Saturday, January 2, 2010

10 Ways to Beat Bloat

Why our bellies get so puffy — and how to deflate, fast.
By Nicole DeCoursy Mead

Prevent Puff
It's Saturday night, and you slip on your sexiest pair of jeans. One problem: Your stomach's so swollen that those jeans barely zip shut. Sound familiar? Bloating's a common but annoying symptom with many causes, says Patricia Raymond, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Chesapeake, VA. "You could be retaining fluids — especially right before that time of the month — or have excess gas because of something you ate, or you could be constipated," Raymond notes. Luckily, there are just as many ways to banish bloat. Try one of these tricks to keep your denim from fitting a little too close for comfort.

Pick Potassium-Rich Foods
This mineral helps regulate the fluid balance in your body, keeping bloat at bay. High-potassium foods include bananas, cantaloupe, mangoes, spinach, tomatoes, nuts, and asparagus — which contains an amino acid called asparagine that (bonus!) acts as a diuretic to flush excess liquid out of your system.

Keep Your Mouth Shut
Beware of habits that cause you to swallow excess air — like chewing gum, drinking through a straw, smoking, and talking while you're eating, Raymond says.

Cut the P.M. Carbs
Starches like bread and pasta may cause you to retain water. Lay off them before bedtime to keep from waking up puffy.

Can the Soda
The bubbles in carbonated drinks will make your belly pooch out. Stick to plain water, says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Limit Sugar Substitutes
Some people have difficulty digesting artificial sweeteners (especially sorbitol, found in many sugar-free candies and gums — making gum doubly bloat-inducing), which can cause gas and diarrhea, Raymond warns. If you suspect you're one of them, opt for a bit of real sugar instead.

Prep for PMS
If you tend to swell up before (or during) your period, be sure you're getting enough calcium (1,200 mg a day) and magnesium (200 to 400 mg daily) in your diet; both nutrients have been found to help relieve PMS symptoms such as bloating. You can also pop Midol, which contains two mild diuretics.

Apply Pressure
To help evacuate gas, says Raymond, try massaging your abdomen in the direction of your GI tract: Press your fingers near your right hip; slide up toward the ribs, across and down near your colon in a circular motion. Sounds weird — but it works!

Nibble on Parsley
Add fresh, chopped parsley — another natural diuretic — to meals.

Pop a Probiotic
These "good bacteria" (found in supplements and in cultured milk products such as yogurt) can keep you regular and bloat-free, Gazzaniga-Moloo says. In fact, women with irritable bowel syndrome — characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea — who took the probiotic strain B. infantis for four weeks noticed less bloating than those on a placebo, one study shows. Check labels for this strain (which can be found in the supplement Align), or find a similar strain in Dannon Activia yogurt.

Get Moving
Fight constipation by walking for at least 15 to 20 minutes each day to keep food moving through your digestive tract, Raymond suggests. Working up a sweat also releases fluids.

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