THE BLOG

7 Ways To Prevent That Bloated Feeling

10/03/2011 11:30 am ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

Photo: MIXA

Unfortunately, we all know that too familiar bloated feeling. Although it's obvious that salty and sodium-filled foods have a swelling affect, you may feel chronically bloated, and wonder why that happens when you eat what you consider "normal" or even "good." Especially if you are trying to squeeze into those jeans or feel your best, then you do not want to have to contend with bloating.

Bloating is a sign of improper digestion, and the way you eat and the foods you select, make a huge difference in how you feel. Here are my top seven tips for preventing bloating.

1. Do not eat fruit for dessert.

I know when you eat fruit for dessert instead of indulging in some chocolate you feel as if you are doing something great for your body. Of course, fruit is healthy and serves as a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. However, when you eat fruit at the end of the meal, it is like sending a Ferrari down the highway after a Mack truck.

Fruit digests very quickly because it is mostly water and simple sugars. If you eat it after heavier foods, which can take hours longer in your stomach to break down, the fruit will become backed up in your system and cause fermentation. As the fruit ferments, it leads to bloating. Instead, eat fruit only on an empty stomach or first thing in the morning so it makes it through your system efficiently and unhindered.

2. Minimize liquids with meals.

One of the reasons bloating occurs is that your digestive system is not working efficiently. When you eat, your stomach produces digestive juices, enzymes, and other substances to break down the foods. If you add water or other liquids to the mix, it dilutes the digestive juices and forms a sludge with the food in your stomach. This slows everything down and leads to the bulge. Think of a stagnant pond.

Instead, hydrate between meals, waiting at least a half an hour before or after eating before you drink any quantity of liquid. During meals, sip as you need to, but minimize liquid consumption to as little as possible.

3. Only eat until you are about three quarters full.

It takes a while for your body to signal fullness, so if you eat until you feel completely full, chances are you will have overeaten, which can lead to a bloated feeling. Likewise, completely stuffing yourself makes it more difficult for efficient digestion to occur and for digestive juices to do their job.

So, if you want to avoid feeling bloated, particularly after meals, then don't eat until you are full. Instead, eat slowly, chew well and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Stopping when you feel about 75 percent full will maximize your body's ability to digest the foods you eat and help prevent bloating.

4. Start meals with a big green salad.

Eating a salad at the beginning of your meal can prevent you from overeating the heavier foods that are more difficult to digest and that cause bloat. Salad veggies contain fiber and healthy nutrients that fill you up and serve as a natural form of calorie restriction. The enzymes in the greens also kick start your digestive processes, preparing the way for heavier foods to come.

A word of caution, however. When you do eat salad, keep it light. Don't add in heavy cream-based dressings or chunks of cheese, because your body doesn't digest dairy products well. This is one of the reasons dairy is a top bloating food. Dairy is, after all, created for a baby cow and not an adult human. Adding dairy can lead to further bloat. Instead, opt for a salad with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a light vinaigrette.

5. Keep meals simple, eating fewer food groups per meal.

For many Westerners, the standard meal contains one or a few types of protein (surf and turf, eggs and bacon, etc.), a starchy side dish like potatoes, pasta or rice, and vegetables or legumes like beans. These foods come along with several different condiments, butter, oils and other additives. Eating out can entail several courses of different food groups, which then all have to be digested at the same time. Too many heavy foods at once can lead to fermentation, which leads to gasiness and bloating, which are two sure signs food is not digesting as optimally as it should.

The easy way to help prevent gasiness and bloating is to simplify your meals. Eat fewer food groups per meal. At a restaurant, order salad as your starter instead of an elaborate, heavy appetizer. Pair heavier foods, like animal protein or starches with veggies and salads, rather than each other. Making simple meals with raw and cooked vegetables not only saves you time in the kitchen, but it supports your health and prevents unwanted bloat.

6. Soak grains and nuts overnight.

Grains like quinoa, seeds such as flaxseed, and nuts like almonds provide healthy protein, beneficial fiber, and lots of vitamins and nutrients. Improper preparation, however, can lead to uncomfortable bloat because these foods are dense and can be difficult to digest on their own. They also contain phytic acid, which inhibits enzymes and makes digestion even more difficult.

Fortunately, when you soak these foods overnight, you allow them to work more efficiently in your body. Soaking removes phytic acid, making enzymes more readily accessible, and the foods more digestible. Additionally, removing phytic acid also increases absorption of the nutrients the foods contain.

7. Eat a probiotic and enzyme salad with meals.

Unbalanced intestinal flora not only causes uncomfortable bloating, but it also can lead to disease in the body. Because of this, it remains essential to restore your intestinal balance by supplying "good" bacteria to balance out the "bad" stuff. Many people take probiotic supplements for this, and I recommend taking a multi-strain variety with live cultures. Supplements are helpful, however, I recommend regularly eating this Probiotic and Enzyme Salad, which is a food-based source of probiotics.

The Probiotic and Enzyme Salad can work wonders in your body. It contains enzymes to aid digestion, as well as healthy flora to restore intestinal balance. This raw, cultured salad made up of the humble but beautifying vegetable green cabbage, and forms a rich brew of probiotics and enzymes that continually cleanses your body; provides healthy, bloat-busting lactobacilli; and increases the efficiency of the digestive process. You can learn to make this amazing salad by viewing the demonstration here.

You don't have to feel bloated! Along with easy basics like minimizing salt and eliminating caffeine, you can take the simple steps above to avoid bloat and feel your best every day.

For more info on Kimberly Snyder, celebrity clinical nutritionist and author of "The Beauty Detox," click here.