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Beat the Bloat

‘How do you measure beauty?’ The general answer would be an angel face and devil figure. While an angel face is more difficult to define since ‘beauty is in the eye of beholder’, a devil figure is more objective, since there is a bust-waist-hip measurement. The point here is slimness is an important factor in measuring whether a lady is beautiful or not, in the eye of the public in general. One can see the validity of this premise by observing the models and air stewardesses. Nevertheless, although many ladies are tight on their diet, they still find a devil physique elusive.

Not only ladies want a perfect body, but also guys. Many guys work for a well-built body by eating more and work out more, yet many end up dismayingly with a bloated tummy. In this case, both ladies and guys may have a mutual enemy – gassy foods. Yes, gassy foods contribute to a bulging tummy as well as farting and belching (letting off gas from the mouth). They make us look disgraceful and dent on our image. So, let’s clear some of the myths or misunderstandings we have and what we can do about burping.

Why do we burp?

In short, burping help us to let off the excessive gas. While burping (belching) may appear as a social faux pas, it is actually a universal body function. The common cause of belching is distended (bloated) tummy resulted from swallowed air. Unconsciously, we may swallow large amounts of air. For instance, when we gobble food, drink too fast, or drink carbonated water. In fact, babies burp when drinking milk or during breastfeeding time to expel extra gas swallowed when consuming the milk or formula. In other words, burping is actually beneficial to us as it relieves us from abdominal discomfort.

One unusual type of belching is habitual belching. For some people, belching does not reflect the amount of gas inhaled but a mere habit. For them, as the air enters the oesophagus, it is expelled right away, before it even enters the stomach. This ability to belch at will is termed as oesophageal belching.

How to prevent belching?

It is virtually impossible to totally prevent belching as long as we need to open our mouth. As we open our mouth, air would enter. To minimise belching, drinking water sip by sip and eat foods bit by bit help. Besides these, minimise intake of gassy foods helps too.

Below is a list of top gas-producing foods:

a) Vegetables: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and onions

The sugars in these vegetables, such as fructose and raffinose, can lead to intestinal gas when they are digested.

b) Fruits: apples. prunes, peaches and pears

Excessive gas is the product of digestion of sorbitol, a type of sugar contained in these fruits. These fruits also contain soluble fibre, which would produce gas when digestion of it takes place in the large intestine.

c) Starchy foods: bread, cereals, corn, pasta and potatoes

Starches, which are rich in carbohydrates, produce gas when they are broken down in the digestive tract.

d) Milk and dairy products: cheese, ice-cream and milk

Lactose, a sugar that is high in these dairy products, could be difficult to be digested when the body does not contain sufficient enzyme lactase. Those with lactose intolerance would experience belly pain or intestinal gas.

e) Oat products: oatmeal, oatmeal cookies and oat bran

The reason oat products produce intestinal gas during digestion is their high content of cholesterol-reducing fibre. To minimise the intestinal gas, try to slowly add the limited quantities to give the body time to digest.

f) Beans

Beans are notorious as a major gas-producing food. They produce intestinal gas for two reasons. First, they have a high content of raffinose, the same sugar contained in some vegetables mentioned above. Second, they are rich in soluble fibre.

g) Sodas and soft drinks

The carbonation in the fizzy soda and soft drinks is just air. The fructose added to sweeten some of these drinks produces intestinal gas too when digested.

Instead, consume below foods:

a) Vegetable: asparagus

It is a superfood that promotes peeing, helping us to eliminate the excess, thus relieving bloating. It also contains prebiotics, a supporter of the growth of ‘good’ bacteria that helps keep a healthy balance in the digestive tract and prevent and/or reduce intestinal gas. In addition, the soluble fibre in it is conducive for digestion.

b) Vegetable: cucumbers

It is commonly consumed to reduce puffiness under the eyes. It could do the same to the tummy because it contains quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that helps counter swelling.

c) Fruit: avocados, banana, kiwis, oranges and papayas

These fruits are rich in potassium, which is conducive in regulating sodium levels in the body, thus, reduces salt-induced bloating. Also, they have soluble fibre that promotes digestion.

d) Yogurts

Eating yogurts with active cultures (probiotics) regulates digestion and improve the overall health of the digestive tract.

e) Fennel seeds

The seeds contain a compound that relaxes gastrointestinal (GI) spasms that allow gas to pass and relieve bloating. They could be found in bread, sausages and other meat dishes. Alternatively, they can be chewed directly and fennel tea could be consumed at the end of a meal.

f) Ginger

It is widely known for its ability to remedy colds, achy muscles, cramps and seasickness. Anti-inflammation is yet another feature to be added. It soothes the digestive tract, which relieves bloating. Also, it contains an enzyme that absorbs protein, thus, could reduce puffiness or bloating induced by protein.

g) Peppermint or chamomile tea

Instead of carbonated drinks, drink peppermint or chamomile tea. They soothe GI muscles to help dissipate gas that induces bloating. Besides, they could soothe any sort of stomach discomfort.

Tips on relieving bloating

a) Move

While there maybe a temptation to have a nap after a heavy lunch, having a 10 to 15 minutes of walk would be better. Walking, jogging and other types of exercises could help the passage of gas through the digestive tract. According to a research report published in Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases in 2008, walking helps move food through the gut much more quickly. As the stomach empties faster, gas would move more quickly to the small intestine and cause less distress.

b) Stay upright

If you do not feel like walking or doing exercise of any sort, staying upright is still better than being horizontal. While lying down provides relief, we are actually trapping the gas. According to a research published in the journal Gut in 2003, it was concluded that body posture has a significant influence on the movement of gas through the digestive tract. Gas moves through the digestive system faster when we stand up and lying down.

c) Stay active

Gas and bloating are linked with the strength of the abdominal wall. In other words, weakness in the stomach may be a factor of bloating. It was concluded that physical activity helps move gas through the digestive system and soothe bloating in a 2006 study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

d) Yoga

For some people, bloating is caused by stress. Stress can increase the sensitivity to intestinal stretch from gas and even stimulate colon spasms in people with people irritable bowel syndrome – a chronic condition that causes abdominal fullness and bloating. Relaxation therapies, such as meditation and yoga, could be beneficial in such case. A research report published in the journal Pain Research and Management in 2006 involved 25 teens with gastrointestinal distress and found that a one-hour yoga instructional yoga session followed four weeks of home practice with a video alleviated their ache and symptoms. It was noticed that with just 10 minutes of daily yoga practice, participants could enjoy such benefit.

Conclusion

While belching and farting embarrass are our enemies in social settings, they are our good friends from the health aspect. They are the actions taken by the body to let off excessive gas and reminders telling informing us that there is excessive gas in our body. Being informed about the excessive gas, we could take corrective actions in our diet and do some exercise. With all these done, the highly coveted flat belly shall await us.


References

Eveydayhealth. (n.d.). Excessive gas and the food you eat. Retrieved from: http://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health-pictures/7-top-gas-producing-foods.aspx#08

Jay, W. N. (n.d.). Intestinal Gas (Belching, Bloating, Flatulence). MedicineNet.com. Retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/intestinal_gas_belching_bloating_flatulence/page2.htm

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