How I Beat the Bloat (Part 1): 10 Foods I Significantly Reduced
My digestive issues surfaced last year. In January, the bloating was bad but it only happened once or twice so I didn't think much of it. By March, I was bloating multiple times a week. By April, it was EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The bloating would last up to 12 HOURS. Some days I'd wake up, drink water and bloat! I couldn't understand WTF was happening. I thought I was doing everything "right". I was drinking green juices and green smoothies, eating salads and working out 4-5 times a week, sometimes TWICE a day in an effort to debloat but my waist just kept expanding and expanding and expanding. I felt like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka 😞. I also started to experience other symptoms: I felt very sluggish, had constant brain fog (couldn't concentrate, kept losing my train of thought... I'd forget a question within a couple seconds of someone asking me), I was perpetually hot (felt like I had a fever) and I was VERY emotional and tense. It was a fucking nightmare.
Gut Bacteria & Food Logs
Long story short, I found out I have SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), which basically means there's way too much bad bacteria in my gut. When there's an imbalance in good and bad bacteria in your gut, digestive problems such as stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, malabsorption and food sensitives can occur. The foods you eat either allow the good bacteria to flourish or bad bacteria to thrive. By severely reducing the foods below, I noticed a HUGE difference mentally, emotionally and physically. After 4 months, family and friends started telling me that I looked way less bloated. Now, 9 months later, I rarely bloat, feel mentally clear and emotionally stable (gut health affects everything).
What really helped me identify my trigger foods was keeping a detailed food log and a list of physical and mental symptoms I experienced after every meal. It was a pain in the ass but worth it. Even if you don't have severe digestive issues, I highly recommend keeping a food log.
10 Foods I Bade Farewell To:
1. Cruciferous veggies (especially kale)
Cruciferous veggies, such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage, contain a hard-to-digest sugar called raffinose that our bodies cannot break down. When cruciferous veggies get to your colon, a methane-producing bacteria feeds on the raffinose which releases gas and makes you bloat. How bloated you get depends on what type of bacteria is in your colon. I had so much bad bacteria in mine that I couldn't digest food properly, which is why I kept bloating when I ate kale and I was putting kale in everyfuckingthing: my juices, smoothies, salads, mains... and eating snacks like kale chips 🙄.
2. Raw food (veggies, seafood, meat)
Raw veggies can be hard to digest because they contain cellulose, which our stomachs have a hard time breaking down. If we constantly eat foods that our stomachs can't digest (like I was unknowingly doing), our digestion can weaken over time and digestive issues can occur. I used to eat sweetgreen multiple times a week and would always get really bad stomach pains and bloating. My symptoms subsided as soon as I switched to cooked veggies. I also temporarily stopped eating sushi, sashimi, oysters, tuna and beef tartare because I wanted to reduce the chances of me accidentally consuming more bad bacteria.
Dairy can be hard for some to digest because of the lactose, a sugar that's found in milk. Our bodies produce less lactase (the enzyme that digests lactose) as we age so it might get harder to digest dairy as you age. As a result, dairy can pass through your digestive system undigested, pulling water into your gut, which can cause pain, gas and bloating. I used to eat Siggi's for breakfast every day. Sometimes twice a day if I needed an afternoon snack. I would always bloat and feel really sluggish within an hour of eating it. As soon as I cut it out, all of that unpleasantness was gone!
4. High-sugar fruits
Fruits have lots of sugar (especially fructose and sorbitol) which can cause gas and bloating. I've was eating a lot of high sugar fruits such as watermelon, pineapple, grapes, banana, apples, figs and dates. What I didn't realize was that bad bacteria thrives on sugar- doesn't matter if it's fruits, juices, smoothie bowls, energy balls or chocolate, the more sugar you eat, the more the bad bacteria in your gut will grow. It sucked but temporarily cutting these fruits out was so helpful. I've recently re-added low-sugar fruits like blackberries and blueberries into my diet. Not going to lie, they're not as satisfying but it'll do for now.
5. Sugar (chocolate, candy, ice-cream etc)
As mentioned above, the bad bacteria in our gut LOVES sugar. Eating too much sugar can suppress good bacteria from growing, which can then cause dysbiosis (when the good and bad bacteria in your gut isn't balanced). Cutting chocolate and ice-cream out was the hardest for me but I kept reminding myself no food was worth the discomfort.
Alcohol can do a couple things to your body: cause acid reflux, make it harder to digest food and absorb nutrients (alcohol reduces the amount of digestive enzymes that your pancreas produces), disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut, multiply the gas-producing bacteria in your gut and cause inflammation throughout your body. This part was surprisingly easy for me to cut out. I used to drink a shit ton of alcohol and now rarely crave it.
I read that for people with SIBO, cutting out carbs is essential in helping you starve the bad bacteria in your gut. I didn't follow this exactly. I just reduced my consumption of rice, bread, pasta, noodles, farro, cous cous, barley, bulgur and oats since they were all trigger foods. I've gotten pretty good at knowing how much I can eat of each food before I bloat. Sometimes it's a couple bites and that's all it takes to satiate a craving.
Beans contain large amounts of raffinose that, as mentioned earlier, our bodies can't break down easily. The raffinose move through your digestive tract undigested. When it gets to your large intestine, bacteria breaks it it down, producing lots of gas. I don't love legumes so cutting this out was easy. Soaking beans overnight and paying attention to food combing can def help too.
This is a no brainer. Eating too much sodium causes your body to retain water which makes you bloat. I've noticed that my body is really sensitive to salt. Even if I have a few bites of a salty dish, I will wake up bloated and with a round face the next morning. I tend to under salt when I cook and depending on what I order when I dine out, I'll tell the waiter I want less salt on my food.
I used to chew gum religiously out of habit. What I didn't pay attention to was the ingredients. Gums tend to contain sugar alcohols like sorbitol, maltitol and xylitol, which cause gas and bloating. I used to go through a pack a day! Now I chew on ginger mints that are meant for nausea haha I've yet to find a natural chewing gum brand I like so if you guys have any recs please share (as long as it's not Simply Gum, I'm not a fan)!
I hope this was helpful! Keep in mind everyone's body reacts differently to the same types of food so what works for me may not work for you. Try to be patient as your figure out what foods you need to eliminate from your diet. If you have any questions or just want to vent about your bloating, leave me a comment below or send me a private message ☺️
ps. Stayed tuned for these upcoming posts:
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BLOATING IS UNCOMFORTABLE AF.
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