When you’re three months’ pregnant, bloating feels like having a Braxton-Hicks contraction (which makes your belly feel like a balloon on the verge of popping) layered on top of another Braxton-Hicks contraction paired with lovely back pain and period-like cramps.
Since pregnancy is uncomfortable enough, avoiding the big fat belly bloat should be a priority. We asked Dr. Niket Sonpal, MD, adjunct assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, who’s board-certified in internal medicine with a specialty in gastroenterology, digestive health and nutrition, on what to do so you feel as light as possible.
“It’s really important to pay attention to bloat, especially when it either comes on suddenly or is prolonged with pain. It is possible to develop an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine which gives that distended belly and full feeling,” explains Dr. Sonpal.
According to Dr. Sonpal, here are some foods to steer clear of when it comes to banishing the bloat.
It’s hard to avoid my Kryponite (a.k.a. Mexican Coke) when I’m feeling nauseous and moody, but cutting out simple carbs really makes a difference. We all know soda, sweets, desserts and white bread are not good for us — and it isn’t good for tame bellies either. According to Dr. Sonpal, simple carbs are processed into the bloodstream very quickly and have little nutritional value other than the energy they add to your body. When there is an overflow of energy being stored in your body versus what you are burning you begin to gain weight and feel bloated. Blegh!
Limiting pasta or bread to a once per week treat can really make an impact when addressing bloat. These foods are like sponges when it comes to water. When you cut starches, you’ll notice bloat minimizes pretty quickly, says Dr. Sonpal.
Sugar substitutes and faux sweeteners
“Fat-free” or “sugar-free” foods are a sham! Basically. Even those sweeteners that are “derived from real sugar” are all pro-bloat. Dr. Sonpal clarifies that these kinds of sugars are actually low-digestible carbohydrates. Our bodies metabolize them differently due to their chemical structure, leaving them hanging around in our small intestine leading to bloat.
Raw cauliflower (and other uncooked cruciferous vegetables)
I usually feel proud of myself for incorporating broccoli and cauliflower into my meals, but apparently they turn you into Homer Simpson if they’re eaten raw. When they’re cooked, these vegetables are great sources of nutrition and fine side dish substitutes for pasta, rice, and potatoes, per Dr. Sonpal. But when cauliflower is chopped up and eaten raw along with kale, broccoli and Brussel’s sprouts you can expect bloating to occur.
This is an obvious one, which is why I’ve been avoiding Japanese instant ramen, Chinese takeout and other comfort foods that typically end up with me waking up puffy-eyed the next day. Dr. Sonpal says to watch out for things like canned soups, chips, bacon, sausage and lunch meats, which are all packed with sodium.
What you can eat MORE of
Did you read the above list and decide, fuck it, I’m still going to drink my 7-Up and chips and ended up bloated? Try eating these foods to counteract it. No judgement here!
They’re high in potassium, which is alleviates water retention.
They’re known to reduce swelling and given they contain the flavonoid antioxidant, quercetin, explains Dr. Sonpal. For people who hate drinking water, add them to your pitcher or bottle for a lightly sweetened, spa-like touch.
Watermelons are mostly water — about 92% — but this delightful fruit is soaked with nutrients. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids, according to Dr. Sonpal. There’s even a modest amount of potassium.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha. These high probiotic, bacteria-friendly fermented foods are key to maximizing digestion and maintaining a healthy gut. (Too bad you can’t eat the sauerkraut with sausage…)
Behavior matters too. Here are habits to stop to deflate your belly.
Drinking from a straw
This one sucks. Drinking from a straw somehow makes it easier for me to drink all the water that I don’t want to drink. But perDr. Sonpal, the mechanisms of straws make it so that you suck air in to take sips of your drink. An excess of this can fill you up with air and cause bloating.
Sleeping right after eating
Many people get drowsy right after a meal. The best course of action is to go for a walk or do something that gives you a bit of energy and helps your body process your meal. Going to bed right after eating cripples your digestive process, slowing down the breakdown of your food.
Shoveling in your food
If you find yourself struggling with bloating, observing the pace at which you eat can help reduce the amount of air you intake while consuming the foods you love, says Dr. Sonpal. He says you should take more time to enjoy your meal. Like chew and savor kind of thing. I guess I can do that.