We’ve all been there, our belly mysteriously expands by the end of the day, and we’re left clueless where we went wrong. Nobody likes to feel bloated. It can be frustrating when you’re following a healthy diet and exercise only to find your pants don’t fit by the end of the day. While what causes bloat is very individual, here are five tips to get you started.
- Go Lactose-Free
Over 68% of the world's population is lactose intolerant. The most common cause for lactose intolerance is age, and for many of us, it slowly sneaked upon us without warning. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and gas immediately or hours after eating foods containing lactose. The easiest way to see if lactose is causing your bloat is to eliminate it. Eliminate all dairy, including dairy yogurts, milk, butter, whey protein powders, and, yes, even your coffee creamer. Go for non-dairy milks, yogurts, creamers made from coconut, oat, or nuts. For lactose-free protein powders, try Designer Plant, Designer Collagen, or Designer Egg. You can also mix Designer Collagen in your coffee to help you skip your favorite creamer.
- Avoid Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols can be found in toothpaste, protein bars, protein powders, gum, candy, and countless other food products. Sugar alcohols are naturally found in some plants but are also synthetically made by adding hydrogen to sugar. Sugar alcohols do not completely absorb in the digestive system. Sugar alcohols pass through the small intestine and ferment in the large intestine, resulting in bloating, gas, and diarrhea if over consumed. Everyone will have different tolerance levels. The best solution is to look at ingredients lists to see if sugar alcohols are hiding in your food. Commonly used sugar alcohols include mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, erythritol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.
Designer Protein uses stevia plant and antioxidant-rich monk fruit to sweeten our products. These natural sweeteners are easy on the digestive system and do not cause spikes in your blood sugar like regular sugar.
- Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is critical to moving food through the digestive system. Dehydration can cause bloating and constipation. If bloating is from high salt intake, water can detox the system. Minimum fluid recommendations are 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of fluids a day for men and 2.7 liters (92 ounces) for women. Your hydration needs to increase if you’ve been exercising, in extreme weather, pregnant, or are sick. Fluids from your Designer Protein drinks, Designer Protein Smoothie, water, tea, and sparkling water can all contribute to the fluids you need to stay hydrated.
- Go Wheat-Free
Wheat has two components in it that can cause gas and bloating. Wheat contains a carbohydrate called fructan. Some people do not break down fructans causing them to ferment in the large intestine resulting in bloating. Wheat also contains a protein called gluten, which can cause gastrointestinal stress in those who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It can be hard to know if it’s fructans or gluten causing the distress in non-celiacs. Regardless, try to eliminate both fructan-containing wheat and gluten-containing products such as wheat, barley, and rye for a week to see if your bloating improves.
Thankfully when it comes to your protein powders, Designer Protein is entirely gluten and fructan-free. You can safely choose any of our powders if you are sensitive to fructans or gluten.
- Eat Several Small Meals and Liquid Meals
The larger amount you eat at one time, the harder it is for your body to break down. Try to eat small frequent meals to help your body easily digest and absorb your foods. For those who are extra sensitive or have a slow digestive system, eating more liquid foods may be more beneficial. Fluids move easily and quickly through the digestive system. This would include things like smoothies, protein drinks, soups, and yogurts.
Many foods and behaviors can contribute to gas and bloating. These are the top gas-forming culprits I see in my office as a dietitian and where I recommend starting. You can try one tip at a time or try them all and reintroduce one food item at a time. Your best option is to create a food symptoms journal to narrow down which foods and the portion size of that item are causing the problem.
By Ginger Cochran, MS,RDN, CDCES, CEP-ACSM