Seven Ways to Ease Bloat – That Aren’t Exercise

Look, movement is one of the best ways to beat the bloat, but moving and shaking things about is the last thing I want to do when I’m feeling super bloaty-bloat, you know? With that, I wanted to share some simple-ish things to help ease tension – anytime of year.

And guess what? Bloat isn’t strictly caused by what we eat; there are other factors that play into the way our bodies function aside from just the food aspect. With the holidays here, these other factors may be compounded or heightened, and it can be easy to conflate indulgent food choices or less movement than usual with the other causes that may be impacting how we feel. For that reason, my suggestions go beyond typical advice offered on this topic.

Stress Reduction

Huh? I know, this doesn’t seem like the typical remedy for bloat, but here’s the thing – our bodies betray us in all SORTS of ways when we’re stressed. And you know what’s stressful? Holidays. You know what else? Worrying about what we ate over the holidays. And if we’ve “undone” things, etc.

If you indulged this weekend, or will over the next couple months, great! Stop. Stressing. About it. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which – among other things – wreaks havoc on our digestion. The last thing we want to do when we have indulged a bit is add to the problem!

Instead of stressing about whether we’ve indulged, to what degree, etc., might I suggest focusing on how we feel, and asking ourselves what adjustments we can make to help our bodies feel their best while also enjoying ourselves. The goal isn’t to avoid the things we enjoy during special occasions – the goal is to make small adjustments so we can enjoy ourselves without feeling like garbage (physically AND mentally).

Quality Sleep

I’m like a broken record with the sleep stuff, but… it’s just that important. It’s sleep’s effect on our hormone levels that has me listing this as a means of easing bloat. Our bodies release excess cortisol when we don’t get enough sleep, but also release a hormone called ghrelin, which literally makes us hungrier. So not only are we hungrier, but we have less will-power to resist those urges because our bodies are CRAVING it. This can also lead to stressing over the food consumption, and it’s a vicious cycle.

Prioritizing sleep doesn’t have to mean getting 8 hours per night. If getting a solid 5-7 hours would be a huge win for you, especially during the holidays, then that’s where the focus should be. It’s better to get a quality 5 or 6-hour block than to get 9 hours of crappy tossing and turning.

[I’ve done a previous post on some ways to improve your sleep cycle over time, as well as the physical effects of chronic sleep deprivation – check it out here.]

Water

Okay, okay. Onto some more tangible ways to relieve the pressure.

This is admittedly the worst of the list because, similar to activity, adding more water is one of the last thing we want to do when we already feel… full. BUT, it’s worth it. Not only does water help flush excess sodium from our systems, which can help immensely if we’ve indulged more salt than usual, but water is a key component in the digestive process. If we’ve indulged a bit, we’ll need more water than usual to help our bodies work through things, if you will.

Normally when I drink water, I tend to gulp it down, but I just try to sip in these situations. Adding some fruit or herbs can help make the sipping a little less grueling – plus they add their own benefits (next). Some of my favorites are fresh lemons, oranges, or cucumbers. Even easier? Pop some frozen berries in – they’ll double as ice cubes!

Last, make sure you’re properly fueling if exercising regularly. The body will retain water to protect itself during exercise if consistently undernourished and overworked, which will also cause bloat. Yes, eating too little can also cause bloat.

Spices

Another way to help ease bloat is with spices. I’d generally recommend these in hot tea or cold water, but feel free to add them to some of the de-bloaty foods (keep going – we’ll get there). The two primary ways these foods work to reduce bloat is by helping digestion and reducing inflammation. Some of the best items for this are peppermint, turmeric, ginger, chamomile, dandelion, fennel, and lemon. Some folks also report feeling better when incorporating hot spice like chilis and peppers.

But please, don’t do the cayenne lemon maple syrup water cleanse thing. Please do not do that. Drinking additional fluids to help our bodies do their jobs more efficiently is not a substitute for food. Ever. Unless medically supervised, it is starvation. And even then, it’s not entirely safe. So please, don’t do that crap.

Moving on.

Focus on Insoluble Fiber

There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber combines with water as it moves through digestion, which slows the process. This is GREAT for helping us feel full longer and lowers cholesterol and improves blood sugar, but can add to bloat if we’re eating too much of it. Insoluble fiber doesn’t combine with water through digestion and acts as more of a pipe cleaner to prevent constipation. Eating these two together allows us to get the digestive benefits of both, but we can adjust ratios based on how our bodies feel and what they need.

Some foods high in insoluble fiber are whole grain/wheat, almonds, apples, lentils, avocados, carrots, potatoes, strawberries, raspberries, cauliflower, and green beans. Some foods high in soluble fiber are oats, black beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, flaxseeds, peas, apples, and avocados.

Probiotics

So much of our health originates in our gut, so naturally if our digestive system is thrown off for whatever reason, we’ll feel it in all sorts of ways. Probiotics work to eliminate the bad bacteria in our guts that can cause us to feel all sorts of crappy – including bloat.  Some foods high in probiotics are yogurts, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, and sourdough bread. You can also find some other dairy products with added cultures, like cottage cheese.

Stretching 

Last on the list is close to exercising BUT hear me out – we’re talking slowwww stretching. Like, go ahead and fall asleep while doing this, you know? Maybe not all of them, but you know what I mean. Think of these more as positions you can stay in for as long as feels good. Stretching can help get the digestive tract moving and can be especially useful if you need to – ahem – manually expel some gas. Hey, you’re human, it happens! Here are some of the best positions to relieve the pressure… just be considerate of where you do them. 🙃 

The best positions to ease the bloat are seated and reclined twists, happy baby, malasana/garland pose, spinal extensions like camel, cobra, fish and wheel, forward and wide leg forward folds, cat cow, and revolved poses.

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I hope you found these helpful!

Please leave any questions, comments, or suggestion below – I love to hear from you.

About shauna@reyoutotalhealth.com

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