- Chew your food thoroughly Sometimes the oldest tricks in the book are there for a reason. The first step for better digestion is to chew your food properly. This is because teeth and saliva start to break food down. Chewing your food properly means food will travel to the stomach and intestines in smaller particles, making it easier for your body to digest, which eases the fermentation of food that causes gas. Try to chew food at least 20 times before swallowing. Also, make sure you’re chewing with your mouth closed, and not only because it’s good manners; it helps to avoid swallowing air, which is a cause of bloating and belching.
- Eat the protein part of your meal first. Hydrochloric acid is produced by your stomach and is the strongest at the beginning of your meal. Eating the protein content of your meal last can cause protein to not be digested properly, which causes fermentation and gas and bloating.
Try out the FODMAP diet.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are carbohydrate foods, which may not be digested well and can cause gas, bloating and cramping.
The following are some examples of FODMAP foods:
- Fructose (fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup and some fruits such as apples)
- Lactose (dairy)
- Fructans (wheat, onion, garlic, inulin)
- Galactans (beans, lentils, legumes)
- Polyols (sweeteners containing sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, and some stone fruits apricots, peaches, nectarines)We advise you to chat to your GP regarding whether this diet is right for you.
- Don’t drink too much fluid with your meals. Excess fluid when you’re eating can dilute the digestive enzymes our body produces to break down food. This slows down the natural digestive process.
- Cut down your sodium intake. Eating too much sodium (found in normal table salts or highly processed food) and not enough potassium can cause bloating and fluid retention. This is because sodium stops the elimination of water from the cells. Try cutting down on foods like bacon, prepackaged foods, pickles, chips, and salty sauces like soy sauce, ketchup, and bottled salad dressing. Instead choose yoghurt, fresh fruit, vegetables, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Avoid fizzy drinks. Carbonated beverages contain carbon dioxide to give them that fizz. These bubbles however, end up in our digestive track where they can cause distension and gas.
- Eat smaller meals more often. Large meals distend the stomach, making digestion more difficult. Think of overstuffing a washing machine - nothing would get washed properly. Try to spread your meals and snacks evenly throughout the day and you may start to feel your digestive system kicking into a much better rhythm.
- Stay hydrated Drink at least two litres of water a day. Make sure you’re drinking water between meals as this will help improve kidney function and eliminate toxins. If you’re already feeling bloated, avoid fizzy drinks, as they will only make things worse.
- Keep moving Exercise improves intestinal transit as well as helping eliminate excess liquid. Even a short walk in your lunch hour can help keep bloating at bay.
- Chill out Eat your meals in a relaxed environment. Stress is another factor that affects your digestion and can lead to bloating, so try and relax so your body can carry out its natural processes properly. While it’s pretty easy to set down with dinner in front of the tele, it’s always a better idea to eat in a more relaxed and less distracting space.
- Give exotic tastes a try Herbs and spices to help ease digestion include turmeric, ginger, fennel and fenugreek. Add these to your stir-fry’s or curries. Also, a hot cuppa of chamomile or peppermint tea is known to relieve bloating. You could also try chewing a few fennel seeds at the end of a meal to aid digestion.
- Eat foods that are helpful to digestion. Pineapple and celery may help alleviate bloating whilst dandelion leaf tea functions as a diuretic.