Belly bloat, gas and constipation. They're not the most pleasant topics to talk about, but they're important ones. Over 65 million Americans struggle with these somewhat embarrassing issues and let’s face it, since it’s the core of your body, when your belly isn’t happy, you’re not happy. While bloating and constipation aren’t tied to body fat, they can cause you to weigh more on the scale, prevent your jeans from zipping up and make you look and feel swollen and uncomfortable. Here are a few tips for keeping tummy trouble under control:
Think about the “whole” picture. Fewer than 10% of American adults eat the recommended 3 daily servings of whole grains and 40% eat none. Too many refined grains (like white bread and pasta) and too few whole grains can make your digestive system sluggish, contribute to constipation, and wreck havoc with your energy level.
The Fix: Swap in whole grains at every meal. Choose whole grain versions of cereal, bread, wraps, pita and pasta. And instead of pretzels made with white flour, reach for popcorn as a snack. Three cups popped counts as a serving of whole grains.
Avoid hidden contributors. Do you know what skipping meals, drinking through a straw (especially carbonated diet drinks), and chewing gum all have in common? Each traps air in your digestive system, swelling it like a balloon, which can make for serious bloating and digestive discomfort.
The Fix: Don’t let over 5 hours go by without eating, skip the straws, set aside the gum and stick with flat water. If you tend to reach for diet soda or gum to curb your cravings, give into them instead – just be savvy about it. Studies show that dark chocolate effectively cuts cravings and because it’s so rich, a small amount (like 1-2 individually wrapped squares) is all you need to get your sweet fix.
If raw veggies give you tummy trouble, don't nix them, nuke them! Some people think that cooking veggies destroys nutrients, but the antioxidant content in the following veggies actually increases by up to 50% when they're cooked: carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, red cabbage, green and red peppers, and tomatoes.
The Fix: Just chop, place in a glass pan with a small amount of water, cover with wax paper and microwave. Cooked veggies are much easier to digest and because they shrink with cooking, a half cup of cooked veggies is equivalent to one cup raw. That means a serving takes up less space in your tummy, curbing a potential pooch.
Do you struggle with boating, gas or constipation? Does it get worse during PMS? Please share!