There is never a shortage of magazine articles, books, television commercials, etc. that talk about “Stopping the Belly Bloat.” I used to be guilty of complaining about digestive issues too. I ate Tums like they were going out of style. However, those issues are all a way of the past, and here I will discuss, in the simplest of terms, the real secret of how to improve your digestion, and stop the “belly bloat” once and for all.
For starters, there are foods to be avoided.
- Try to leave out anything processed and refined. While we are at it, there is never an excuse to eat Fast Food. It will not make you feel better. It is absolutely devoid of any nutrients, and it is “cheap” for a reason. Cheap flour yields cheap bread. Poorly raised livestock yields cheap meat, and therefore cheap burgers. Sugar is cheap, and so is that 99- cent candy bar, and extra large soda pop. You may think you are getting a deal, but I assure you, you are not. These types of food cause more damage than they do good. They are one of the leading causes of illness today. In avoiding and eliminating these foods, you will not only be losing the belly bloat, but improving your overall health (and lowering those future doctor bills).
- Dairy products. As I discussed on a number of occasions on “Diary,” milk is not only highly congesting, but also VERY difficult to digest, due to a protein called casein. Although Big Food would have you believe otherwise, dairy is not a health food, and does not build strong bones. Eliminating dairy from your diet alone will flatten your tummy. Healthier Alternatives: Milk < Almond Milk. Cheese < Sheep, or Goat cheese (Preferably unpasteurized). Ice Cream < Coconut Bliss or LaLoo’s Goat Ice Cream.
- Peanut Butter. I do not care what they tell you about peanut butter being a “healthy” source of protein and fat, but peanut butter is not only addicting, but also constipating. It is not a nut. It is a legume. Unless you are buying all natural peanut butter, it contains spoonfuls of sugar, and hydrogenated oils. Regardless of whether it is all-natural, or not, peanuts are highly susceptible to mold. This mold is called aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a known carcinogen. Healthier Alternatives: Almond Butter. Still not the easiest of foods to digest, but significantly healthier.
- Soy. Highly processed, genetically modified, cheap and congesting. Soy is better left untouched. Healthier Alternatives: Soy Milk < Almond Milk.
- Gum. Gum, as addicting and delicious as it may be, can also cause bloat, and gassyness. Aside from all of the “sugar-free” sweeteners, which can upset digestion, the act of chewing, without swallowing, can trick the stomach into producing more acids. We do not want the body producing these acids in excess, especially when there is nothing there to digest. In addition to the amount of air being swallowed, along with the synthetic sweeteners, the act of gum chewing can become very irritating to the delicate digestive system.
The above are the basic foods to avoid. Avoiding and eliminating those 5 food “groups” can greatly improve the body’s ability to digest. The better the body is at digesting, the better your overall health.
As always, the more natural something is, the better it is for our health. Do not be overwhelmed by all of this information. Start small! Reduce your consumption of Group 1 (processed, refined, and fast). Then reduce, and avoid Group 2 (Dairy).
The next, and one of the most important things to keep in mind for superior digestion, and optimal health is Food Combining. I talk about the philosophy of food combining here, but I wanted to briefly mention it in regards to the infamous “Belly Bloat” discussion.
In the simplest of terms, some foods digest well together, and others do not. Some foods digest quickly (like fruit- around 30 minutes), and others take much longer (bread, eggs, meat, etc. -sometimes taking 8+ hours). Some foods require different enzymes in order to be sufficiently digested, and require different digestive juices. The idea behind this philosophy is that like, digests better with like.
Don’t panic. It is actually quite simple. Below I discuss the 5 different food groups.
- Fruit. Fruit takes the least amount of time in the stomach, and therefore when it is eaten with other foods (like cottage cheese, and berries), it ferments in the stomach, and can hold up the digestion of the fruit. Instead of the stomach digesting the fruit first, and letting it go on it’s merry way, it will instead focus on the slower digesting food. Rule #1. If you are going to enjoy fruit, do so for breakfast, and on an empty stomach. Try to avoid combining fruit with other food groups. Eat it alone…. Or do not eat it. Fruit should not be enjoyed as a dessert.
- Raw veggies can be eaten with anything aside from fruit. These are your greens, carrots, red peppers, onions, radishes, zucchini, yellow squash, sprouts, etc. I would suggest avoiding cruciferous raw vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and then others like brussel sprouts. These guys are all very high in insoluble fiber, making them take longer to digest. They “can make you bloated and gassy. Lightly steamed veggies, like broccoli, and cauliflower, can be easier to digest than their raw counterparts. The water softens their plant fibers, making them not only easier to digest, but chew. Steamed and lightly cooked veggies can be eaten with anything, except fruit. This group is technically a neutral group.
- Raw Nuts, Raw Seeds, and Dried Fruit. Keep these foods together, and away from other foods, aside from vegetables. These foods are better eaten in smaller quantities, as they can be very dense, and difficult to digest. It is common to see salads with cheese, and nuts, but I assure you, you will be better off ordering the salad with the nuts, and dried fruit, and holding off on the cheese.*
- Starches are your potatoes, winter squashes, cereal, bread, rice, beans and pasta. These foods should only be combined with other starches, and vegetables. In other words, a steak and potato entrée would not be ideal for a flat stomach. It does not mean you cannot enjoy them separately. If you would like fish, or steak, enjoy them with sautéed, or grilled vegetables instead of rice, cous cous, or potatoes. Order the sashimi instead of the sushi. Order the pasta, without the shrimp, and cream sauce. Not all starches are created equally, sweet potatoes and yams, sprouted bread products, and pastas and cereals made from Kamut, spelt, amaranth, and quinoa are more readily digestible than their counterparts.*
- Proteins/flesh. Animal proteins, such as our eggs, fish, poultry and meat, are of the most difficult groups to digest (they take hours longer in the stomach). They are lacking the raw, food enzymes that living foods contain, thus making them incapable of helping to digest themselves. That being said, if they are to be enjoyed, they should be enjoyed with plenty of vegetables, and not enjoyed with starches, nuts, fruit, or avocados. Once again, eat your steak, but with veggies instead of potatoes. Enjoy your fish, but with veggies instead of noodles, or rice. And enjoy the egg omelet, but hold the toast, waffles, and pancakes, and load up on your favorites like spinach and red peppers (or even a little feta).
*Avocados digest as a starch. They can be combined with starches, as well as with dried fruit, and bananas. But should not be combined with nuts, or animal protein.
*Bananas are also an exception. They can be combined with fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, and avocados. But should not be combined with animal proteins.
* Fresh Young thai coconuts, combine as a starch. They can be combined with both avocados, bananas, nuts, and dried fruit. But should not be combined with animal protein.
If you are to enjoy cheese (or dairy), you are much better enjoying with your animal proteins, or more ideally, your steamed, and sautéed veggies, than you are your nuts, or starches.
- For many people, almond milk can be enjoyed with their cereal, and is a much more digestible combination, than milk and cereal. For food combining beginners, I consider almond milk neutral.
- Butter can be used in moderation, on veggies, and for cooking.
- Olive oil is best used to dress salad, and not ideal for cooking, but once again, used in moderation, it can be considered neutral.
- Generally speaking, condiments (like mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, raw honey, real maple syrup and Agave) can all be considered neutral as well. Just keep in mind that heavier condiments, like mayonnaise, and miracle whip, do not make for happy, or flat stomachs.
Guess What!?! Awesome news!
I consider dark chocolate and wine to be neutral foods too. So instead of the strawberries and yogurt, opt for a little bit of dark chocolate. You will notice the difference.
How to lose weight, ease digestion, and solve the dreaded issue of the Belly Bloat, once and for all!
Reduce and avoid:
- Processed, refined, and fast foods
- Peanut Butter
- Eat fruit alone, or leave it alone
- Keep your proteins, separate from your starches
- Enjoy nuts, seeds, and dried fruits by themselves
- Enjoy your veggies with everything except for fruits
- Enjoy 72% and up, dark chocolate for dessert :) with a glass of wine, if you like.
See… now that wasn’t too bad, was it? Have you ever tried food combining? How did it affect you? Did it improve your digestion? Are you willing to give it a try?