Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beat the Bloat in Time for the Bikini

Beat the Bloat in Time for the Bikini
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Warmer weather is coming which means time for gardens, golfing, farmers’ markets and... breaking out the bikini. Even after months of eating well and exercising regularly, crunching abs at the gym or running 5 miles a day, most of us still have a little “pooch” around our bellies. It’s a little disconcerting to see in the change room, but the good news is that it’s usually not fat causing your woes. In fact, the culprit is far easier and quicker to eliminate – intestinal bloating.

Bloating symptoms can be from many different antagonists, but the two main reasons are water retention and constipation. Far cheaper and tastier than cleaning your pharmacy out of diuretics and laxatives, natural and wholesome foods do a fine job of the “de-pouf” without depleting your energy and nutrients. The extra plus is that incorporating them into your lifestyle is simple, and since the benefits start rolling in before long it’s an easy regime to stay with.

While you know the stalks will perfume your urine, asparagus is also one of the most potent agents in the battle of the bloat. The vegetable is a prebiotic for the growth and activity of good bacteria in gut – which not only keeps the bowels moving and enhances the immune system, but also cuts down on the accumulation of gas – another common bloater. This powerful food is also a natural diuretic that flushes out the extra water and sodium out of your body. For the best results from this veggie, lightly steam or roast them until just tender – don’t overcook them and never boil, as the vitamins, minerals and any other beneficial nutrients quickly leach away.

Papaya is an extremely powerful digestive agent, filled with an enzyme that helps breaks down proteins, as well as vitamins C, A and K and fibre. The fibre is a huge fighter of constipation while the vitamins tone and protect the colon, bladder and kidneys. Fresh, unsweetened juices or purees are thebest way to concentrate the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes, while eating the flesh or un-strained juices gives you a great deal of fibre.

Yogurt is another boon to preventing the bloat. Healthy bacteria help regulate your bowels and help reduce excess gas. The dairy is also a very concentrated source of calcium, which helps to release the extra fluid in and around your cells and eliminates swelling, especially in the legs at night or when you find yourself sitting for a long time. Two to three servings of a low-fat (not fat free), plain yogurt (add some papaya for a double whammy!) helps keep belly bloating at bay more than a simple glass of milk does, as regular milk does not have the same concentration of calcium and no probiotics at all.

Water and fibre may seem counterintuitive to add to your daily meals when you already feel like you’re about to burst. Staying hydrated, though, is one of the best ways to relieve your body of it’s extra sodium stores, and the water they attract. Water is the only thing that cuts down sodium bloat, since once the extra mineral flushes out the fluid has nothing to be attracted to, and for the effects to be noticeable, stick to the clear, still kind. Flavourings and carbonation (not to mention sugars and artificial sweeteners) have all shown to aggravate bloating, and high-sodium seltzers actually dehydrate you and cause water retention. Insoluble fibre relieves constipation (“hard stomach” bloating) while soluble fibre reduces gassy bloating. That is, as long as you start your new regime slowly. This is especially important if you typically eat refined or overcooked foods and few legumes, as you need to give your system time to adjust. Increasing your water intake is also critical when eating more fibre – if you suddenly spike your fibre intake without drinking enough, it leads to further constipation and discomfort. For optimum health and to keep symptoms at bay, aim for at least 35 grams of fibre daily, if not more, and 9-10 glasses of water. Good “fibre foods” are whole grains, raw vegetables and fruit (especially unpeeled if the peel is edible), flaxseeds and legumes like lentils, black beans and chickpeas.

While it’s never easy to pull on the first swimsuit of the year, these natural and healthy ways to “de-bloat” beforehand are a simple way to ease the pain. Just remember to drink  a bottle of water for  every hour out in the sun, and wear your sunscreen and shades!

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition