Bye Bye Belly Bloat! 7 Ways to Improve Your Gut HealthArticle posted in: Nutrition
Why does bloating occur? There are lots of reasons—everything from eating too much salt or drinking carbonated beverages to swallowing air by drinking from a straw. However, the most common reason for belly bloat stems from digestive issues and those issues stem from unhappy guts. To function at their best, your gut microbiome—the 100 trillion or so bacteria and microorganisms that live in your digestive tract—need healthy doses of nutritious foods. Here’s the good news: if you’ve already made the commitment to start the South Beach Diet, you’re already on the right track!
Check out seven tips to help beat the belly bloat and improve your gut health:
1. (Slowly) Eat Your Fiber.
If you’re now one of only 5% of Americans who eat enough fiber daily, your body might be having trouble with the increased dosage (a.k.a. you’re gassy and terribly bloated). Whatever you do, don’t give up the fiber (fruits and vegetables) because fiber is the key to preventing belly bloat and digestive issues like constipation, according to the Mayo Clinic. Slow down on lentils (which have 15.6 grams of fiber per 1 cup), black beans (15 grams per 1 cup), artichokes (10.3 grams per 1 medium) and raspberries (8 grams per 1 cup)—just until your body adjusts!
2. Eat Fermented Foods.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and yogurt. These naturally fermented foods give your guts a healthy dose of probiotics that strengthen gut microbiome and may help prevent obesity and some neurodegenerative diseases, says Harvard Health. A word of caution: don’t assume all pickled foods are created equally. Those fermented with vinegar don’t usually contain probiotics. Look for “naturally fermented” on the label and look for bubbles in the jar, which indicates there are live organisms inside.
3. Don’t Forget Prebiotics.
While probiotics take up residence in your guts and help improve overall health, prebiotics are non-digestible, high-fiber carbohydrates that fuel probiotics. Generally, the darker the food, the higher the fiber. Think leafy greens like spinach and kale or broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
4. Variety is Key.
The more diversity you have in your gut bacteria, the better off you’ll be. In other words, eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins can heal you from the inside out. Over time, microbiota forms colonies to combat obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease and even certain types of cancer says the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. By eating broccoli, you’re helping fight inflammation and cancer. With bananas, you stabilize gut bacteria. Beans boost vitamin absorption and satiety. Blueberries destroy harmful bacteria. The list goes on!
5. Hit Snooze.
In an October 2017 Sleep Medicine study, researchers found that better sleep quality is related to better cognitive flexibility and higher proportions of gut bacteria in older adults. Only 10% of American adults prioritize sleep over daily living yet 90% of adults with excellent sleep health claim they’re quite effective during the day. Younger adults, adults and older adults should strive for seven to nine hours of sleep per night, says the National Sleep Foundation.
6. Choose Antibiotic-Free Meat.
Organic. Grassfed. Non-genetically modified. Wild caught. Antibiotic free. The longer the label, the higher the price. However, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explains that the overuse of antibiotics decrease the diversity in the body’s microbiome. The FDA estimates that 80 percent of antibiotics are used in animal agriculture, so while more expensive, the better for you that beef, pork, chicken and fish actually is.
7. Cut Out Alcohol (in Excess).
Drinking: It’s often not worth the calories or detrimental impact on your life—not to mention your gut bacteria! In a 2017 review published in Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, scientists noted that large amounts of alcohol induce belly bloat and gut inflammation, which, in turn, promotes broad-spectrum disorders inside and outside the GI tract. Cancers, liver disease and neurological pathologies may be affected or worsened by alcohol-induced gut inflammation. On the South Beach Diet, enjoy two alcoholic beverages per week—but try sticking to a light beer or dry wine!