By Victor Marchione, MD
Normally, a bloated stomach is nothing to be alarmed about. It isn’t a dangerous or life-threatening condition. It can, however, make you feel decidedly uncomfortable. A bulging mid-drift can make you look and feel miserable if it becomes a chronic occurrence.
While a bloated belly is often linked to dietary choices, it’s best to make a quick visit to the doctor to rule out anything more serious. Once that’s done, here are seven tips for flattening out your stomach and ridding yourself of painful bloating once and for all.
But before we begin, here are some general strategies to consider first in the battle of the bulge. Pay attention to what happens in your digestive system when you eat certain foods. Does eating garlic and onions, for example, seem to always lead to an inflated abdomen? Or do you find that your stomach becomes bloated if you eat a large meal before bed, or a heavy breakfast full of sausages and fried potatoes? Try to map out when bloating occurs and write down what you have eaten just before. Now on to the seven tips that can help keep your abdomen flat and the size it was meant to be.
1. Eat When You Are Hungry
Don’t eat when you aren’t hungry. Wait for your body to signal that it’s ready for a meal. If you wait until you start to feel hungry, your stomach is empty and ready to start digesting a new meal.
2. Wait 3 Hours Between Meals
You’ll want to give your digestive system ample time to digest your previous meal before you add another to your stomach’s contents. Try to avoid snacking in between meals too, if you’re having trouble with bloating.
3. Chew Your Food
It seems simplistic, but chewing is an important part of the digestive process. Chew your food carefully, as your mother used to say. Chewing releases important digestive enzymes that help to breakdown food so that nutrients can be sent throughout the body where they are needed most.
4. Avoid Eating Fruit after a Big Meal
Fruits are a healthy addition to your diet but just not after a big meal. Eating fruit when your stomach is digesting proteins and carbs from the dinner you just ate will likely cause gas to form, with bloating as the end result.
5. Chew a Piece of Lemon or Lime before a Meal
Chewing on a lime or lemon slice (if these are too tart, try a piece of ginger instead) a half hour before eating a meal could help to get your digestive “juices” going. This could assist in making the digestion of an actual meal much more efficient and effective.
6. Try Adding Spices to Your Meal
Certain spices have been shown to aid digestion. Try adding a little black pepper, ginger, cumin, or curry to heavy meals to stimulate the digestive process.
7. Take Probiotics
Getting a dose of friendly bacteria every day can really help to “tune up” your digestive system. Friendly bacteria keep foods from lingering too long in the belly, leading to fermentation, gas and bloating.
Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The Food Doctor newsletter. Dr. Marchione has also served as Principal Investigator in at least a dozen clinical research projects relating to serious ailments such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).