Banishing Bloat

Including Advice from Exercise Physiologist Teresa Tapp

Cooked broccoli and beef
Cooking vegetables instead of eating them raw can help banish bloating. Davide Illini/Stocksy United

Feeling bloated is a common complaint in both men and women. One out of every 10 Americans say they experience regular bloating, even when they are not overeating. In some cases, if bloating is severe, your abdomen may become visibly swollen and distended.

Women tend to report bloating more than men -- especially during periods of hormonal change, such as premenstrually, when pregnant, and during perimenopause and menopause.

Thyroid patients in particular complain regularly about bloating, because a thyroid dysfunction -- hypothyroidism especially -- is associated with water retention and weight gain from excess water. According to the American Thyroid Association, hypothyroidism can cause as much as five to ten pounds of weight gain just from the excess water alone. Some of that water weight gain can be in the face, causing puffiness in the face and around the eyes, fluid retention and swelling in the hands and feet, and abdomen.

How do you banish bloat? Here are some helpful tips.

Optimal Thyroid Treatment

If you are hypothyroid, step one to banish bloat is to ensure that your treatment is optimal. It's not enough to be in the "reference range." It's key to have optimal levels of sufficient circulating thyroid hormone -- especially the active thyroid hormone T3.

Lifestyle Changes

Physical activity is important to banishing bloat.

Make an effort to get more physical activity, with a goal of at 30 minutes, 5 days per week. Another recommended lifestyle change is to stop smoking. Smoking can contribute to bloating - so quitting can help -- not to mention the other health benefits associated with stopping smoking.

Other Medical Issues

  • Avoiding constipation is an important part of dealing with bloating. Ensuring that you drink enough liquids, and incorporate fiber into your diet are essential.
  • It's important to know that some over the counter pain relievers, iron supplements, and prescription pain medications can cause constipation and bloating.
  • Check for food allergies or intolerances (lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, fructose malabsorption) as they can contribute to bloating.
  • Make sure you are getting enough calcium and magnesium

General Diet Tips

A key recommendation is to avoid overeating -- the most common cause of bloating. You may want to eat smaller meals, and eat more frequently, and stick to regular meal times. Stop eating before you're full, and leave some food on the plate. It's also important to slow down when you eat -- a good guideline is to give yourself around 30 minutes for a full meal. A few other general dietary tips:

  • Don't chew gum – especially sugar free gum
  • Don't use a straw – sip straight from a cup
  • Cook vegetables instead of eating them raw
  • Cut back on evening carbohydrates
  • Drink a 16 ounce glass of water 30 minutes prior to each meal, and make sure you are getting 6 to 8 ounces of water daily.

    Martha, a thyroid patient, shared this advice that worked for her:

    One of my problems with hypothyroidism is water retention, despite the 80 ounces of water I drink daily. My doctor suggested I try 16 oz. unflavored Pedialyte mixed with 48 oz. water and drink this mixture two consecutive days weekly. After the first day, I noticed a significant difference! After the second day, I weighed 1.5 pounds less. Water retention isn't a problem for me anymore!!! Maybe this will help others.

    Eat Foods That Help Reduce Bloat

    A number of foods are known to help reduce bloat. Make sure you incorporate them into your diet. These foods include:

    • High-fiber foods - aim for 25 grams per day
    • Vegetables: Lettuce, cucumber, spinach
    • Fruits: Papaya, apples (with the skin), avocados, watermelon, pineapple, mangoes, bananas, cantaloupes, tomatoes
    • Yogurt
    • Grains: whole grains, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal
    • Spices: Ginger, peppermint, black pepper
    • Coffee
    • Salmon

    Foods to Avoid or Cut Back on to Minimize Bloat

    A number of foods and drinks are associated with increasing bloat. Try to cut back on consumption of these foods:

    • Carbonated drinks
    • Alcohol
    • Artificially sweetened foods, drinks, and seltzer
    • Fried foods
    • Frozen meals
    • Salty foods and sodium
    • Processed meats and hot dogs
    • Beans

    Stretching and Massage

    It may be helpful to massage your abdomen, by pressing your fingers by the hip, sliding across the ribs, and then down in a circular motion.

    Advice From Fitness and Movement Expert and Exercise Physiologist Teresa Tapp

    Fitness and movement expert Teresa Tapp, founder of T-Tapp, has been helping women battle bloat for several decades. According to Tapp:

    After working in the fashion industry for over 18 years, as well as with regular women from all over the world for decades, I know that "yes you can" help your body eliminate excess water retention regardless of age, shape or size. Although I have several tips, my primary two are: (1) movement to maximize lymphatic flow and (2) intake of what I consider the perfect plant protein, alfalfa.
    From my experience, excess consumption of simple carbohydrates -- for example pasta, bread, sugar, and alcohol) can increase inflammation, as well as increase fluid retention. For every gram of carbohydrate you consume, your body retains approximately 3 grams of fluid. Protein and increasing lymphatic circulation can help your body eliminate that excess fluid.
    Although alfalfa looks like grass, it is actually a legume known for containing high concentrations of vitamins and minerals, as well as protein. Just make sure to check the quality of the product and only consume organic alfalfa leaf -- no sprouts, stems or seeds.
    In my opinion, regular intake of alfalfa, along with doing a couple minutes of lymphatic pumping movements -- like T-Tapp Hoe Downs or T-Tapp Butterflies can immediately impact your body's ability to eliminate excess fluid and inflammation. Just be prepared for extra trips to the bathroom!
    Rebounding works well too, but once you know how to do Hoe Downs and Butterflies, you are free to pump away puffiness and bloat anytime and anywhere. It's my personal secret to enjoying dessert and wine without the worry of bloat.

    You can learn how to do the exercises Tapp mentions at these YouTube videos:

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