03/26/2015 08:29 am ET | Updated Mar 26, 2015

The Best Foods To Eat When You're Feeling Bloated

Here are six foods and drinks that help you bring your belly back down to size.

By Jessica Migala

  • Salmon
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    If you're dealing with two or three pounds of PMS water weight, choose salmon for your next meal. Women who took 2 grams of an omega-3 fatty acid supplement per day -- about the amount found in a 3-ounce fillet -- were significantly less bloated than those popping a placebo, reports a 2013 study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Bonus: The study also revealed omega-3s can boost PMS-associated mood problems. Feel good and happy.
  • Naturally Fruity Water
    After dousing sushi in a little too much soy sauce, the excess salt can leave you swollen. "Hydrating will help you restore the fluid balance in your body to help you let go of extra water weight," says Samantha Heller, MS, RDN, a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center. If plain water sounds too boring, take a page from your local spa and add chunks of melon, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, to your glass. Then eat them -- they're chock full of water. The two fruits are easily digestible, too, adds gastroenterologist Elizabeth Blaney, MD, clinical assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Just stay away from carbonated water, since the bubbles will add air to your belly and make the problem worse.
  • Flaxseed
    When your trips to the bathroom get less frequent, constipation may be to blame. But flaxseed can help act as a natural laxative to help you GI system work like it should. The tiny seeds are particularly good because they're rich in insoluble fiber. Research indicates they may be even better than psyllium husks (typically the go-to fiber supplement) for reducing bloating and pain. These fiber-rich seeds add bulk to your stool, making it easier for you to stay regular. Buy them ground and sprinkle a teaspoon in smoothies, on oatmeal and in yogurt. Chase with lots of water.
  • Peppermint Tea
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    Peppermint was all over the place in studies late last year, so let's start with something less familiar. The herbal brew "relaxes smooth muscles in the intestinal tract to ease discomfort and help your body release trapped gas in your colon," says Blaney. In fact, in a 2014 study on IBS patients, peppermint-oil capsules improved IBS symptoms and abdominal pain better than a placebo.
  • Fennel
    If you've ever eaten at an Indian restaurant, you know that many offer a small bowl of fennel seeds after the meal. Fennel has long been used as a digestive aid, says Heller. It may help increase digestive enzymes and help things move along your system to correct reflux, bloating and gas, suggests research published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. You can eat a few seeds if you like the taste, cook with them for your next meal or brew a cup of fennel tea.
  • Yogurt
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    If you feel as if you've blown up like a balloon, the culprit may be an imbalance of belly bacteria. "Research is showing that shifting your bacterial profile may be helpful," says Blaney, who sometimes recommends patients eat yogurt with live active cultures. Research in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology examined two specific strains of probiotics -- lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium lactis -- and found they lessened the severity of abdominal bloating compared with a placebo group within four weeks. Look for plain yogurt with active live cultures on the label (or sip kefir, a drinkable yogurt) and mix in your own fruit or honey for taste.


  • Accidentally Swallowing Air
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    Besides gulping down your food (which of course you try to avoid), gulping air is the most common cause of bloating, says Patricia Raymond, MD, a gastroenterologist and an assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. And it's really easy to do without realizing it. If you're drinking your beverage with a straw while reading this, you're doing it right now. You've also been swallowing excess air when chewing gum, sucking on hard candies, chewing on your fingernails or the ends of your hair or talking on the phone while eating. The medical term for air-swallowing is "aerophagia," says Raymond, and the connection is obvious: The air comes in through your mouth, travels down your esophagus and gets trapped in the digestive tract. Fortunately, air that exits from the opposite end of where it enters rarely has an odor, says Raymond, but it still makes you and others around you uncomfortable.
  • Eating The Right Foods For Your Body...
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    ...Which happen to be the wrong foods for your small intestine. Experts have recently determined that some of the most formidable culprits of bloating and irritable bowel syndrome are small carbohydrates that aren't well absorbed in the small intestine, says Cynthia M. Yoshida, MD, a gastroenterologist in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the author of No More Digestive Problems. They fall under the umbrella term "FODMAPs," short for "fermentable oligo-, di, mono-saccharides and polyols." Yoshida explains that these particles travel on down to the colon and large intestine where they're fermented by normal gut bacteria, forming gases that result in bloating and flatulence. Unfortunately, some of the healthiest foods we know (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, leeks, cherries, avocados, many kinds of beans--including soy, and more) contain FODMAPs. The good news is that there are many other superfoods (berries, pumpkin, leafy greens, to name a few) that are FODMAP-free. If you suffer from frequent bloating or IBS, memorize this cheat sheet developed by UVA Digestive Health Nutrition Support Services. Yoshida says it's quickly become the go-to reference for GIs and nutritionists around the world.
  • Starting Crash Diets
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    Almost 50 percent of the women in one study from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine who said they routinely went on strict diets suffered from frequent bloating, compared with 20 percent of those who said they rarely or never dieted. We're not even talking about the cabbage-soup diet that became famous-by-fax in the 1980s and has since wreaked gastrointestinal havoc on the lives of millions of women. Anytime you drastically reduce your caloric intake, you're setting yourself up for stomach and intestinal issues, says Yoshida. Our bodies become conditioned to expect food at certain times, so skipping meals on a short-term diet throws off our highly sophisticated digestive system. Yoshida says that this can lead to constipation, which is exacerbated by the fact that many dieters neglect to take in enough water or fiber to help keep food moving. And really, what's the point of any diet that says it will help you lose 10 pounds in 7 days if it makes you look like you gained 10 pounds after one meal?
  • Stressing Out
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    Women are more likely than men to blame their escalating stress levels for their upset stomach and indigestion, according to the American Psychological Association. Stress contributes to bloating in a couple of different ways. First, when we're overwhelmed, we tend to do even more nail-biting, gum-chewing and smoking--all result in extra air-swallowing and, thus, bloating. Yoshida says one study found that frazzled volunteers took in three times the amount of air than those who did relaxation exercises. What's more, Yoshida says that stress makes your intestines more prone to irritation, so you'll feel blimpier even when normal amounts of gas are passing through your system. Thankfully, the same researchers found that relaxation techniques can directly slow the rate of swallowing. When your blood pressure starts to rise (or as soon as possible thereafter), try taking 10 minutes to practice progressive muscle relaxation.