The research we've done on the subject of bloating is extensive, to say the least. Why? Not only is it a problem that ails most of us at some point or another, but also there is so much (often conflicting) information promising cure-all solutions. Byrdie's assistant editor Erin Jahns said it best: "If you're experiencing bloating, the first stop you should make is to your doctor's office—not your Amazon prime account—and if your doctor gives you the all-clear, it's important to be well-informed before deciding what to do next."
If you have consulted your doctor and it does seem like an issue that can be helped naturally and through diet and supplements, we're about to give you all the information you need to move forward. Below, find 10 of the most effective and natural ways to de-bloat, all recommended by experts, studies, and our own trial and error.
According to Alexandra Samit, Be Well health coach at Dr. Lipman's Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, medium-chain triglycerides are a unique form of fat that requires less energy and fewer enzymes to be digested. "As a result, they are readily available sources of energy, leading to an increase in metabolism and providing quick energy replenishment," she told us.
Faith Xue, Byrdie's editorial director, found that "unlike other dietary fats, MCTs don't get stored as fat in the body—rather, they get burned for energy. This study found that over a 12-week period, subjects who got MCT oil lost about two pounds more than the control group." Add a tablespoon to your morning smoothie for a fat-burning boost. You can read more about the fat-burning benefits of MCT Oil here.
The trainers and nutrition gurus behind lifestyle brand Tone It Up, Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn, explain spices may be the key to finally getting rid of bloating. "You might be bloated because of indigestion or gastrointestinal distress. Cayenne pepper stimulates digestion, eases gas, and can relieve pressure and cramping. It's basically a bloated belly's most formidable match when you're in a bind, so toss a teaspoon into your drink of choice. And like cayenne pepper, turmeric is a detoxifying spice as well. Scott and Dawn recommend buying it in powder form, but you can also get drops of turmeric and add a teaspoon (in either form) to water, tea, juice, or a smoothie.
"[Spices are] like nature's pharmacy," explains Caitlin Sullivan, a co-founder of L.A. health food eatery Honey Hi. "There are so many medicinal components they contain, the most important and well-known of which are antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which supply vital energy to our cells. These properties (the plants' defense mechanisms to deter bugs) are the very things that give them their unique flavor. Turmeric is highly anti-inflammatory and can help mediate the immune system. The active constituents of black pepper and spicy peppers enhance the bioavailability and absorption of these other spices. They all work in tandem with each other, which is why it's so important to consume a wide and varied diet consisting of many colors."
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is the ultimate beauty multitasker. Both Samit and Nicole Granato, a women's health specialist, recommend drinking it to boost the de-bloating process. "Women who frequently gain weight in the abdominal and stomach area do so because of digestion issues, hormonal balance, and bloating," Granato explains. "This supertonic balances healthy bacteria in the gut, promoting better digestion, balancing pH levels in the body, and killing any viruses and unwanted bacteria." Samit agrees, saying that ACV helps increase stomach acid (which improves digestion) and aids your body's absorption of key nutrients from food. Try mixing one tablespoon of ACV with eight ounces of water, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a drop of stevia to taste. Click here for more benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar.
"I'm almost never just eating a meal—I'm also on my computer or watching television or scrolling through my phone," admits Lindsey Metrus, Byrdie's managing editor. After a lifetime of bloat, she decided to try traditional Chinese medicine to ward off some of her discomfort. It turns out, the distraction was part of the problem. "Multitasking with some sort of digital distraction leads to overeating or scarfing down food hurriedly, which (you guessed it) translates to poor digestion. It's also one of the main reasons people face spleen qi deficiency, according to Emma Suttie, D.Ac., AP. Metrus continues, "I made it a point to enjoy as many meals as I could peacefully and undistracted, focusing on chewing each piece of food since breaking down foods before they get to the spleen means the spleen has less work to do. This definitely helped me feel more settled and experience less stomach stress, especially since the environment I'd eat my meals in would be somewhere calming, like outside on my apartment's patio or comfortably in my kitchen."
Richard Lin, the CEO of microbiome wellness company Thryve, notes studies have shown certain (but not necessarily all) probiotic strains can help relieve symptoms of bloating. These probiotics (specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis) can help with gassiness. It's true probiotics (aka the good bacteria in our digestive system) can help support a healthy gut, which in turn should alleviate bloat.
"When shopping for probiotics for bloating, I recommend looking for a high-quality, clinically studied probiotic supplement containing a few strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. I like Genestra's HMF Multi-Strain Formula ($46), which features tried-and-tested strains of bacteria (used for over 20 years) to support intestinal balance and issues like bloating," explains Kelly Heim, Ph.D., senior director of scientific affairs for Genestra Brands and pharmacologist for Pure Encapsulations. These strains are freeze-dried, which helps preserve bacterial activity and ensures the survival of bacteria during storage. (Ed. note: The potency and survivability of probiotic supplements is a common talking point—and is highly debated—within the health and wellness industry.)
"A happy gut is a happy life," Samit says. "The bacteria in your gut can affect your metabolism." Along with taking a daily probiotic, she recommends adding in foods that naturally contain probiotics like sauerkraut, kimchi, or bone broth. She suggests eating sauerkraut by the spoonful if belly bloat is an issue for you. (Another side effect of taking probiotics? Glowing skin.)
"Not only are fermented foods living, super bioavailable, and diverse strains of probiotics—they are also an incredible way to preserve vegetables and be able to consume them year-round," explains Sullivan. "Fermentation allows us to preserve foods safely and effectively, oftentimes making those foods exponentially more nutritious than in their freshest state! You can add sauerkraut or kimchi to a meal to easily add a lot more vegetables and a wide variety of nutrients. The relationship between your brain and your gut is very real and the naturally occurring probiotics in fermented foods are an easy way to add probiotics to your diet without expensive supplementation."
Fiber (in Small Doses)
"Overdoing the fiber when you're not used to it can make you really bloated," Abby Langer, RD, told Self. So while fiber intake is important for healthy digestion, changing your diet from zero to 100 where fiber is concerned can cause bloating instead of helping to relieve it. "Aiming for between 20 and 25 grams of fiber per day," Langer says, as well as drinking a lot of water, is your best bet.
Identify Your Trigger Foods
"Ditching dairy was my first step toward relief," says PopSugar fitness editor Jenny Sugar after 20 years of chronic bloating, "but it didn't cure me by any means. It wasn't until I gave up dairy, processed carbs, and sugar that my digestive system felt happy." Traditional Chinese medicine deems dairy, processed foods, and refined flour and sugar harmful, as well as wheat, coffee, alcohol, fried foods, cold drinks, fruit juice, and cold, raw foods. That's not to say you have to give up those specific foods to relieve your own bloat. Every body is different. Try to single out which foods cause the most immediate bloating and be more mindful about avoiding them. If you'd like to be thorough, jot down the aforementioned foods and try to cut them out separately for a week at a time. Keep a journal of how you're feeling and evaluate afterward. That way, you can tell which foods work for your specific body and which are a part of the problem.
A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found gas retention was significantly lower in individuals who exercised than those who were at rest—thus, exercise (even mild movement like walking or stretching) can help with abdominal bloating.
Ginger and Lemon
"Ginger is great for de-bloating," Scott and Dawn explain, "whether you make ginger tea or have fresh juice with ginger or a smoothie in which you include ginger. We love fresh turmeric, ginger, and lemon for making a juice; that's our favorite. We like taking shots of ginger, too. If you have a juicer, you can juice a bunch of ginger and have it on hand, and either take a shot of it or pour it into your smoothies and mix it up. We make huge batches of it to have on hand. If you don't have a juicer, you can slice up little bits of ginger—it's hard to grind up in a smoothie, so it's almost like you have to mince it, make it really small, and then throw it in the blender," they say. A further benefit, they explain, is relief from menstrual cramps that cause bloating.
This story was originally published on Byrdie.com.