Beat the Bloat

By: Elna Botes van Schalkwyk

The gift of a bloated belly isn't only reserved for women during that time of the month. Sometimes it's the foods we eat that can cause that full, gassy feeling. Here's a list of foods that may be contributing to your balloon-like belly, so you may want to think about limiting or avoiding them.

Dairy products: Lactose intolerance can range from mild to severe, but either way, gas is usually a symptom.
Apples and pears: These fruits contain about four grams of fiber per serving, so they're an excellent source of soluble fiber, but they can also wreak havoc on sensitive tummies. Don't avoid them entirely though. Eating half or a quarter of these fruits along with other foods will allow you to enjoy their flavor without paying the price.
Beans: This magical fruit contains oligosaccharide, a type of sugar which is not normally digestible by our bodies. When this sugar reaches your large intestine, the bacteria go to town eating it up, and the gas you produce is an unfortunate byproduct.
Broccoli, cabbage, and asparagus: These highly nutritious veggies are often avoided because many people don't appreciate the odoriferous outcome. The reason these veggies cause gas is due to raffinose. This sugar goes undigested until it reaches the large intestine, where it's fermented by methane-producing bacteria. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to cut down on the gas they produce, but eating them in moderation and with other foods should help prevent a bloated belly afterward.
Fatty foods: According to the Mayo Clinic, "Fat slows down digestion, giving food more time to ferment." It also increases the sensation of fullness.
Salty foods: Sodium may not cause gas, but it definitely makes you retain water. Cut back on the salt you add to foods, and be a label reader to make sure you're not exceeding 2,300 mg a day.
Gum and hard candy: When you chew or suck on these, you end up swallowing more often, which means you're probably swallowing more air.
Carbonated beverages: Bubbly drinks such as soda and beer release carbon dioxide which can translate to bloat.

So what causes bloating?
Countless studies have shown that beneficial bacteria and yeasts that live in our gut and aid digestion have a huge role to play in bloating. And 90 per cent of the cases I see can be easily remedied by making a few simple, short-term dietary changes - which indicates that clients are not, in fact, intolerant to foods.

Good bacteria live in the gut alongside many other types of bacteria and yeasts that are benign in low concentrations but when allowed to multiply can encourage bloating and poor digestion.
If there are low levels of certain bacteria in the gut, food can sometimes not be fully broken down and digested, causing it to ferment and release gas, causing discomfort.

Yeasts that live in the gut thrive in the presence of refined sugars, fermented products such as alcohol and food containing yeast - notably bread. Yeasts also release gas which, in turn, causes bloating.

Banish the bloat for good
The most effective way to give yourself a flat, happy tummy is to avoid all of the offending foods for two unbroken weeks while taking a course of beneficial bacteria to help rebalance the flora that live in the gut. That means no alcohol, added sugar, yeasty bread or even fruit, as high levels of fructose (naturally occurring fruit sugars) should be avoided, too.
Dairy should be limited - blue or aged cheese should be avoided altogether as they contain a lot of moulds, which aren't usually a problem but can be if the internal flora of the gut is out of balance.

And regular bread should be replaced with soda bread as it is made without yeast. Check labels to make sure foods don't contain added sugar. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, lean protein such as chicken or fish, complex carbohydrates like brown rice or quinoa, and some unsalted nuts, such as almonds or cashews, so you won't go hungry.

The food programme works best when taking supplements at the same time. Look for a high-quality probiotic capsule that contains lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, two strains of bacteria that have been proved to be very beneficial for digestion. Take one with breakfast and one with dinner.

In addition, I suggest taking odourless garlic capsules as the allicin in garlic can work against unwanted bacteria and yeasts in the gut. Take one 200mg capsule three times a day.
Remember that this is not a long-term plan. After two weeks begin to introduce the foods you have been avoiding slowly, but not all at once. Have a little fruit one day, then perhaps yeasted bread the next and so on. There is no specific order, and success relies on taking things slowly. And take a probiotic capsule for a week or so after the food plan finishes.

Food to avoid:
  • Sugar of all kinds, including cakes. Check labels for added sugars.
  • Yeast and anything containing it: bread, beer, wine, Marmite.
  • Malted products, such as those found in breakfast cereals.
  • Alcohol, vinegar, especially balsamic, pickled onions and gherkins, soy sauce.
  • All fruits, except green apples (a maximum of two a day), dried fruits, fruit juices.
  • Moulds, such as mushrooms, hard and blue cheese.
And food to enjoy:
  • All grains, including rice and quinoa, fresh nuts, but not salted or honeyed.
  • Fish and meat twice a week.
  • Rice cakes. Also rolled oat-cakes.
  • Glutenfree cereals that have no added malt.
  • Natural bio yogurt, soft cheese. (If you’re not lactose intolerant).
  • Eggs.
  • Fresh vegetables in abundance; potatoes, both regular and sweet, and peeled tomatoes.