Feeling bloated? Well, you're not alone. Many of us secretly loosen our pants after a meal to ease the discomfort of bloating. And for some, even eating a small amount of food can make the abdomen inflate. There are many reasons why bloating happens; food sensitivities (wheat, gluten and dairy), hormone imbalance, constipation, low stomach acid, and stress to name a few. Chinese Medicine places great importance on proper digestion, as it is the foundation to optimal health and vitality. Bloating is not a normal part of healthy digestion.
Here are five tips you can use to prevent or alleviate bloating.
Cook your food
Raw and thermally cold foods are more difficult to digest. If your digestive function is compromised then you may not be able to fully process uncooked foods, which can lead to bloating. Heat starts to break down food into more digestible components. Avoid cold, raw and frozen foods (yes, that includes ice cream!) until your digestive fire has improved and bloating has subsided. This is even more important in the winter months.
Ditch the ice water
Room temperature water or tea is a better option to drink with meals. In fact, meal time is not the best time to drink large amounts of water as it dilutes stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Hydrate in between meals instead, or sip only small amounts of fluids while eating. Your digestive tract is made of smooth muscles, and warmth helps to relax and increase circulation to these tissues, reducing bloating and digestive discomfort.
Spice it up
Many common herbs and spices can address digestive complaints. Try fresh ginger tea before a meal. Add 3-4 thin slices of fresh ginger root to hot water, cover and steep for ten minutes. Sip half a cup fifteen minutes before eating. Ginger stimulates the production of saliva, bile and stomach acid which prevents food fermentation and gas. Add 1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds to the remaining ginger tea to drink after the meal to further alleviate any gas and distention.
Walk it off
One of the worst things you can do after having a big meal is to curl up on the couch and have a nap. A moderate walk stimulates peristalsis (downward rhythmic movement of the intestines) and prevents constipation. Bloating is a form of stagnation in Chinese Medicine, the remedy for which is movement. Go for an easy stroll around the block, but avoid a vigorous workout right after your meal.
Stress and digestion don't mix
It's simple biology. Being rushed or feeling "stressed out" causes the body to release hormones that help us deal with stressful situations. This is good. However, these same hormones decrease the amount of blood going to the stomach and intestines, decrease the amount of stomach acid and digestive enzymes being excreted and slows the movement in the gut. This is bad. You can't have proper digestive function and feel stressed out at the same time. Make time to sit and enjoy your food, slow down and mindfully chew, gather with friends and laugh. Eating should nourish the body, mind, and soul.
If you're regularly dealing with digestive issues such as bloating, heartburn, and abdominal pain, it may be time to seek out professional help. Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long history of
treating digestive disorders with acupuncture, lifestyle and dietary changes along with customized food and herb combinations to balance your digestive function. Contact the clinic to find out how we can help!