives like almond or oat beverages.

Avoid constipation. Among other causes, not enough fiber and fluids can lead to constipation, so remember this when planning your diet. (Constipation can be different for everyone, so it’s important to know what’s normal for you, says Lee.)

Don’t overeat — and don’t eat or drink too fast. Portion control and eating less fat can help, along with taking time to chew your food. It takes the body longer to digest fatty foods, and chewing thoroughly is important because digestion begins in your mouth.

Try foods with higher water content. When it comes to snacks like cucumbers and watermelon, water content can help flush out impurities and improve digestion. Celery also can help.

Consider items that can help digestion. Papaya is a fruit that contains a natural enzyme called papain and can help to prevent bloating and aid digestion. Peppermint and ginger tea, pineapple, parsley, cilantro and yogurt with active cultures also may help, Stewart says.

Ditch drinking straws, gum and certain drinks. Avoid drinking through a straw and stay away from chewing gum, carbonated beverages and even sucking on hard candy. These can cause bloating because they cause you to swallow excess air.

Consider multiple approaches. Real talk: You may need to try different options to get on top of the bloating issue. For instance, your health care provider may recommend supplements or medications to help with digestion. So have patience as you work on solutions. And enjoy your peppermint tea — and longer, more leisurely dinners along the way.

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