Bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and other “irritable bowel” issues can be exhausting and frustrating. These symptoms can lead to living in oversized clothes, constantly rushing to the bathroom, and even curled up in a ball on the floor in pain. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone—about 1 in 7 people feel just like you. And digestive health impacts overall health, so it’s important to care for your gut. If irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is causing your discomfort, then these three natural strategies might be just what you need to regain total control of your body.
1. Eat Mindfully and Slowly.
Before you eat, ask yourself if your desire for food is a craving. Usually, cravings for quick and processed carbs are a sign of emotional, habit, or head hunger. If you’re craving kale, you’re probably experiencing true hunger, but if it’s a candy bar, cookies or chips that you’re after, chances are good that you’re eating to satisfy more than a need for nutrients and energy—when you’re truly hungry, almost any healthy food will suffice. Another way to be mindful is to listen for your body’s physical hunger cues. If your stomach is rumbling, that’s a good sign that you’re actually hungry! Being conscious of when you last ate is another great way to be mindful; if you’ve eaten recently, chances are you don’t need that extra food in front of you.
It takes 15 minutes for you to register the sensation of fullness; so, if you scarf down your food in 5 minutes, you can go two more rounds before your body catches up! This is where eating slowly and enjoying the food in your mouth matters.
Finally, remember to chew your food slowly and notice how your body feels as you eat! Ideally, you want to chew your food until it’s lost its texture, and it’s fully liquified. Digestion begins in your mouth; you have enzymes that will start to break down your food before it even hits your stomach! When you take time to enjoy your food (and chew thoroughly), your body will have an easier time digesting it—leading to less gas, less bloating, less abdominal discomfort.
2. Eat Several Small Meals.
Try eating smaller meals throughout the day—AKA, instead of eating three larger meals, try eating 5-6 mini meals. Eating stimulates your digestive tract and when you eat really large meals, it can cause some distress. Try sticking to smaller portions and spreading your meals out throughout the day. It’s also essential to remember the importance of portion sizes. When you stick to small amounts of food and listen to your body’s hunger cues, chances are you’ll feel better. Just because a food is considered healthy or nutrient dense, doesn’t mean you should eat loads of it in one sitting—more on that in my final tip!
3. Eat Low FODMAP.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. The big deal with FODMAPS? Certain carbohydrates are more highly fermentable in the gut than others. Examples include foods like apples, milk, beans, garlic, onions, ice cream, wheat bread, and pistachios. If you’re sensitive to those highly fermentable carbs, you’ll notice all the classic signs and symptoms of IBS. So for someone struggling with bloating, abdominal pain, and gas, eating foods that are low in FODMAPs can decrease the discomfort! Eating high FODMAP foods (or even low to medium FODMAP foods in high quantities) can make an “irritable bowel” sufferer feel like their gut is rotting. Excessive gas in the GI tract leads to bloating and distention, which then activates pain receptors. Ouch! Gas can also slow down the GI system which can lead to constipation. The goal of eating a low FODMAP diet is to focus on portioning and lowering your overall FODMAP load. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to portion sizes—for example, a 1/3 cup portion of zucchini is low FODMAP, but a ½ cup serving can be problematic. Looking for more info? I have a free Starter Kit on my website.
If you think you’re ready to give the low FODMAP lifestyle a try and you want to start feeling fabulous, then my book, The Cool Girl’s Guide to the FODMAP Diet: Everything You Need to Get Savvy About (and Beat!) Digestive Issues—For Life, can help you get started. When your digestive system starts doing its thing and doing it the right way, you’ll feel like your coolest self. It will feel incredible when your gas, bloating, and abdominal pain go away for life, and you’re left with the strongest and most confident version of you!
About the author
Dr. Kristen Bentson is a sought-after speaker, practitioner, author, and boy mom living in the delightfully quaint city of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. She empowers her patients to prevent and fight chronic diseases using functional nutrition and lifestyle modification.