I’m a self-proclaimed whole food junkie, and have been eating this way for years. You'd think my eating habits would ensure that I felt 100% all the time, but despite my diet, I often found myself bloated on seemingly random days.
For a long time, I thought certain foods might be irritating my gut, so I tried eliminating several suspects with no luck. I even tried various prep methods — mostly raw, mostly cooked, soaked nuts — but no matter what I did or eliminated, I continued having uncomfortable days of bloating.
Recently, I did a 14-day purification program and was feeling great the few couple days. But, on day four, my stomach was bloated and uncomfortable again. So I thought hard about what I'd done differently on that day. Then I remembered the container of raw carrots, celery and radishes I'd taken to work with me and how I'd eaten them while bouncing around the office doing several different tasks.
Then it dawned on me: I had only chewed each bite of food a few times before swallowing. I was so busy doing other work that not only was I not taking the time to enjoy the food, I wasn’t chewing it well either. I’ve known about the importance of chewing food many, many times before swallowing and eating with mindfulness for a long time. But I didn’t realize how often I was doing just the opposite.
Considering how much our food needs to be broken down for good digestion, it’s no wonder my stomach was feeling bloated. Can you imagine the work my digestive system was going through trying to break down big pieces of carrot and celery? From that day on, I shifted my habits just a bit and have been happily bloat-free ever since.
Here are my new happy-belly habits:
1. Focus on eating.
Ideally, we’d all have a lot of time to sit and enjoy every meal, mindfully participating in each bite. Unfortunately, this isn't realistic for most people. But 30 seconds is possible. Stop what you’re doing and chew your food well before moving on.
2. Chew, chew, chew, then chew a few more times.
I haven’t been counting how many times I chew, but I try to remember the more chewing I do, the less stress I put on my gut. Less stress means less bloating. Less bloating means a happier, healthier me.
3. Take smaller bites.
I realized that when I’m on the move while eating or not being mindful, I take bites that are too big, leading to swallowing food before it's chewed really well to avoid having a full mouth. Take smaller bites so there’s enough room to chew things up well.
4. Avoid super hot and super cold foods.
Similar to taking smaller bites, eating foods that are comfortable in temperature will make chewing easier. When foods are super hot or super cold, we tend to chew as little as possible before swallowing them. When things are a pleasant temperature, you won’t mind chewing a few extra times before swallowing.
For me, it goes without saying that a real food diet with minimal processed foods is a big part of healing the body and minimizing stress. But if you’re someone who loves their veggies and values real food but still gets a big, bloated belly too often, try shifting into the habit of chewing a few more times and being mindful while you eat. You’re only a few habit shifts away from a bloat-free belly.
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