How To Prevent A Bloated Belly From Weighing You Down
My guess is that you can relate.
Here’s the good news: my close friend and one of the country’s leading integrative gastroenterologists, Dr. Robynne Chutkan, believes that everyday you have a new opportunity to take control of your body, your bloating and your life. As the founder of the Digestive Center for Women, the resident GI expert on the Dr. Oz Show and the author of the newly released book Gutbliss, Dr. Chutkan has helped thousands of people heal their digestive tract from the oppression of the daily bloat without relying on ineffective quick fixes, and unnecessary procedures and prescriptions.
So, why am I excited to share my conversation with Dr. Chutkan about her new book Gutbliss? To start, Dr. Chutkan, exposes the root causes of bloating and GI discomfort and offers steps to alleviate symptoms with her 10-day plan to banish bloat, flush toxins and dump your digestive baggage. And how cool (and rare) that a forward-thinking Western medical doctor wholeheartedly believes that what we eat affects everything. But I’m also thrilled to announce that the recipes in the 10-day plan are Kale & Chocolate originals that have been tweaked (just a little) to help you obtain gut bliss.
Enjoy the enlightening interview with my favorite integrative physician, Robynne Chutkan, who speaks about the nitty-gritty of digestive wellness with such enthusiasm and passion.
What was your inspiration for writing the book?
I was seeing a virtual epidemic of bloating - in my office, at yoga, at soccer games, dinner parties, in the supermarket. Women were pulling me aside to ask my opinion about why they were so bloated and what they could do about it. Most of them complained about getting short shrift at their doctor's office and were struggling to figure it out themselves on the internet. I had some really useful information that I knew would help people understand what was going on in their bodies, and I felt compelled to share it.
Why are so many women bloated in the first place, and do you think that those numbers are on the rise?
Bloating is the GI tract's way of signaling its displeasure, and these days, there's a lot to be unhappy about: food that Mother Nature would hardly recognize, estrogen dominance and out of control hormones, high rates of thyroid disease, lack of exercise, inadvertent air swallowing, gluten sensitivity, bacterial imbalance in the gut from too many antibiotics, a rise in belly fat that adds to our bloat, gastrointestinal conditions like diverticulosis and gallbladder problems that aren't being properly addressed, and smoldering inflammation that can wreak havoc in our intestines. Our complaints are often just lumped under the diagnosis irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and there isn't adequate investigation as to why we're bloated and feeling sick.
Many people who are health conscious and proactive turn to probiotics to replenish the gut with “good bacteria”. What's your take on probiotics? Are they helpful and should we all be using them?
There's no question that for many of us, particularly in the developed world where antibiotics and antacids are widely used and we're exposed to a lot of chemicals, our gut bacteria are very imbalanced. Meaning the ratio of good to bad bacteria isn't what it should be. So taking a probiotic - essentially a cocktail of beneficial bacterial species - may seem like an excellent idea. The problem is we've only identified a few hundred species in the gut, and we're able to culture and grow only a small number of them. There are likely several thousand additional species of essential bacteria that we don't know anything about. So we can only replace the few types that we're familiar with and the benefits are somewhat limited. A much better idea is to try to keep your gut bacteria alive by avoiding unnecessary medications and chemicals. Then you won't need to replace them. There are some situations where I definitely recommend probiotics, however imperfect they may be: after a diarrheal illness or a course of antibiotics when I know the gut bacteria are depleted.
You and I agree that food and nutrition play a huge role in GI health. Are there any foods we should avoid when we feel bloated?
Eliminating what I call SAD GAS is a really good place to start: Soy - processed soy can have estrogen-like effects that cause bloating. Artificial sweeteners - incomplete absorption in the small intestine leads to fermentation by colonic bacteria and lots of gas. Dairy - more than half the world is lactose intolerant. Undigested lactose gets fermented and the end product is gas. Gluten - millions of people have celiac disease or gluten intolerance and their small intestine can't process gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye and barley, so they bloat when they ingest those foods. Alcohol - too much alcohol can damage the lining of the stomach causing inflammation and bloating. Alcohol can also impair the release of important digestive enzymes from the pancreas, which affects digestion and causes bloating. Sugar - a sugary, starchy diet can lead to the overgrowth of gas producing yeast species and other undesirables in the gut. Many people also have fructose malabsorption, and since high fructose corn syrup is in so many processed foods this can lead to chronic bloating.
What's your number one tip for the bloated woman?
Try and work up a sweat every day. No matter the cause of your bloating, improving peristalsis and boosting feel-good hormones like serotonin through exercise will help move the products of digestion through your gut efficiently and effectively and reduce your bloat.
What's the most important message in your book, Gutbliss?
If you have bloating or other digestive ailments, don't just ask what the diagnosis is; ask why. Why are you bloated and why are your bowels irregular and why do you feel sick so much of the time? Trust your inner doctor if you think something's not right in your body. And keep asking why until you get to the right person who can help you figure it out. Most of us can find gut bliss, we just need to know where to look and the right questions to ask.
Question of the day: What are some of your takeaways that you can try for yourself? Do you have any strategies that have helped you obtain gut bliss? Share your comments & stories below.