13 Reasons Why You're (Still) Always Bloated
No, I did not come up with that number just so I could title this blog “13 Reasons Why…” (in reference to the show, of course). Haven’t heard of it? Kindly disregard these first few sentences.
If you’re reading this, I assume its because you’re personally experiencing some sort of bloating ‘round the clock. Or maybe you’re just ‘asking for a friend’ (uh huh...sure). Regardless, you’re in the right place, because truthfully there really are 13 reasons why you’re dealing with the frustration of bloating all the live long day despite your best intentions to eat well, stay active and douse your body in rose oil.
Some of these reasons below may seem obvious, but they are things we tend to do subconsciously. I encourage you to stop and actually think for a minute about how they could be overlooked in your day. I, for one, was previously guilty of reasons 3, 4, 6, and 9 with no real idea that I was doing them!
While easy enough to list out, the common thread here is mindfulness. Most causes of bloat as listed below are directly tied into your daily habits, meaning that fixing these issues can be much more difficult than they seem.
13 Reasons Why You’re (Still) Always Bloated:
You’re dehydrated (especially when working out too much)
Ideally you’re drinking half your body weight in fluid ounces every single day, but most of the population gets less than half that amount, even though they’re also hitting the gym more frequently. If you’re not hydrating the body, not only are you not allowing the body to flush out toxins (resulting in toxic water retention), but your waste will have a much harder time making it’s way through the colon. If you want a visual, picture a walrus on a waterslide without any water. That’s really no fun for anybody.
You’re eating too often
Ancient ayurvedic practice (and as backed by numerous other methodologies such as functional medicine, traditional chinese, and even modern medicine) has proven that the ideal amount of time between meals is 3-4 hours for most people. Biologically, our ancestors wouldn’t have access to food any more frequently than that, and yet we are living in a society where snacks and second lunches are available to us literally whenever we want. When we’re eating round the clock, we never give our digestive system a chance to rest. So while it will always continue to work (until it doesn’t), it won’t be working very efficiently. Hence the backup in your gut, the fermentation, the gas, the bloating…
You’re eating too late
Best practice is to stop eating 2-3 hours before bed, and this not only ensures better digestion overnight, but better sleep! If you feel like you’re often not getting very restful sleep, have dark circles, brain fog, and of course bloating, consider whether you’re having dinner too late or are snacking into the evening. And then stop doing it! Late night eating requires your body to spend energy digesting your food while you sleep, rather than allowing the body to rest and recover.
You’re not chewing your food
Mom was on to something when she used to yell at you and your siblings to “stop playing with your food and chew!” But in all seriousness, this one was like a slap in the face when my colon hydrotherapist told me I was guilty. “What are you talking about, of course I chew my food,” but lying there on the table, he had solid proof that I was, in fact, not chewing properly at all (TMI probably but apparently I’m holding nothing back on this post). The less you chew your food before swallowing, the more work you’re creating for your digestion. This also can lead to malnourishment, since your body has a more difficult time extracting nutrients when food isn’t fully broken down. Why might you not be chewing your food well? Read on.
You’re eating mindlessly
Think about it. Honestly, when was the last time you ate a meal and did nothing but focus on the meal? Probably not since you breastfed. Whether at work and eating at your desk, out to dinner with friends and chatting up a storm, or relaxing at home for dinner and a movie (whilst also scrolling through Instagram), it’s extremely difficult to not be preoccupied while you’re eating. But being distracted while you’re eating means you’re shoveling in food without really signaling to your brain that its time to eat. This is also when you become unaware of how much you’re chewing—or not chewing— in addition to how much you’re actually eating! SLOWWW IIITT DOOOWWWWWNNNNuh.
You’re eating while stressed out
Similar to reason 5, but also different. Let’s be real— we’re all #bossbabes here, and the hustle is just part of life. So whether you’re on a 9-5 grind, are a new mom, or are cramming for finals, it’s all too easy to carry our stress into mealtime. Trust me, I know, it’s hard to totally zen out when your inbox has 400 unreads and your boss wants an impromptu touchbase in an hour. But being in a stressed out state of mind signals your body to enter flight-or-fight mode which in turn shuts down digestion. Try taking 3 deep, mindful breaths before you dig in, CHEW, and know that you’ll get to your work with renewed energy after you’ve refueled. I also made an easily printable one-page checklist of my 5 daily habits for managing stress.
You’re not properly food combining
I love this topic, as it makes so much sense when you think about it, but it can also get a little nit-picky if you try to overthink it to the point where it causes you more stress and anxiety around food (see bloat buster #6). I wrote a separate blog on the basics of food combining here, so check that out to get the low down and how it all goes down in your stomach when it comes to different transit times of food groups.
Drinking too much water with food
Sounds a little counterintuitive at first, considering bloat buster #1, BUT it actually makes a ton of sense. When you drink a large amount of water with a meal, it dilutes the digestive enzymes in your mouth and stomach as well the hydrochloric stomach acid, all of which are required to breakdown and properly absorb the nutrients of said meal. Little sips while you eat are okay to help “wash it down,” as they say, but you want to avoid glasses of water— or any beverage— for 30 minutes pre-meal and for 60 to 90 minutes post-meal.
You’re not getting enough sleep
When you don’t get a full night’s sleep— that’s 8 hours for the average person, but some need more or less— a couple things happen that collectively contribute to your bloat baby. First, your body isn’t given ample time to process all the food from the day before. Second, your body will be operating on less rest, which means a more stressed state, which means more stressed eating and more cortisol to create that fight-or-flight response which halts digestion. Talk about a series of unfortunate events.
OK woah. That’s a lot of reasons. And hopefully from reading that last one, you can see how your discomfort is more likely a constant combination of several of these reasons! But isn’t it also so relieving to know how many of them can be fixed with just a little more mindfulness? A little more awareness of your lifestyle habits? Not saying it’ll be easy, but you now have awareness and thus control.
If you’ve given it your all with the above nine reasons and still not feeling so hot, your culprit could be one of these last four sneaky contributors. Unfortunately, this is where things get a bit more complicated, and require a bit more research into your current health status. Functional medicine tests (either through your local practitioner or ordered to be done at home) will provide you with incredible insights as to whether any of the below are causing your incessant belly pooch.
You’re eating foods you’re sensitive to (even healthy ones that you just can’t tolerate yet)
You have low stomach acid (often a result of chronic stress, vitamin b12, D and zinc deficiencies, as well as from taking PPIs)
You have a hormonal imbalance (chronic stress plays a role here, too, as does a history of birth control, antidepressants, environment, etc)
You have bacterial overgrowth (honestly probably 70% of the population has some sort of gut-based dysfunction that results as an accumulation over a lifetime of antibiotics, toxins, poor diet and poor digestion)
Getting a lab test may seem like an investment, but I’m telling you from experience, they can seriously be life changing. Consider the value of knowing— no more guessing, no more days/weeks/months wasted trying different tactics and juice cleanses and products (also an investment, mind you, to no avail). The peace of mind and relief of having the answers at long last, and an exact protocol to get you well again is truly priceless. So when you’ve ruled out reasons 1-9 as the cause of your discomfort, investing further in your heath is a no-brainer in my opinion!
Wish there was a single page cheatsheet for all this?
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