Uncomfortable and unsightly, bloating can affect anyone – especially after holiday food and drink. But with these diet, exercise and relaxation tips, you can help prevent the problem.
An attack of bloating can ruin a day at the beach or the pool and it's a problem that women are more prone to than men. Gastroenterologists believe that colon length is a factor in this gender imbalance – on average, women's colons are 10cm longer than men's. So if we are more prone to bloating, what can we do to reduce our risks and avoid spoiling our holiday? HELLO! beauty editor Nadine Baggott asked experts for their advice.
Check your carbs
Gluten has long been thought to cause bloating – but perhaps wrongly. Many digestive experts now believe that fermentable, oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (Fodmaps), a collection of short-chain carbohydrates found naturally in food or added to it, could cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including bloating. Professor Peter Gibson, head of gastroenterology research at Australia's Monash University, who has investigated IBS symptoms, concludes: "Where gluten was being blamed, the Fodmaps were probably the more important cause."
The problem is that Fodmaps are poorly absorbed by the small intestine. After passing into the bowel, they are fermented by bacteria and also attract water, which can trigger wind and bloating. Foods containing Fodmaps include honey, apples, pears, stone fruit such as peaches, onions, garlic, cabbage, artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol, milk, ice cream, yoghurt, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pasta, biscuits, watermelon, lentils, baked beans and chickpeas. It's a lot to cut out, but research at King's College Hospital in London found that 76 per cent of those on a low-Fodmaps diet saw their symptoms improve.
Bloating is often a sign the body is struggling with digestion, but there can be other causes, such as dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, says Dr Ayesha Akbar, a consultant gastroenterologist at specialist colorectal and intestinal hospital St Mark's in London. "When your body attempts to counterbalance the effects of being dehydrated, it holds on to excess water, which can halt digestion," she says. "So drinking lots of water can potentially reduce the likelihood of bloating."
Angelique Panagos, nutritionist for ITV's Sugar Free Farm, advises slowing down when you eat. "Chew more," she says. "If there was ever an excuse not to dine at your desk, this is it. Your stomach doesn't have teeth, so pause between bites and chew well. No paste; no swallow."
It's a theory Dr Akbar agrees with. "If we eat too quickly, it is possible that we [ingest] a lot of air," she says. "We end up with large volumes of gas sitting in our stomach, which can manifest as bloating."
One obvious culprit of bloating is constipation. Says Dr Akbar: "Constipation can lead to stools remaining in the intestines, therefore giving you a hard-feeling stomach, pain, discomfort and gas. Causes for constipation include eating too little fibre, not drinking enough water, lack of exercise and stress." These are all common problems on holiday, so try taking a daily probiotic to help cope with unfamiliar food and, at night, a magnesium supplement to encourage water absorption.
"Get moving by walking or doing toe-touch stretches; gravity will work to get the gas out of your body," says personal trainer Ramona Braganza, whose celebrity clients include Jessica Alba and Halle Berry. "Twisting exercises can help push air out of the digestive system. These can be done on a chair – sit with feet facing forward, then rotate your torso to reach around and hold the back of the chair. Then try a yoga child's pose: kneel on all fours, then lower your hips and back down until they are resting on your heels. Bend forward to rest your torso on your thighs and reach your arms forward on the ground."
Then… chill out
Concludes Angelique: "Relax. Stress only exasperates bloating, so indulge in some calm whenever you can. Be it yoga, mindfulness, a massage, walking or reading a magazine. Finally, pick a bikini you love and wear it with a smile. You're beautiful as you are."
Pick up the new issue of HELLO! out now.