beat-the-bloatBeat the bloat

Stop unbuttoning your jeans! Try this 3-day plan and other tips for what to eat, what to avoid and how to get relief for good

We've all been there: You're wearing your favorite pants, skirt or dress, you eat, and suddenly you feel as if your clothes don't quite fit anymore. You probably already know that pouring on the salt makes your belly puff up (salt is notorious for causing water retention). Ditto for certain foods that are prone (to causing gas, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and beans. But you may not know about these other sneaky culprits.

frozen dinners and processed foods

This includes canned soups and vegetables, bottled salad dressings, condiments and sauces, which are usually pretty high in salt. Check out the sodium content on all packaged foods you buy, and consider how it fits into the guideline of 2,300 mg per day (1,500 mg for all people 50-plus, and for anyone with diabetes or high blood pressure, as well as all African-Americans, who are at high risk for hypertension). If the amount is sky-high (800 mg or more for frozen entrees), consider lower-sodium and salt-free alternatives. A few I always recommend: soy sauce (Kikkoman low sodium mixed with water, since their low-sodium version is still salty), ketchup (Westbrae, Heinz No Salt Added), soup (Amy's Light in Sodium, Health Valley, Campbell's No Salt Added), canned tomatoes (Muir Glen Organic, Eden Organic, Del Monte, Hunt's) and vegetable juice (V8 and Campbell's both offer low-sodium versions). Be sure to drink more water when eating salty foods to help flush out the sodium.

pasta and other carbohydrates

Every carbohydrate that your body stores attracts three times as much water as protein does. If you're bloated after eating a big bowl of pasta, cereal, rice or other grains, cut back on the serving size next time and add more protein to it. (For example, eat chicken or salmon along with the pasta.) Protein is more satisfying, so you'll still feel full even though you're cutting back on starchy foods.

sugar-free desserts

Foods that have been sweetened with sugar alcohols such as mannitol, maltitol and sorbitol can cause gas (and bloating) because these alcohols are hard for your body to digest. Check the ingredients of foods labeled low sugar or sugar-free, as they often contain these sugar alcohols. Other sugar substitutes-like aspartame (Equal Classic), sucralose (Splenda) and stevia-are not usually problematic, since they're digested more easily.

your calcium supplement

The citrate form (e.g., Citracal) may be less likely to cause gas and constipation than the calcium carbonate form (e.g., Turns, Caltrate), perhaps because it's easier for some people to digest.

your eating habits

Using a straw, chewing gum, having carbonated drinks, talking while eating, and eating too quickly can all cause you to swallow more air, which can lead to gas and bloating. Try eating more mindfully by putting down your fork between bites so you'll chew more thoroughly and eat more slowly.

when to talk to your doctor

We all feel a little puffy now and then, but if it seems like you're constantly bloated and nothing helps-even cutting back on salt or avoiding gas-causing foods-check with your doctor. He'll probably screen you for conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and gluten and lactose intolerance, all of which can cause bloating. Chronic constipation also
causes bloating, so if you often go three days or more without having a bowel movement, tell your doctor.

banish bloat in 3 days!

This plan helps you cut back on foods that cause water retention and gas, drink plenty of water and incorporate herbs that fight that puffy feeling.

day 1 day 2 day 3
• Small container 0% fat plain Greek yogurt topped with Y2 cup blueberries and 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts or almonds
• Peppermint tea and water
• 4-egg-white omelet with sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes
• 1 slice wholegrain toast
• 1 cup fresh strawberries
• Ginger tea and water
• Egg sandwich: 1 toasted
whole-grain English muffin
with 1 scrambled egg and 1 Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge
• Tea (ginger, peppermint or fennel) and water
• 3 oz fresh turkey breast, lettuce and tomato on 2 slices whole-grain bread (mustard and low fat mayo optional)
•1 banana
• Water
• ¾ cup low-sodium cottage cheese (Friendship or Axelrod) over 1 cup fruit salad, topped with Y2 cup whole-grain cereal such as Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal, Cheerios (plain or multigrain) or Kashi Heart to Heart
• Peppermint tea and water
• 1 can Amy's Light in Sodium Minestrone soup
• 1 mini whole-wheat pita or 2 rice cakes
• 1 or 2 Hershey's Special Dark chocolate minis
• Peppermint tea and water
• Tofu and veggie stir-fry: 4 oz cubed tofu, 2 cups mixed vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, green beans), Y2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce and Y2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger; 1 Tbsp olive or canola oil for stir-frying
• Y2 cup brown rice
• Water
•4 oz grilled wild salmon
• Y2 cup steamed spinach
• 1 medium baked sweet potato
• Water
•5 oz grilled chicken breast
• 1 cup cooked green beans
• Y2 cup cooked wild rice
• Y2 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 1 oz dark chocolate
• Small container 0% fat flavored Greek yogurt
•1 oz walnuts
• Small container nonfat or low fat plain yogurt with Y2 cup blueberries mixed in
• 3 Almondina biscuits

deflation devices

The best way to figure out what's causing bloating: Write down everything you eat and drink and whether or not you feel discomfort afterward. That said, you don't have to totally avoid bloat-causing foods if you follow a few guidelines:

• Eat vegetables cooked instead of raw. Cooking helps break down some of the fiber so your body doesn't have to work as hard to digest it.
• Don't combine high-gas foods with high-fat foods. For example, eat a beef or chicken taco without the beans and cheese.
• When you 're feeling bloated, try limiting serving sizes of gas-producing foods to no more than 1 cup total per day.
• Go easy on starchy beans, including kidney, black and pinto beans, chickpeas and edamame (green beans are fine).
• Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. This helps keep your digestive system functioning smoothly and cuts down on the production of gas.
• Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly.


• Try drinking ginger, peppermint or fennel tea, or taking one of these herbs in supplement form. They help dispel gas and calm your digestive system.
• Take a walk. Your instinct may be to sit or lie down until the discomfort passes, but moving around helps move the gas through your system.
• Drink a glass (or two) of water. Water is a diuretic, so it will help you flush out excess salt and keep things moving.


• Beano contains an enzyme that can help you digest the complex carbohydrates in vegetables, legumes and grains before they're broken down in your large intestine, where they're more likely to cause gas. Beano works if you take it immediately before eating potentially gassy foods.
• Probiotics (Culturelle, Align, VS L#3) contain "good" bacteria that may help maintain a healthy balance in your digestive system to prevent and/ or reduce gas. Many yogurts contain probiotics, but they also contain lactose and sugar-both of which can cause bloating. Try taking probiotics in supplement form daily to see if they help.

gassy foods

• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage
• Cauliflowercauliflower
• Collard, turnip and mustard greens
• Kale
• Onions

• Beans (red, pinto, kidney, etc.)
• Lentils
• Peas

whole grains
• Barley
• Oats
• Wheat (pasta, bread, cereal)

• Fructose (granulated sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup)
• Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol; used in sugar-free gum, various nutrition bars, and many diet/sugar-free candies, cakes and cookies)

fiber supplements& added fibers
• Inulin (found in Fibersure)
• Psyllium (found in fiber supplements such as Metamucil, Konsyl)