I used to struggle with painful gas and bloating on a daily basis. I would wake up cramping, and everything I put in my mouth would contribute to a gradual increase in bloating throughout the day. When I was in school, I remember being more stressed about the sounds my stomach would make during an exam than whether or not I would pass.
If you can relate, this post is for you. Occasional gas and bloating happens and is part of normal life. But if it's making your day-to-day life less enjoyable, there are many things you can do to help!
On my own journey, there was no one single thing that fixed my digestive issues. It was a combination of strategies and today I am sharing a few of them for you to try.
First, it's important to understand some potential root causes for chronic bloating and gas.
Some of the root causes of gas and bloating might be:
Low Enzymes: In order to digest your food you need stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes, and adequate bile flow. These can be depleted by stress, nutrient deficiencies, so taking digestive enzymes is only a bandaid.
Food Intolerances: Not to be confused with a food sensitivity, food intolerance causes an immediate GI reaction. For example, you eat gluten or dairy get bloated within hours. I have a whole post on the difference between food intolerances and sensitivities here.
Dysbiosis: An overgrowth of bad bacteria will ferment food and create gasses. Yeast overgrowth and parasites can also disrupt the microbiome and cause gas and bloating.
Not Chewing: If you don’t chew your food thoroughly, you won’t digest it and those undigested food pieces will ferment causing gas and bloating.
Stress: Like I already mentioned, you cannot secrete digestive enzymes when you’re stressed. Stress literally shuts down your digestion.
Serious Illness: Ovarian cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases, and other medical issues can involve bloating. Always consult your doctor (especially if you experience a sudden change) to rule these out.
Constipation: Not having frequent bowel movements can cause waste to build up in the gut, causing bloating and distention.
So, what can you do about it? Here are some simple strategies you can implement at your next meal to prevent gas and bloating before it starts:
1. Take 10 deep breaths before you start eating.
This helps shift your body into “rest and digest” mode by activating your parasympathetic nervous system.
As the name suggests, the "rest and digest" mode is where our body best digests and processes the foods we eat. When we're in the sympathetic nervous system, or "fight-flight or freeze" mode, our digestive system basically gets shut down.
It's important before we eat to make sure that we're in this optimal state, so we can properly digest our food, absorb nutrients, and avoid discomforts like gas and bloating.
I like to use the 4-7-8 breath method. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold for 7, and exhale for 8. This stimulates the vagus nerve, relaxing the body and improving the gut-brain connection.
2. Take digestive bitters 15-30 minutes before eating.
Digestive bitters are a tincture of bitter herbs that can be taken in a small glass of water 15-30 minutes before a meal. They help to increase stomach acid, bile, and enzymes, which are all important players in digestion!
Producing enough stomach acid, enzymes, and releasing enough bile can help to minimize gas build-up and bloating. They also support liver and gallbladder health and can be used daily, long-term.
My favourite brands are linked in my Beginner’s Guide to Gut Healing, which you can check out here.
3. Eat your protein first since your hydrochloric acid will be strongest before eating your veggies/grains.
We need stomach acid in order to properly digest our food, absorb nutrients, and protect us from parasites and infections in our GI tracts. Stomach acid also plays an important role in protein digestion. Hydrochloric acid is needed to convert pepsinogen to pepsin, an enzyme that helps to start the breakdown process of protein in the stomach.
As the stomach fills with food, it naturally "dilutes" the stomach acid levels. Eating your proteins first will allow the stomach acid and pepsin to start acting on it, before you continue to fill your belly - this will help to reduce associated gas and bloating.
4. Sip fennel or ginger tea during or after your meal.
Carminative herbs are one of my favourite ways to prevent and relieve gas and bloating. These herbs contain volatile oils that help increase gastric emptying and peristalsis, relieving cramping and expelling gas.
Here are some of my favs:
Peppermint (avoid if prone to heartburn/reflux)
Here's how to make an infusion:
Add 1/4 cup loose herbs (or 2-3 tea bags) to a french press or tea pot.
Pour 1-2 cups boiling water over herbs and immediately cover.
Steep for 15-30 minutes before drinking.
It is important to cover when steeping so that the volatile oils do not escape with the steam - drip any captured steam from the lid back into the cup.
5. Keep your meals mostly cooked with less than 30% of your plate raw.
Raw foods can be harder to digest and increase gas and bloating. Cooking your foods, even for a short period of time helps to "pre-digest" and break down some of the fibers and cell walls in plants that are harder to digest in their raw form.
Another super simple tip you can use for better digestion: soaking your grains/beans/nuts/seeds.
Soaking certain foods before cooking and/or eating them makes them easier to digest. Why Plants are intelligent life forms. They have evolved ways to protect themselves! These protection mechanisms include chemicals that keep the nutrients locked up until the conditions are just right for growth.
When a seed, bean, nut, or grain is soaked, it mimics a generous rainfall, sending signals that conditions are optimal to come alive and thrive. The chemical binding nutrients like zinc and iron are reduced and become more bioavailable, helping the plant to grow. The fiber and protein also becomes easier to digest!
6. Space out meals by 3-4 hours to give your body a chance to finish digesting.
Eating too frequently can impair your migrating motor complex and increase fermentation, leading to gas and bloating.
When your MMC isn’t working properly, you become susceptible to infections like SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), fungal overgrowth, and parasites. It can also impact motility. All of these things can contribute to excess gas production, bloating, and distention.
Letting your digestion rest overnight is also important. Try not to eat for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast to give your GI tract a break.
If you've implemented these tips and are STILL experiencing gas and bloating - it could warrant a deeper look into your gut to see if there's an underlying cause that is not being addressed.
If this is the case for you, and you're looking for some professional support to dive deeper into supporting your digestive health, I'm here to help! Check out my Gut Reset Program and Gut Rehab Intensive.