Bloat busters: look svelte in your party dress
Are you worried that your tummy may spoil the line of your party frock? If so, follow our golden, gas-free rules...
Choose soothing foods
To beat the bloat, incorporate foods that could help soothe digestion. Fresh pineapple contains bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme, so try some after a heavy meal. Fennel may also help by combating flatulence. Wind-cheating herbal suggestions from the National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease include fresh parsley, and teas made from peppermint and camomile.
Banish the beans
The bloat potential of beans comes from their content of indigestible carbohydrates. These cannot be broken down in the small intestine, so reach the large intestine, where they are acted on by gas-producing bacteria, typically leading to distension and discomfort in the abdominal area.
Onions and asparagus contain similarly indigestible carbohydrates, so go easy on these, too. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts tend to produce smelly wind rather than actual discomfort, so are best avoided in large quantities! Equally nutritious and less windy alternatives include curly kale, watercress and broccoli.
Be frugal with fizz, fruit and spices
Fizzy drinks, and drinks gulped down with meals, can cause excess air in your digestive system, which will increase the chance of a protruding tummy. Whenever possible, stick to small sips of plain water with your meal. Having excessive amounts of fruit and smoothies can overload you with soluble fibre, which can lead to bloating. Limit yourself to two or three servings per day.
Spicy food can cause problems as it can increase the speed with which food travels through the gut, encouraging wind production. Help yourself by going easy on the curries.
Rule out an intolerance
A food intolerance is another potential cause of bloating, with wheat and dairy products being the two main culprits. Initially, road-test your diet without dairy for two or three weeks. If there's no improvement in your symptoms, try a similar period of time without wheat.
Another approach is to continue with your normal diet but to keep a food diary, noting everything you eat and drink and when bloating troubles you most. If you're convinced you have a food intolerance, get advice from a registered dietician or nutritionist. Be sure to include suitable alternatives for the foods you cut out.
Try a supplement
Charcoal tablets mop up excess gas, or try peppermint oil capsules, which relax the muscle between the oesophagus and the stomach, so you're more likely to burp up wind than keep it trapped lower down. Repopulating the gut with a friendly bacteria supplement or drink may also help - especially with bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome or a yeast (candida) overgrowth in the gut.
● Eat slowly with your mouth closed, to avoid gulping down air along with your food. Chew each mouthful thoroughly.
● Eat small, regular meals and avoid a pattern of eating little all day, but then having a large late meal.
● Drink plenty of water, but avoid carbonated drinks and excess alcohol.
● Sit up straight at the table to help improve digestion.
● Avoid chewing gum or drinking using a straw, which both make you swallow air.
● Try to take regular exercise. Even a 20-30 minute brisk walk four times a week can improve your bowel function.
● Using firm, circular movements, massage your abdomen to release trapped wind.