Is your belly bulging after all that holiday food? Follow these quick tips from health experts to find relief.
Is the holiday season bringing out your extra-indulgent side? It happens — and you may end your holiday dinner feeling like your belly is bulging from all that food.
If practicing portion control wasn’t part of your strategy and now it feels like your belly has tripled in size, don’t worry. Your stomach hasn’t actually inflated that much, according to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Rather, it’s likely just gas. “It’s caused by excess air or gas in the gastrointestinal tract,” says Chicago-based owner of RAD Nutrition Rachel Doyle, RDN, who focuses on gut health. “When we eat, carbohydrates are broken down and their fiber is fermented, producing gas that expands, which can lead to bloating.”
Unpleasant as it is, it’s generally not something to worry about. “Typically, bloating is not a sign of anything serious, especially if it is only occurring after large meals,” says Pam Fullenweider, RD, the founder of Fully Mediterranean in Houston.
If it’s chronic, however, visit your healthcare provider to rule out something more serious. “If you are experiencing bloating frequently, it’s always a good idea to explore it further with a doctor or dietitian to determine the root cause and rule out any underlying medical conditions,” Fullenweider says.
Even run-of-the-mill bloating can be a pain though. The good news is that you don’t have to just sit uncomfortably and wait it out. Follow these seven quick tips to get rid of bloating and return to the holiday merriment.
Drinking water is probably the last thing you want to do when you feel like your belly is about to explode. But “hydration is so important for minimizing bloating,” Doyle says. “It keeps everything moving along smoothly in your digestive tract, which is essential for regular bowel movements — and constipation and bloating often go hand in hand.”
What you eat can affect your risk of getting bloated. And often, bloating is the result of eating high-salt foods. Sodium brings on the bloat, likely because it causes water retention, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The goal with drinking water after the meal is to offset that sodium and encourage your body to give up fluids. “While it may seem counterintuitive, drinking water may help to reduce bloat by ridding the body of excess sodium,” Fullenweider says. You may find that drinking water before a meal can help reduce bloat, and this step may also confer the double benefit of reducing the tendency to overeat. A small study of women, published in 2018 in Clinical Nutrition Research, suggested that those who drank water prior to eating ate less but felt just as satisfied as those who did not drink water prior to mealtime.
Take a Walk
“Rather than heading straight for the couch after a big meal, get some movement in,” Fullenweider says. “Going for a short walk can help stimulate gastric motility and reduce bloating.” Research has shown that a walk after a meal helps accelerate gastric emptying. Five or 10 minutes should be enough to help you find relief, Doyle says. You’re even better off if exercise is a regular part of your routine. According to Temple Health, exercising regularly can help keep the walls of your large intestine toned so that stool can pass easily.
Cut Back on Alcohol
You might be tempted to pour yourself another drink after dinner, but that won’t help your swollen stomach. “Alcohol can slow digestion and increase water retention,” Fullenweider says. According to the nonprofit Christian healthcare system Providence, alcohol will initially make you have to urinate more, and eventually it can make the body dehydrated. Dehydration tells the body to hang onto water, and then you end up with that puffy-belly feeling. So, skip the post-meal cocktail for now (or just have one). Ultimately, to keep belly bloat to a minimum, you’re better off sticking with water.
Steer Clear of Carbonation
You may think sipping a carbonated beverage, like seltzer or soda, will make you feel better by inducing burping, but all it does is add gas to your system. The bubbles are to blame. When they get trapped in your belly, you get bloated, according to Providence.
Pour Yourself Some Tea
To keep belly bloat at bay, reach for peppermint, ginger, or fennel tea, Doyle says. “These teas have different properties, which may relax the digestive tract and relieve bloating and gas,” Fullenweider says. According to Mount Sinai, peppermint can help with bloating because it relaxes the muscles that play a role in passing painful gas. But don’t drink peppermint tea if you struggle with gastroesophageal reflux disease or a hiatal hernia, because it might backfire and result in stomach acids retreating up the esophagus. Instead, consider ginger tea, as previous research has shown that it may help accelerate gastric emptying. Fennel is another good option that has been shown to help with a range of stomach issues, according to a previous review.
Ease into a Yoga Pose
Once the dessert is cleared, find some space to give your body a nice stretch. “Gentle yoga poses like Child’s pose or Cat/Cow can help relieve abdominal discomfort associated with bloating,” Doyle says. Hold each pose for five deep breaths (breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth), and continue repeating until you feel some relief, she says. “Allow your belly to expand fully with each inhale,” Doyle says. “This helps activate your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, or rest-and-digest mode, which is calming and will allow you to better digest your food.”
Swallowing too much air can lead to bloating and gas, Fullenweider says. According to Michigan Medicine, the extra air gets into your system if you eat or drink too quickly, have carbonated beverages, or chew gum. If that air ends up trapped in the colon or small bowel, you end up feeling bloated and gassy, according to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Avoid gum during holiday festivities, so that you don’t add any extra air to your system.
The watching, interacting, and participation of any kind with anything on this page does not constitute or initiate a doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Farrah™. None of the statements here have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The products of Dr. Farrah™ are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information being provided should only be considered for education and entertainment purposes only. If you feel that anything you see or hear may be of value to you on this page or on any other medium of any kind associated with, showing, or quoting anything relating to Dr. Farrah™ in any way at any time, you are encouraged to and agree to consult with a licensed healthcare professional in your area to discuss it. If you feel that you’re having a healthcare emergency, seek medical attention immediately. The views expressed here are simply either the views and opinions of Dr. Farrah™ or others appearing and are protected under the first amendment.
Dr. Farrah™ is a highly experienced Licensed Medical Doctor certified in evidence-based clinical nutrition, not some enthusiast, formulator, or medium promoting the wild and unrestrained use of nutrition products for health issues without clinical experience and scientific evidence of therapeutic benefit. Dr. Farrah™ has personally and keenly studied everything she recommends, and more importantly, she’s closely observed the reactions and results in a clinical setting countless times over the course of her career involving the treatment of over 150,000 patients.
Dr. Farrah™ promotes evidence-based natural approaches to health, which means integrating her individual scientific and clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. By individual clinical expertise, I refer to the proficiency and judgment that individual clinicians acquire through clinical experience and clinical practice.
Dr. Farrah™ does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of any multimedia content provided. Dr. Farrah™ does not warrant the performance, effectiveness, or applicability of any sites listed, linked, or referenced to, in, or by any multimedia content.
To be clear, the multimedia content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in any website, video, image, or media of any kind. Dr. Farrah™ hereby disclaims any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental, or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the content, which is provided as is, and without warranties.