Beat Bloating and Help Ease Your Anxiety
In our ‘How Food Can Help Fix Seasonal Depression’ article, we explained how your gut and your brain have a direct correlation on your mood. Depending on your diet, certain foods could trigger depression or anxiety, and have the ability to physically affect your body by causing bloating. We also gave you a list of foods that are proven to help boost your immune system, mood and overall health. Now, it’s time for us to tell you what foods to avoid if you’re trying to ease your anxiety and beat bloating.
Foods That Cause Bloating and Anxiety
It’s unfortunately a common occurrence for people to feel bloated after eating. It is usually caused by excess gas production, and by eating ingredients you may be intolerant or allergic to. Bloating can manifest in many ways; the associated pain could be be visible and cause your belly to bulge, otherwise known as a “food baby”, or it could present as ‘invisible’ pain – others may not be able to see it but you still feel it. Either way, bloating is uncomfortable.
Here’s a list of some common trigger foods and ingredients that cause bloating:
Lactose is high on the list of indigestible carbs. It’s very common for people to feel bloated, swollen and/or even gassy after eating dairy products. If any of those symptoms are happening it means your body may lack the necessary enzymes to break down lactose. It’s also been shown that high-fat dairy products can make anxiety worse if you’re already suffering from this.
This does not mean you have to cut out all dairy products but by reducing your intake you might feel less bloated. It can even help to choose aged cheeses and yoghurts, which are lower in lactose. If you are considering swapping to dairy-free products, there are heaps of alternatives out there now, even in the milk department.
Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cauliflower are all vegetables that contain raffinose, which is a sugar that remains undigested until bacteria in your gut are able to ferment it. High-fibre foods contain indigestible carbohydrates that can cause you to bloat and produce gas.
Just because these cruciferous vegetables can cause bloating doesn’t mean you should eliminate them from your diet. Try cooking or steaming them well before eating, cooking any vegetable softens the fibre and can make your vegetables easier to digest. Also, limit your portions of these vegetables and try incorporating other alternatives into your diet like sweet potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and spinach.
Beans are very rich in fibre and most of them contain sugars called alpha-galactosides, which belong to the group of indigestible carbohydrates that can lead to bloating. This includes soybeans, lentils, peas, and of course, beans. Again, these are very protein-rich, nutrient-dense foods that shouldn’t be completely cut out.
Instead of eliminating all beans from your diet, try soaking the beans, it’s a good way to reduce the indigestible carbs in them. Another way of eating beans to avoid heavy bloating, is by eating them with grains like quinoa or other whole grains. Try not eating them as frequently and consider eating more black beans than the other varieties as these are less likely to cause bloating.
This one is a hard pill to swallow, as onions are an important ingredient in basically every meal we eat. Onions contain fructans, which are soluble fibres that can cause bloating. Fructans can be found in other foods like leeks, garlic, artichokes, barley, wheat and asparagus.
Although some people love to eat their onions raw, especially in salads, a great way to reduce the bloating that can be caused by them is by cooking them. If you still feel uncomfortable and swollen, try using fresh herbs and spices instead of onions.
The obvious one is salt, eating too much salt can trigger water retention causing you to feel swollen or bloated. Using less salt in your diet can help ease the puffiness but it’s not as simple as just cutting out salt, sodium is found in many packaged, processed foods. Foods that you might not even think are processed but foods like bread and pre-boxed soups are all filled with sodium. Highly processed foods are also a trigger for anxiety, in order to help that feeling of anxiousness and to help avoid bloating it’s best to avoid packaged foods, and drink lots of water.
This fruit is high in fibre, and as you probably already know by reading above, high-fibre foods contain indigestible carbohydrates which can cause you to bloat. Apples, pears, peaches, and prunes are fruits that contain a high amount of sorbitol and fructose which are sugars that are hard to digest.
Try eating fruits like berries instead, not only are they easier to digest but they are also known for helping lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and reducing stress and anxiousness. If you love apples and can’t imagine your life without them, try eating them in moderation and separately from your main meals.
Sugar Alcohols and Sugar
Sugar replacements like xylitol, mannitol, etheriythol, and sorbitol travel to the large intestine unchanged where they are metabolised by gut bacteria. Because gut bacteria feed on them it can cause bloating and gas issues. It’s not just sugar replacements that can cause this, sugar can also lead to bloating too, especially those sneaky added sugars.
Not only can sugar cause bloating but it can also contribute to anxiety. Sugar causes your blood sugar to spike and then crash and as a result, your mood can also go up and down and cause your anxiety levels to spike. It’s hard to cut out all sugar-free alternatives, as well as sugar but a good alternative is stevia.
This is a big one! Alcohol is an inflammatory drink, which means it can cause your body to retain water and cause you to feel swollen. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, causing you to feel uncomfortable and bloated. The inflammation that comes from alcohol is only made worse when mixers like carbonated or sugary drinks are added. Carbonated drinks have high amounts of carbon dioxide, which is well, a gas. Swallowing large amounts of gas means that it’s bound to get caught in the digestive system, which can cause cramping and bloating.
Drinking alcohol can also worsen your anxiety. It changes levels of serotonin and the neurotransmitters in the brain. You won’t feel it when you’re tipsy or drunk but once the alcohol wears off, your anxiety can peak leaving you feeling on edge.
The body can only metabolise a certain amount of alcohol every hour. In fact, the recommended amount of alcohol for women is only one drink per day, whereas for men it’s two drinks per day. If you’re trying to avoid ‘the bloat’, stay away from beer; it is made from fermentable carbs like wheat, yeast, rice and is carbonated which means it’s a double recipe for bloating. If you’re going to drink, stick to spirits and wine. Another way of helping decrease the bloat is by drinking water before, during, and after drinking alcohol.
Tips To Help Ease Bloating
If you want to see a list of foods that can help with your bloating and anxiety, make sure to check it out here. Apart from what you are consuming, there are other factors that can cause bloating – eating too fast or too much can lead to feeling puffy. Swallowing too much air and gas is another contributing factor.
I know this sounds like an old wives’ tale but it’s true. Chewing your food slowly can help reduce the amount of air you swallow and can also help trick your stomach into thinking it’s full quicker. By chewing and swallowing quickly, you let in a lot of air which can lead to bloating. Moreover, by eating smaller portions, people who are prone to bloating will feel less bloated than if they were eating a bigger meal that tends to lead to discomfort.
Avoid Swallowing Too Much Air
This goes hand in hand with what we said above, chewing slowly will help less air get into your stomach thus avoiding feeling bloated. However, it’s not just chewing slower that can help – avoiding carbonated beverages which contain gases can also help. Don’t talk too much while you’re eating, focus on the food that you are eating and practice mindful eating to avoid bloating. Drinking from a straw can also lead to unnecessary air entering your digestive system which can cause you to bloat.
Probiotics are often referred to as your body’s ‘good bacteria’ and it is true, they can help improve the bacterial environment in the gut. They also help regulate digestion and are great for the overall health of your digestive tract. Which is why probiotic supplements can help reduce bloating and that feeling of being gassy. If you’re not big on taking supplements, there are also plenty of foods that contain a high amount of probiotics like fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and miso.
Many people that regularly experience bloating have a spastic colon which can be a pain. Find out how to deal with IBS.
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