Being bloated is decidedly unglamorous, but for many people it's an all too common part of their lives. And besides the fact that it can keep you from being able to put on some of your favorite clothes (or feel more confident in whatever you are wearing), it's totally uncomfortable and in some cases downright painful. The good news is there are some things you can do about it — whether it be stuff you can sip or snack on proactively, or the foods to reduce bloating after the damage has already been done. Even better? You probably already have some of these de-bloating wonders in your pantry, fridge, or even your home bar.
Just as some foods can cause discomfort, others can be super healing. And according to nutrition experts, relief might be a simple as drinking a cup of herbal tea or knowing which greens to stock up on (and which to avoid) as well as how to prepare them. It should be noted that if you experience chronic bloating, you should probably see your doctor to get the the root of the problem. But for the occasional flare-up, you might want to try out one of the 10 nutritionist-approved foods ahead, which just might replace your go-to over-the-counter remedy.
"Chamomile is a carminative herb, which means it reduces bloating and flatulence," says Caitlin Self, a licensed nutritionist for Frugal Nutrition. "It also has calming properties that can enhance digestion; When the nervous system is calm, it can enter 'rest and digest' mode and more easily digest food."
Self also explains that peppermint is a carminative herb, and both of these can be most easily ingested by steeping in water to make a tea — either with fresh or dried leaves/flowers.
"The seeds, stems, and fronds can relieve abdominal cramps, gas, and bloating," says Self. You can thinly slice raw fennel and add it to a salad, roast it, or do as registered dietitian and nutritionist Rachel Swanson suggests and try it in tea form as a digestif.
"The active compound, gingerol, acts as an antispasmodic and can improve the intestinal muscle tone: Increased muscle tone increases motility and reduces gastrointestinal symptoms," explains Self, who adds that while you can try ginger in powered supplement form, your best best might be ingesting the ingredient fresh, when it's most potent.
The same bitters that you use when whipping up your favorite fancy cocktails also have the ability to alleviate and prevent gas and bloating, according to Self. "Bitters stimulate bile production and upregulate the liver, which helps to get everything moving along in the digestive tract so food isn’t sitting undigested in your stomach or small intestine," she explains. "I like medicinal bitters, but even cocktail bitters are effective!" That said, if you're already feeling bloated, add a few dashes into plain water — not sparking water, which could leave you feeling even more uncomfortable.
"If you don’t have any bitter tinctures around, try munching on whatever bitter foods you can find," says Self. "Greens like dandelion greens and arugula are great options, or you can even eat the outside peel of a lemon. If you have access to bitter melon, it’s an incredibly effective food for reducing bloating! The most effective use for treating bloating with bitters is to stimulate the bitter receptors on your taste buds, so try to eat these bitter foods on their own so you can really taste them!"
Know what else is bitter? Coffee. Therefore, according to Self, it can produce similar effects to the aforementioned bitter foods. "About four to six ounces of black coffee should be enough to help stimulate the necessary digestive juices to reduce bloating," she says. "Adding sugar and cream reduces its effectiveness so it’s best to have it black. And black coffee can also stimulate bile to prevent bloating, so a few ounces of coffee before meals can be helpful."
Clear Vegetable/Bone Broth
"There’s a good reason why a clear liquid diet is prescribed before gastrointestinal procedures and following GI surgery," explains Swanson. "Clear liquids like broth greatly reduce strain on your digestive tract, providing the entire gastrointestinal system a rest; An ideal strategy to implement if experiencing significant distention."
(Plain Poached) Salmon
If you're in need of some protein but already suffering from the discomfort of bloating, Swanson recommends plain, poached salmon — no sauces, spices, or additives — which she says contains little or no carbohydrates, therefore helping to prevent further fermentation and gas. The nutrition expert also says that it can limit water being pulled into your gut.
Not all fruits and vegetables are created equal when it comes to bloating. "Even the ‘healthiest’ vegetable options may contain fructans and mannitol, sugar molecules that can be notorious for contributing to bloat amongst some individuals," says Swanson. "Temporarily restricting high-FODMAP osmotic choices significantly reduces gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, and prevents further distention from taking place." A safe bet? Lightly cooked spinach, which is not only a low-FODMAP veggie, but offers magnesium that can help with regularity.