Whether you're getting ready to hit the beach for vacation or attend a special event like a wedding this summer, being bloated is probably at the bottom of your list of things to do. And even though exercising and eating right are at the top, it may still be difficult to really feel comfortable when all eyes are on you. The truth is the foods we eat and the beverages we drink play a huge role in how bloated we can become in what sometimes seems like only a few seconds after we finish a meal. If you want to beat the bloat, make sure to limit or even avoid eating the following foods leading up to your vacation or big day.
1. Alcohol and carbonated beverages
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it can cause your body to flush out more water than normal through urination. This can quickly lead to dehydration, which actually causes your body to kick into survival mode and hold on to what little water it has left. This in turn produces water retention, which is the main culprit behind bloating.
Carbonated beverages can also cause bloating due to the fizz factor--the carbonation actually causes gas to get trapped in your intestines, which leads to bloating. So if you're looking to keep the bloating at bay, stay away from the booze and the fizz.
2. High-sodium foods
Salty foods are some of the biggest culprits behind bloating because their high sodium content triggers water retention in your system, giving you that puffy look. Recommended sodium intake is roughly 2,000mg per day, but the average American typically eats about an extra thousand milligrams on top of that.
One of the main reasons for this excessive sodium intake is that many Americans eat highly processed foods that are typically loaded with salt. Practically anything prepackaged will require a higher salt content to preserve its shelf life, so be sure to keep foods like ready-made frozen or microwaveable dinners to a minimum. Also try to avoid fast foods, canned soups, pizza, potato chips and other typically high-sodium fare.
3. Dairy products
If eating a bowl of cereal with milk or enjoying a few slices of cheese tends to make you more bloated than usual, you may have some degree of a lactose intolerance, which means that your body has trouble breaking down the sugars (i.e., lactose) that are found in certain dairy products. This can produce gas buildup in your GI tract, which can even be painful. Especially try to avoid heavy dairy-based sweets such as ice cream and milkshakes, which can easily wreak havoc on your system.
4. Legumes, lentils and beansThis group of foods contains a mostly indigestible form of sugar known as oligosaccharide. This sugar just sits in your stomach and makes itself at home, until it's eventually broken down by the bacteria in your intestines. Unfortunately, while it is there, it can make you look and feel bloated.
5. Broccoli, kale and cabbage
As healthy as these foods are, they are also prime culprits for bloating. Kale, cabbage and broccoli are known as cruciferous vegetables, which means that they contain a sugar called raffinose that (like oligosaccharide) remains undigested until it gets fermented by bacteria in your intestines. This produces gas as well as bloating.
The interesting thing is that if you consistently eat these types of vegetables, it actually makes your digestive system less prone to bloating over the long haul. However, if you're working within a pressing time frame and you're looking for a shorter-term fix to bloating, lay off the cruciferous veggies until you're in the clear.
One of the most surprising facts to keep in mind is that nearly half of all the gas in your digestive system is actually swallowed air. Simple everyday activities such as chewing gum or drinking through a straw can cause you to swallow more air than normal, which in turn causes higher levels of gas to develop in the abdomen. Try to curb these activities in addition to avoiding the foods that make you bloated listed above.