When you are bloated and have stomachaches, abdominal pain, and/or diarrhea, the insides of your intestines are irritated and, quite frankly, pissed off at you. Specifically, the villi, or tiny hairs that line your intestinal walls, get inflamed. Because your small intestine is about 20 feet long, and your large intestine is about 5 feet long, one microscopic inflammation can become one giant abdominal bloat.
The key to nourishing your stomach in the right way is actually simple: You have to avoid foods that your system biochemically protests. Each of us is slightly different, but there are many foods that can lead to belly bloat for almost all of us. Just eliminating these can make a big difference in how your stomach looks and feels. Here are the foods to avoid:
While research on this has been varied, people with stomach issues, like diverticulitis, have previously been told to avoid foods with seeds. The assumption is that these small food particles could block or irritate the diverticula (small pouches that form in the colon wall). Because the research is inconclusive, talk to your GI before making decisions about removing seeded foods from your diet.
2. Raw chia seeds
Some people report experiencing constipation and bloating after eating chia seeds — others have the complete opposite effect and find that the superfood helps to improve bowel movements.
To experience the benefits of chia seeds without the negative side effects, you have to prepare the seeds properly. First, start with a small amount until your body is adjusted to eating them. When you do consume them, drink an ample amount of water; this will help to provide moisture to the seeds. Finally, you could pre-soak the seeds before you eat them; that way they'll have enough fluid before they enter your body.
3. Soy sauce and other soy products
Gluten is one of the major ingredients in soy sauce. If you have a gluten allergy, soy sauce (even the sodium-free kinds) will trigger inflammation across your body, especially your gut.
Many people also have a slight soy allergy without realizing it. Notice if you bloat after eating tofu, soy milk, or other soy products and then remove them from your diet.
4. Raw foods
Raw foods are jam-packed with nutrients, yes, but they are also incredibly hard for your digestive system to break down. Raw foods often travel through your intestines only half processed, especially if you ate while rushed or stressed, aggravating your intestines further. Here are a few other reasons to avoid raw foods.
5. Processed foods
All processed foods include additives and chemicals, and many contain gluten or one of its derivatives to enhance texture, consistency, and taste. This gluten is very different from natural gluten in fresh wheat and has a direct effect on digestion.
Instead of eating the foods listed above, fill your diet with cooked vegetables like spinach, carrots, potatoes, and yams. The nutrient-rich veggies will keep you satisfied longer and will help you avoid the negative effects of processed foods. Soups, especially vegetarian ones are great for your body. I typically recommend split-pea, tomato, mixed vegetable, or bone broth soups. Teas like chamomile and mint have beneficial benefits as well!
Lauren Imparato — author of RETOX and one of the "100 Women in Wellness to Watch" and Elle’s "This is 30" — resigned her job as a vice president on the Wall Street trading floors in 2009 to launch I.AM.YOU, a wellness lifestyle company based on yoga, nourishment and music. In NYC and across the globe, she is renowned for her straight up, real approach to wellness and life. Imparato’s yoga classes are known for their attention to anatomy, sweat and tradition within the chaotic modern lives we lead, and are always paired with signature MusicMixes including genres like rock, salsa, jazz, hip hop and more. She has been featured in Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, Elle, New York Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Self, The Financial Times, Bloomberg News, CNN and countless others and writes for MindBodyGreen, PositiveMed and her own blog with a social media following of over 250,000. Imparato has led I.AM.YOU. classes for tens of thousands of people in Spain, Cannes Film Festival, Ibiza Opening Weekend and, most recently, all of Times Square and the great lawn of Central Park. She graduated from Princeton University.