Food Tips

7 GI Docs Reveal What They Do To Beat Bloating

PHOTOGRAPH BY NEVODKA/SHUTTERSTOCK
Let’s face it: It’s no fun walking around feeling more puffed up than a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That’s why we went to some of the world’s leading GI docs for advice. Read on to learn what the experts do to make sure they can always button their pants.

Green smoothie
PHOTOGRAPH BY LECIC/SHUTTERSTOCK
Tailor your diet to your gut.

“I have a green smoothie most mornings made from spinach, kale, celery, parsley, green apple, lemon, ginger, and ice. It works like rocket fuel to get things moving through my GI tract, and it’s full of indigestible plant fiber that feeds the good bacteria in my gut.

Once a week, I do a 24-hour fast where I drink lots of water, but no food for 24 hours. It gives my digestive tract time to rest and decompress and, believe it or not, I actually feel energized during the fast. I eat a really good dinner the night before, then no breakfast or lunch the next day, and a really big delicious dinner that night—which I really appreciate. And I do heated Vinyasa flow yoga two to three times a week. The twisting poses help to stimulate peristalsis and banish bloat.

If I ever start to feel backed up, I take a psyllium husk fiber supplement (1 tablespoon of ground psyllium husk in a big glass of water). But normally getting ample fiber in my diet—at least 30 grams a day from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds—does the trick.”
Robynne Chutkan, MD, director of the GutBiome Institute in Chevy Chase, MD and author of The Bloat Cure

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Carbonated drinks
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Cut out carbonation.

“I minimize carbonated beverages, which contain gas and can contribute to that feeling of bloating. I also avoid chicory root: I was a big fan of fiber bars and granola bars as great snacks-on-the-go, but some of these contain chicory root, which can contribute to bloating and distension.”
Bhavesh Shah, MD, medical director of Interventional Gastroenterology, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, CA

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Sleeping
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Eat, exercise, and sleep right.

“I have yogurt every day. Your intestines contain good and bad bacteria, and byreplenishing good bacteria—either through yogurt, kefir, or a probiotic pill—you can reduce the number of bad gas-forming bacteria. I also walk every single day—it promotes intestinal movement (gut motility)—and I refill my water glass at least three to four times a day. Water is essential for stool transit, and if we don’t consume more than we lose through daily activities, we won’t have enough to promote bowel regularity. If you’re constipated, bad bacteria have more time to interact with sugars in your gut, increasing gas production.

Sleep is really important, too. I try to get at least six to eight hours each night. Our minds and bodies need recharging, and that includes our guts. If we do not sleep well, our digestive system is constantly on. The overtime ultimately creates erratic motility, which can lead to trapped gas and bloating.”
Catherine Ngo, MD, gastroenterologist at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA

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Read food labels
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Pay attention to food labels.

“I check food labels carefully. I avoid ingredients that end in ‘ol’—sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, mannitol, lactitol. These are all sugar alcohols, which can cause bloating. [They are used as sweeteners because they have dramatically fewer calories than sugar.] Frequent offenders are ice cream, sugar-free chewing gum or candy, and baked goods like cakes and cookies.

Another tip is to steam cruciferous vegetables: Steaming breaks down the indigestible cellulose fiber that makes these veggies stiff, laborious to chew, and hard to digest.”
—Nitin Kumar, MD, director of the Bariatric Endoscopy Institute in Addison, IL

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Sitting down for a meal together
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Sit down for meals and take your time.

“I make sure I eat three square meals at around the same time every day. Like any set of nerves, the gut prefers predictability. Skipping meals or eating at irregular hours—particularly late at night—can cause the motility of the gut to get out of whack, and bloating can result. I also take my time. Eating too quickly can cause bloating, since food is chewed less thoroughly, requiring more work for the rest of the digestive system to break it down. If you eat in a rush or when talking, you’re more likely to swallow air, which can distend the abdomen. If you’re eating with friends, make sure that you’re not doing all of the talking—listen, chew, and take your time!”
—Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, gastroenterologist at Columbia University Medical Center

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Bloat-producing dairy products
PHOTOGRAPH BY NEVODKA/SHUTTERSTOCK
Prepare for trips and changes in routine.

“I cut out dairy products and other bloat producing foods—like bread and cruciferous vegetables—while travelling. My bloating tends to only happenwhen I’m on a trip, probably because time differences throw my gut out of whack, I’m drinking less fluid than I normally do, and I’m eating foods I may not normally eat. So if I know I’ll be travelling, I cut those offenders for a few days beforehand. I also make sure I’m taking a good over the counter probiotic proven to boost good gut bacteria, like Culturelle.”
—Anish Sheth, MD, gastroenterologist at Princeton Medical Group in Princeton, NJ

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Broccoli
PHOTOGRAPH BY MAMA MIA/SHUTTERSTOCK
Cut out foods that make you bloat.

“I avoid my bloat triggers, which for me include milk and cheese. I’m not lactose intolerant, but large quantities of dairy can make me bloated. I also try to avoid common bloat-causing veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and lettuce, as well as artificial sweeteners, which aren’t digested well in the GI tract. And I don’t chew gum, suck on hard candy or drink carbonated beverages, since they all promote swallowing air, leaving me bloated.”
—Shilpa Mehra, MD, attending physician, Division of Gastroenterology, Montefiore Health System

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