HERE ARE A SOME TOOLS TO GET DIGESTION FLOWING
Are you sick of suffering from bloating after a meal or during the day? Let’s clear something up first: a little bloat post-meal is completely natural. But when we are subject to persistent bloat, it is often a sign that digestion isn’t working as well as it should be. Let’s look at the root cause of your bloating and then follow these tips to help you with some ways to use food as medicine to beat your bloat.
What is Bloat?
There are many causes of abdominal bloating or distension, but perhaps the most common of these relate to abdominal bloating after eating because of the production of excess gas in the digestive tract.
Gas is normally produced in the gut. It has been estimated that more than 5 litres of the stuff is produced each day, which is gently released downwards as flatus (wind/gas) or alternatively, upwards when burping.
An excess of gas, either immediately or a few hours after eating, gives rise to bloating and discomfort in the abdomen. A bit of bloating after eating is a completely normal part of digestion, not something that needs to be fixed. After you eat, your stomach breaks down food into digestible-sized pieces so that it can move through the small intestine. That’s where the majority of digestion takes place. This breakdown of carbohydrates and the fermentation of dietary fiber may produce gas which expands like a balloon, resulting in a slight swell. This bloat passes after a short period of time. If the bloat becomes excessive or does not subside, it may indicate that all is not right in your gut.
Finding the root of the swelling is key to treating it.
Bloating, like other conditions such as fatigue, inflammation, joint pain, acne, and depression can be the result of an imbalance in the microbiome. There are trillions of gut bacteria that are our best ally to keep our entire systems healthy, including digestion, “If that bacteria is not healthy, we will have all kinds of problems, including bloat and more serious gastrointestinal problems.
‘Indigestion’, meaning ‘improper digestion’, commonly affects the upper part of the digestive system, including the oesophagus and the stomach. Indigestion may arise for a number of reasons, for example low stomach acid is a common factor. Without sufficient stomach acid (a common cause of indigestion), the food we eat isn’t properly broken down, and instead comes under attack by bacteria that naturally reside throughout our digestive tract. As bacteria feast on food, they release gas which can result in bloating. In addition to this, without sufficient stomach acid, bad bacteria can more easily increase in numbers. The effects of bad bacteria are thought to be even more extreme, and an overgrowth in unfriendly bacteria is likely to heighten symptoms such as bloating, distension and discomfort.
Have you considered that diet or a food intolerance could be at the root of your bloating? While there are a number of reasons our microbiome can be compromised, diet is normally the first and most overarching culprit. Dietary food intolerances are thought to be becoming more common nowadays, with gluten and dairy being common culprits. Reactions as a result of food intolerances can be quite individual and can vary across different people, however, often they come with a host of unpleasant symptoms. Some common ones include abdominal discomfort, bloating, nausea, and changing bowel movements, to name a few. With some other foods, the exact reason for the food intolerance reaction is less well understood. The idea that the immune system is involved in some way is increasingly thought to be a possibility. For example, with food sensitivities or intolerances to gluten, in many cases, flare ups can result in symptoms emerging outside the gut, such as breakouts in the skin. This suggests a low-grade inflammatory response mediated by the immune system may be apparent.
When it comes to bloating, there are a number of reasons why food intolerances may have this reaction. If there is partially undigested food present, this can, in some cases, mean that transit time is increased throughout the digestive system. This can contribute to constipation (a common symptom of food intolerance) which in itself can add to bloating. However, in the event of a slow-moving bowel, this can also give bacteria the opportunity to take hold. As bacteria naturally ferment food material, a by-product of this process is gas. In excess, this can easily lead to bloating, flatulence and discomfort.
Diet is the area where we can effect real change. A healthy microbiome is a prerequisite to improving your digestive system and preventing bloat
Hormones- Are They To Blame?
We have two main female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Throughout a typical monthly cycle, these hormones fluctuate in specific patterns in order to initiate ovulation and eventually your period. However, these hormones can also have effects elsewhere around the body. Although they are classed as our ‘sex hormones’ actually, they can have a magnitude of effects elsewhere (we have estrogen receptors all over our body) as well as potentially having effects on other distinct hormones. Our endocrine system is interlinked and changes in one area can easily have a domino effect on other parts.
When estrogen is present in excess, it causes persistent bloat and weight gain. Let’s also look at leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that determine satiety and hunger cues in the body: When they are skewed, you can forget about relying on your innate wisdom to decide when to eat and when to stop. And of course, there’s cortisol, the stress hormone. When it spikes, due to factors like excessive sugar and alcohol consumption, lack of certain nutrients, and, yes, too much stress, belly fat often results. This belly fat is known as visceral fat and is dangerous fat because it’s linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This visceral fat acts as a hormone repository producing and storing chemicals and hormones that confuse your hunger and fullness signals. It’s also pumping out loads of chemicals called cytokines that cause inflammation, depression, and chronic disease.
Hormones also affect bile production, and as those levels change, the body tends to store more water, making you feel bloated. In addition the amount of bile produced alters the way you digest fats leading to more gas and bloating in the digestive system. So in order to maintain a healthy endocrine system—one that supports optimal weight, whatever that may be for you—it’s important to create a thriving environment in the gut.
Below, find a number of nutritive and easy tools using food as medicine. We use these tools often especially during the holiday season where let’s face it we are apt to eat and drink more of the foods that cause bloating. So take a look at what we keep in our pantry—to ensure we don’t struggle with bloating and inflammation on a regular basis.
CHEW YOUR FOOD
There are certain lifestyle changes you can make to help yourself avoid the bloat after eating. This first, is perhaps the most important. It is very simple advice but paradoxically, in our rushed modern world, it is perhaps one of the more difficult things to achieve successfully.
Take care when chewing your food – chew each mouthful a minimum of 30 times. This takes time to do and you won’t be able to eat quickly. However, taking the requisite time means that your stomach will be allowed to produce good amounts of digestive juices. In addition, every time you swallow, you will be introducing food into your stomach that is properly mashed up. The result is that food is broken down naturally, easily and more efficiently. This improves symptoms of indigestion you may be experiencing, acid reflux as well as reducing gas and bloating after eating.
DRINK WATER BUT KNOW WHEN
Drink plenty of water as it will help your general health. However, avoid drinking water 30 minutes before your meal and try to limit the amount of fluid consumed during each meal so as not to dilute your digestive juices.
The ingredients in the Ayurveda Supertea such as cumin and coriander are natural diuretics and have been used traditionally in herbal practices around the world. This, along with fennel, cools any inflammation in the gut and allows for better nutrient absorption and can support effective bowel movements.
When our digestive fire (metabolism) is not working well, we are no longer an efficient fat burner and digestion becomes sluggish, increasing bloating. We build up digestive toxins (ama) and this ama increases inflammation. One of our ‘go-to’ remedies is our Ama Buster – taken in warm water after a meal.
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- I tablespoon coriander
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons dry mint
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
Mix all ingredients and put in an airtight container. Add a teaspoon of the mixture to ½ cup warm water after each meal.
Digestive enzymes are powerful aids when it comes to relieving bloat because their main function is to help with nutrient absorption. Think about it: in the same way that if you scarf down food without properly chewing and stimulating enough gastric juices in the system, digestive enzymes help prevent that unwanted buildup of gas and bloating through properly moving food through the GI tract. These enzymes are even more handy when eating indulgent, heavier meals or going out to eat when portion sizes are larger than life. Because a prebiotic feeds the good gut bacteria and helps it proliferate – this is a more important step than a probiotic. Ghee is a natural prebiotic and adding 1 tablespoon a day to your foods will ensure the nutrition needed for your healthy gut bacteria to reproduce and make your gut happy. Your microbiome benefits from having enough symbiotic bacteria to balance immunity, mood, metabolism, and energy. Check out our 10 Benefits of Ghee Blog here.
TRIPHALA – AYURVEDA’S DIGESTIVE HERB
Literally meaning “three fruits,” triphala is a traditional Ayurvedic herbal formulation consisting of three fruits native to the Indian subcontinent: amalaki (Emblica officinalis), bibhitaki, (Terminalia belerica), and haritaki (Terminalia chebula).
Triphala is most commonly known for its use as a gentle bowel tonic, being helpful in digestion, and supporting regular bowel movements. The combination of the three fruits has a synergistic effect to bolster many other systems as well. In addition to the GI tract, Ayurveda uses triphala churna to support healthy respiratory, cardiovascular, urinary, reproductive, and nervous systems.1 Triphala has also been shown to be a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
The three fruits involved in making triphala are also known for their individual effects:1
- Amalaki (Emblica officinalis): Has a cooling effect that manages pitta, supporting the natural functions of the liver and the immune system.
- Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica): Is particularly good for kapha, supporting the respiratory system as well as kapha accumulations in all systems.
- Haritaki (Terminalia chebula): Though having a heating nature, it is still good for all three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha). Is known for its “scraping” effect, which removes toxins and helps maintain healthy levels of weight.
Take the free dosha quiz to learn your constitution and state of imbalance.
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