When you’re living with IBS, it’s easy to become a little paranoid that any food is going to make you irrationally bloated. Not only that, but that the ‘food for fuel’ mentality is completely wasted on you because you’re so tired… and all the time.
Of course, not eating isn’t the answer, and it’s still vitally important that what you do eat is rich in nutrients and mostly unprocessed. This may feel quite limiting when it comes to the delicious foods in the world – pizza, chips & ice-cream – but it’s just about working out what suits you best & then putting it on your plate, no questions asked.
I’ve rounded up my top 8 tips below – they’re not massive changes and can easily become part of a healthy lifestyle with little to no feelings of restriction, so give it a go and see what happens – anything is possible!
Replace coffee with tea
Although caffeine is great for getting you up and out of the house, your body is not designed to digest so much caffeine in one sitting – if even at all – and consuming several cups of coffee over the day will increase your chances of muscle spasms in the intestinal wall, and induce bloating.
Try instead to drink more tea instead, but not regular tea, herbal tea. Try green tea if you still need some get-up-and-go, or alternatively enjoy ginger tea which is super for preventing bloating. Ginger naturally lowers gut inflammation as it blocks certain enzymes in the body which can cause bloating.
How To: Boil 1/2 tsp grated ginger with 1 cup of water and pour into a cup with a Green tea bag.
Bear in mind, though, that ginger syrup does not have the same anti-bloating benefits. Ginger syrup – like the kind you’d get in a Starbucks Gingerbread Latte – is pure sugar and will irritate the gut more than helping it. The same goes for gingerbread men… it’s not the same thing.
Replace alcohol with hot water & lemon
Alcohol is not only dense with calories but it also wrecks havoc on the digestive system. If it’s not due to all the sugar in the cocktails, it’s usually the ethanol itself which your digestive system really struggles to understand.
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Try swapping that weekday cocktail for a hot water & lemon to prevent the evening bloat. Lemons are a natural diuretic (it keeps things digesting normally) and adding to hot water speeds it up even more.
Eat more potassium
Potassium is a mineral which naturally regulates fluid balance in the gut – and so prevents any tummy bloat.
Increase your intake of potassium by eating more bananas, sweet potatoes, pineapples, broad beans/legumes and natural yogurt. You can also eat more of them by incorporating into fresh IBS-friendly smoothies, or adding into main meals, such as this Broccoli Burger recipe.
Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
Foods which incur natural inflammation are those which are actually very good for us, but can affect those with weak digestive systems for the worse. Foods like white onions, sweetcorn, cauliflower, kale and spinach are packed full of insoluble fibre (the kind which doesn’t dissolve great in the gut) which the digestive system finds it much harder to deal with.
Instead, swap out these foods for other nutrient-packed vegetables, like red onions for white onions, chickpeas for sweetcorn, and cucumber for kale. You can even make your favourite desserts with some of these anti-inflammatory ingredients, like this healthy gluten-free chickpea peanut butter cookie recipe.
Reduce the amount of air you swallow when eating
This may sound like a strange one but it’s amazing how much air we suck in when we eat, which then travels down into our gut in big gulps of hot air, increasing bloating symptoms. Eating too quickly and chewing gum are two of the main reasons we swallow too much air, so much so that our gut brain values it as food and starts breaking it down, producing more air.
Cut down on the gum by drinking more water throughout the day, or swap gum for nuts or seeds. Not only will you be swallowing less air but you’ll be adding more fibre and nutrients into your diet.
Eat fewer dairy products
Dairy is everywhere – from your mayonnaise to your lasagne – and it’s for this reason that bloating has become such a global problem.
Although it may be difficult to cut out dairy altogether, reducing it is a good way to start. So have a regular hamburger without the cheese, eat hummus instead of mayo, swap ice-cream for wholesome Banana Ice Cream, then once you’ve managed that it’s plain-sailing from there!
Eat less refined flour
A lot of us aren’t aware of what’s in the foods we eat but it’s important that we do find out so we know exactly how our body will react to it. Refined flours such as in white bread, white pasta, white rice, and in cakes & biscuits are another one of the reasons IBS and other digestive issues are so widespread nowadays. Not to mention all the chemical additives they add to their products as refined flour by itself is basically tasteless.
Thankfully, now the industry has caught on and consumers are aware, wholefood versions of the same grains are now as available as their refined counterparts. So try wholegrain breads, pastas and brown rice, and swap cakes & biscuits for rice cakes or sugar-free granola bars.
Eat more probiotics
Whilst our bodies naturally create bacteria in the gut, a lot of the time it’s not enough for the amount of inflammatory foods we do end up eating and we need to consume more.
In order to combat this, we should try to eat more probiotics, whether this be from Probiotic yogurts specially designed for digestive issues, or if you prefer to get your gut-friendly bacteria from a natural source, natural yogurt is a winner as it is full of bacteria as well as lots of protein and potassium.
Did you know: Kimchi, fermented food found in Asian cuisine and is similar to pickled foods we find here in the UK like gherkins, pickled eggs, etc.. Kimchi is an incredible source of probiotics and can be added to any savoury dish as a bloat-busting bonus.