We've all been there. Often it's not clear why your belly suddenly looks like a balloon, but we'll do anything to feel better. Being bloated isn't just about how you look: It's uncomfortable! There are myriad reasons behind bloat—overeating; eating too fast; eating rich, fatty, "gassy" foods; irritable bowel syndrome; and other food sensitivities.
In addition, it could be a food allergy, nonfood-related stress, or inflammation. No matter the reason, the fact is that you're feeling it. Here's the 24-hour go-to plan I practice myself and recommend to my patients for speedy relief when that unwanted balloon belly comes along.
1. Drink LOTS of water.
If you aren't getting enough water, your body retains water to prevent dehydration. Also, dehydration tends to lead to constipation, which in turn leads to bloating. Water keeps things moving in the digestive tract and helps flush waste away.
Aim for 100 ounces or more throughout the day. That's two of those 1.5-liter bottles or around 12 cups. Sip it from a metal or glass bottle—no BPA!
2. Do yoga.
This is my go-to for bloating—a yoga class at my favorite studio. You can also do a home practice. Yoga movements like forward folds, twists, and belly breath can literally move things along in your stomach and intestines.
Additionally, stress and tension can be big-time architects of bloat. Yoga breathing and postures release tension in the body and calm the mind and central nervous system. If you're like me, you're guaranteed to feel better at the end of a yoga hour.
If you're feeling like you want to go the extra mile, try this self-acupressure routine designed to beat bloating.
3. Cut out dairy, grains, and sugar for the day.
Food allergies and sensitivities are another major bloating culprit. Dairy, grains, and sugar are notorious for being hard on the digestive system, and since we eat them regularly, many people with dairy, gluten, or even fructose sensitivities don't know it. When food isn't digesting properly, gaseous fermentation in the stomach creates bloating.
So, when digestion may not be functioning optimally—bloating is a good indicator—give the gut time to heal by avoiding these hard-to-digest foods.
4. Don't add more fiber (it'll make things worse).
Instinct might tell you to grab some fiber for quick relief, but did you know too much fiber could actually push food through the intestines too fast, creating painful gas?
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate, essentially leaving the body constitutionally the same as it came in. That's one of the reasons cauliflower and broccoli—two fiber-dense vegetables—are famed for bringing on a Buddha belly. Avoid fibrous vegetables and high-fiber foods like beans, cabbages, and bran for a day.
5. Avoid artificial sweeteners, carbonated drinks, and processed foods.
Most artificial sweeteners contain sugar alcohols that are brutal on the gut. Sorbitol, for instance, can't be digested at all.
And of course, carbonated beverages are adding more air to your already effervescent abdomen. But they can also add sodium, and too much sodium leads to—you guessed it—bloating. For these same reasons, avoid processed foods that are more often than not laden with excess fat, preservatives, sodium, and sugar or sugar alcohols.
The best thing to do if you're bloated is to forgive yourself. Rest your belly and give it the time, movement, and healing process it requires. And for the next 24 hours, try these tips to "end the distend."