Avoid: salty foods
Summer is officially here and the last thing anyone wants to think about during swimsuit season is deflating a bloated belly. So what exactly is bloat? And how do you navigate through upcoming wedding dinners, barbecues, and garden parties without bulging in the middle? While it's true that salty foods can lead to water retention around the mid-section, the key isn't avoiding fluids but rather skipping the salt-laden snacks like chips and pretzels. "In most healthy adults, bloating is actually caused by excess gas building up in the abdomen—it is typically not caused by fluid retention. If there is fluid retention, we begin to worry about health issues, such as liver failure," explains Neal Malik, DrPH, MPH, RDN, lead of Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness program at Bastyr University "Bloating can make us feel downright miserable since abdominal pain and cramping are a common symptom. A distended belly can make it seem as though you have added extra pounds around the waistline, but this usually is not true, and again, it is likely due to the buildup of gas." Luckily, there are plenty of foods that actually help prevent or relieve symptoms of bloating.
In addition to using fresh yogurt to create a relaxing DIY face mask and ease a sunburn, you'll want to stock up your fridge with this healthy snack. "Because of its high probiotic content, yogurt is helpful for easing belly bloat," says Dr. Malik. "It is also lower in lactose, so it may be consumed by those with mild lactose intolerance (but not those with a milk allergy)." Worried you might be lactose intolerant? Check yourself for these seven common symptoms.
Enjoy: enzyme-rich foods
You don't have to decline every invite to a party or barbecue this summer—even though those events offer plenty of bloat-promoting foods. Instead of worrying about all the grease- and salt-laden bloat promoters (ribs, dogs, burgers), look for foods with seasonings that ease digestion, says Paula Simpson, holistic beauty and nutrition expert and co-founder of Zea Skin Solutions: "Choose naturally digestive enzyme rich foods, herbs, spices such as papaya, ginger, fennel, turmeric, peppermint, parsley and pineapple."
Go easy: certain greens
Some of your favorite green foods could contribute to bloating. "Kale, broccoli, and cabbage are cruciferous vegetables, which contain fiber and sugars that our bodies cannot absorb and eventually ferment which causes bloating," says Simpson. "But don't shun those healthful foods just yet. Steaming these types of vegetables can also help to soften the fiber making them easier to digest or combining legumes with easily digestible whole grains, like rice or quinoa. (Looking for quinoa inspiration? Try one of these yummy Quiona-packed dinners tonight.) "Your body will eventually get used to them and its best to increase your intake gradually," she says.
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As the days get longer and warmer, you're bound to find yourself meeting up with friends for outdoor coffee dates. Although coffee dates are fun, many people find themselves feeling bloating when ingesting milk or sugar. Meg Furstoss, MS, NSCA-CSCS co founder Precision Sports Performance suggests opting for an iced mint tea instead of a sugar-laden coffee.
Avoid: processed food
According to Neal Malik, processed foods are often a bloat culprit. "Highly processed foods are often low in dietary fiber." He says, "Dietary fiber is very important in the maintenance of our gut microflora (i.e., the good bacteria in our intestines)." Even if you're strapped for time, avoid heating up a frozen meal at the office and instead pack some of these foods that are good for your gut.
Although gum is an important handbag staple, you might want to think twice before popping that stick of gum in your mouth. Why? You start swallowing air, says Simpson: "The chewing action creates excess air in the belly, and that causes bloating."
Avoid: sugar-free soda
Limiting sugar is great. But downing sugar-free soda on a daily basis isn't a good idea for your belly. (By the way, seltzer may not be the guilt-free healthy alternative you might think it is.) "Fizzy drinks contain carbon dioxide gas which may exacerbate bloating symptoms. With regard to sugar substitutes, like sugar alcohols for example, these are not completely absorbed by the intestines and may lead to more gas buildup." says Dr. Malik. "So foods like "sugar-free" popsicles and diet sodas may contribute to excess bloating.
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Go easy: alcohol
Yes you can have a Moscow Mule or Dark and Stormy—just make sure you hydrate: "When you are heading to a wedding, party, or barbecue, pre-hydrate... especially if you are going to be consuming alcohol." shares Meg Furstoss. "For every glass of alcohol I consume, I always immediately follow with eight ounces of water. Not only does this help to avoid the next day headache but I find that this gives me a fuller feeling so I consume less." Here's how to prevent a hangover.