A bloated belly can sabotage the best-laid plans—and your mood—like no other. What do you do when you're supposed to be out enjoying yourself and suddenly your stomach feels like you swallowed a football? How do you banish bloat in its tracks when you've got a blemergency (that's a bloat emergency, FYI)?
We posed that very question to Katrina Hodgson and Karena Dawn—the insanely fit trainers and nutrition gurus behind lifestyle brand Tone It Up—who know a thing or two about a flat tummy, as well as nutritionist Shona Wilkinson, who specialises in digestive wellness. Between the three of them, these women know how to zap away that sluggish, swollen feeling.
Keep scrolling to find out how to get rid of your bloated belly fast.
Drink 30 Minutes Before a Meal
"Ensuring good hydration will allow your body to make sufficient hydrochloric acid that works to digest your food," says Wilkinson. "The 30-minute gap will make sure that there is no water in your stomach to dilute the hydrochloric acid. Avoid drinking water with or immediately after a meal, as this will dilute the hydrochloric acid and make digestion less efficient," she says.
Drink Your Food and Chew Your Soup
"Chew food a minimum of 30 times—your food should be mixed with enough saliva for you to almost drink it. Chewing enough not only stimulates the secretion of digestive juices needed for proper digestion. It also ensures that your food is properly mixed with saliva and is swallowed with less gas. Unbroken-down food in the gut leads to many problems, one of which is excess gas," explains Wilkinson. "Liquid foods such as soups and smoothies should be chewed. If you do not chew it, then your body will not produce adequate enzymes to digest it," she says.
Spice It Up
You might be bloated because of indigestion or gastrointestinal distress. Cayenne pepper stimulates digestion and eases gas. It can also 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.
Take Some Turmeric
Try Bloat-Busting Supplements
"Take activated charcoal after each meal," advises Wilkinson. "Charcoal is able to absorb hundreds of times its own weight in toxins. The micro-organisms in our gut play an important role. They especially help with the digestion of lactose. Try taking a probiotic supplement if you suffer from bloating. If you're intolerant to the milk-sugar lactose, then the consequences will be excess gas and bloating. Adding a lactase enzyme may be necessary for those who struggle with this milk sugar," she adds.
Don't Reach for the Diet Coke
"They might be low in calories, but the fizzy bubbles in carbonated diet drinks can cause gas to get trapped in your stomach and will cause bloating," says Wilkinson. "Instead, drink water flavoured with lemon, lime or cucumber, or try some peppermint tea for a soothing beverage that may help reduce bloat. Not only are these great bloat-free alternatives, but they will also help you to cleanse and detoxify the body," she says.
Avoid a large Meal and Limit Gassy Foods
If bloating is a real issue for you, Wilkinson advises eating less but more often: "Eating a large meal increases feelings of fullness, but you will be more likely to eat more calories. Instead of eating three large meals a day, try four to six smaller meals spread out throughout the day. This can help keep you from feeling too full and bloated. Certain foods such as beans, pulses and root vegetables are notorious for causing bloating and wind. Although these foods are good for you and are low in fat, try and choose salad vegetables such as salad leaves, and tomatoes which will not make you bloated."
"There are foods like asparagus that are a natural diuretic. So if it is a little further ahead of time (a few hours versus just one, for example), you can eat some asparagus to help you lose some bloat," the Tone It Up duo advises. Just make sure to not sprinkle any salt on it! Sodium causes bloat, so lay off the shaker before an event.
Don't Chew Gum
"It might keep your mouth busy and stop you reaching for the biscuit tin, but chewing gum can also lead to swallowing air, which can cause bloating," explains Wilkinson. "It can also stimulate your digestive enzymes to expect food, which can then stimulate hunger. If you do have to snack, it's better to graze on a healthy, high-fibre snack like oatcakes, carrot batons or low-fat popcorn," she says.
Make Ginger Your Friend
"Ginger is great for de-bloating, whether you make ginger tea or have fresh juice with ginger or a smoothie in which you include ginger," the Tone It Up girls say. "We love fresh turmeric, ginger and lemon for making a juice; that's our favourite. We like taking shots of ginger too. If you have a juicer, you can juice a bunch of ginger and have it on hand—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, then throw it in the blender," they say. A further benefit, they explain, is relief from the menstrual cramps that cause bloating.
Watch Your Salt and Sweetener Intake
"Never add extra salt to your food. Not only is this bad for your heart and your blood pressure, but especially for dieters, salt actually increases the amount of water that the body retains and can, therefore, make you look more bloated and heavier," says Wilkinson.
The Tone It Up founders recommend drinking electrolyte-rich coconut water to regulate the salt levels in your body. "Many people suffer from bloating because they consume too much sugar in artificially sweetened foods and drinks, and so it's important to avoid these sweeteners as much as possible," she adds.
Sweat It Out
"If you do have an hour before the event, there's nothing like a little sweat session for getting rid of bloat," the Tone It Up founders say. "Do one of our video workouts, whether you're in a hotel room or your family room; they can be done anywhere. Even just sweating a little bit will help de-bloat you."
Spinach also helps lessen belly bloat by pushing fibre through your digestive tract. Your best bet for reaping its de-bloating benefits is to toss some spinach into a slimming smoothie along with ginger, turmeric and coconut water. Keep scrolling for a de-bloating smoothie recipe (just be sure to chew it!).
Tone It Up
Adapted from the new Tone It Up 8-Week Bikini Program.
1/2 cup coconut water
1 1/2 cups pineapple (fresh or frozen), diced
1/2 inch peeled ginger knob
1/2 cup ice
Handful of spinach
1 tsp. turmeric
Dash of cayenne pepper