A bloated stomach can be at best uncomfortable and at worst a sign of serious illness. Here's how you can help alleviate the problem.
A swollen belly has all sorts of possible causes - medical, dietary, emotional or all three. For example, fear, a food allergy, a gastrointestinal infection or a change in diet can all set off wind, stomach pain, and constipation.
If you're reguarly feeling bloated, it's a good idea to check with your GP to see if there's an underlying problem that needs to be looked at.
On top, or instead of, that you can experiment with the following lifestyle tips to get closer to the heart of the matter while helping relieve your symptoms.
1. Eat smaller and slower
Take smaller bites, or use smaller cutlery - it's worth it. Eating fast and taking bit mouthfuls will only increase bloating.
One of the reasons French women are so famously slim is that they typically spend at least an hour eating a meal. Some people find counting up to 20 seconds chewing time for each mouthful works well. Make an effort to avoid eating meals at your desk, or grabbing something on the run.
2. Cut down on liquids
From the digestive system's point of view, the less you drink during a meal the better. As most of us know from experience, fizzy drinks are usually the worst offenders.
3. Avoid spices and salt
If you're feeling bloated or need to make sure you don't get a bout of wind in public, avoid spicy or salty food and eat bland food like vegetables instead. That said, some experts point their finger at beans, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli as causes of a distended belly.
4. Cut down on wheat and milk
Consider cutting out - or at least down on - wheat/refined flour and milk for a week or so to see if that makes a difference. They're two of the biggest food intolerance suspects.
If your symptoms get significantly better (and worse when you start eating them again), go to a recommended qualified nutritionist or dietitian for a dietary assessment. Your doctor can refer you.
"If milk/dairy distresses your stomach, a product known as Lactaid can help you digest lactose" says certified metabolic typing advisor Hannah Richards of www.movethreesixty.com.
5. Massage your stomach
More precisely, massage your descending Intestine which is on your left of your body. Gentle circular motions while lying down can help get things moving and ease any discomfort.
6. Take it easy
Stress and anxiety are key culprits in irritable bowel syndrome. It's as if the stomach is protesting about your way of living: "It's too much! I can't cope!" Commit to taking time out, and doing whatever you feel will help you relax, face your problems, and enjoy life a little more. When you're relaxed, your gut digests food better.
7. Exercise regularly
Not only will it boost your energy and wellbeing levels, it'll get your digestive system working better, reducing the risk of constipation and trapped gas. A workout – like a Legs, Bums and Tums gym class or plan old sit ups - that directly strengthens the abdominal muscles is ideal; you want them on your side in tackling bloating.
8. Have a food intolerance test
Foods that the intestine is intolerant to will cause inflammation in the gut lining leaving the stomach feeling and looking bloated. fFood intolerances left for too long can destroy the micro villi on the inside of the intestines – a condition known as leaky gut – which can cause IBS symptoms.
9. Use herbs
Peppermint, ginger, chamomile and fennel are all natural relaxants. So is lemon balm (a member of the mint family). "It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease discomfort from indigestion" says Hannah Richards.
Buy them as teabags or for a stronger effect, buy the dried leaves and add boiling water to make your own bloat-busting brew.
10. Keep a food diary
Some health experts report success with clients who've kept a record of what they eat, when, and how they were feeling at the time.
"Sometimes, it's only when we see it in black and white on the page that we begin to understand not just what 'triggers' us to eat but also what encourages us to eat well and look after ourselves," says celebrity hypnotist Susan Hepburn in The Times