Here are the culprits behind your not-summer-ready body, and simple ways to banish these wrong-doers
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Summer’s here in full swing, and if you’re refraining from putting on your swimsuit or that crop top because, well, you don’t have flat abs and have been trying to beat the bloat, stop right here!

First, the causes. Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head- Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Max Healthcare, Delhi sums it up well. “Bloating could be caused by three primary reasons: First, water retention due to increased salt intake or low albumin levels. Second, gastronomical reasons that are triggered if you are lactose intolerant or gluten sensitive or if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Lastly, hormonal changes prior to menstruation or due to menopause can cause many women to feel bloated.” Mumbai-based nutritionist Karishma Chawla from Eat Rite 24x7 sheds more light on the causes, “Intolerance to certain foods or unhealthy eating habits sets in motion issues like constipation, flatulence, cramps and eventually bloating.” But simple dietary changes can help you banish the bloat:

1. Don’t Pass the Salt: The sodium or salt in your food causes your body to hold onto large amounts of water, causing puffiness, bloating and extra water weight. Salt, salt-based seasonings, and highly processed foods are the culprits. Ritika shares, “Cut back on your salt intake and you should see immediate results. It’s a myth that reducing your water intake will lessen water retention. Fluid intake throughout the day is important for your general well-being. Of course, water retention could be due to several other critical health reasons, so a proper check-up is mandatory.”

Try this: “Ensure that you drink at least three litres of water in a day that is distributed throughout the day. Supplements of Omega 3, and Omega-6 fatty acid or Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) can also be taken to address water retention. Avoid large gaps between meals, avoid heavy to digest foods like pulses ad sprouts or too much of raw foods to address flatulence. Adding probiotics to your meal will ease the IBS,” advises Karishma.

2. Go Easy on Processed Food: We admit that ready-to-eat dinners, canned soups, sauces and taste-enhancing packaged condiments, coffee have made our lives easier, but they can lead to bloating. And that diet soda or other pop carbonated beverages aren’t great for your belly either. Ritika cautions us to “lay off on that hot sauce or ketchup or barbeque or fizzy carbonated drinks and your instant processed meals as it can irritate the GI tract.”

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Try this: “Eat freshly-cooked meals made of seasonal and fresh vegetables that you have washed well. The Delhi-based nutritionist clarifies, “Many people avoid cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale because they have found them to cause bloating. But that would be a blanket statement and isn’t the case for everyone.” These vegetables contain tiny sugars that are difficult to digest for certain individuals, causing unwanted gas, but isn’t a universal truth. She draws our attention to the plus points of these cruciferous veggies, “They contain beneficial amounts of sulphur, a mineral our body needs. Besides, fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and polyphenols that are good for detoxifying our body and reduce bloating.”
Eating vegetables cooked versus raw reduces the amount of gas your body produces while digesting. The process of cooking breaks down some of the tough fibres so your body doesn’t have to. Your food can be garnished with in-season fresh or dried herbs like dill, basil, mint, sage, coriander, curry leaves and rosemary; or freshly-squeezed lemon or lime juice. Karishma points us to the right direction to “replace carbonated drinks with plain water, coconut water, buttermilk, lassi with stevia, lime water.”

3. Say No to Too Much Carbs: Pasta, bagels, cereal, rice and other foods that have a high amount of carbohydrates tend to cause your body to store three times more water compared to protein, leading to bloating. Unless you perform vigorous exercises, you don’t need so much fuel.

Try this: “Go easy on refined carbohydrates and opt for lean proteins instead,” says Ritika. Chicken breast and salmon are healthy options. Include yoghurt in your meal because the healthy bacteria can improve your gut flora and fauna, and reduce excess gas that may build up in your digestive system over time. Fruits like melons, citrus fruits, pineapples are helpful to beat the bloat. “For constipation, fruits like papaya, orange and sweetlime should be consumed. A fibre-rich diet with oats, veggie bowls, fruit salads is beneficial,” says the Mumbai-based nutritionist. Ensure to ingest your fiber earlier in the day, when your stomach is most active; space it out so you don’t eat all your fiber in one meal.

4. Check for Dietary Intolerances: If you are lactose intolerant or gluten sensitive, and haven’t realised it yet and are still ingesting these foods, your GI is probably swollen like a balloon, causing bloating. “If you’ve been complaining of a feeling of fullness or bloating too often, you should run a few tests to get to the bottom of it,” cautions Ritika. “If you are lactose intolerant, drop milk and dairy products. For gluten sensitivity, say no to whole-wheat, dalia, maida, rawa, breads, noodles, pasta and baked products,” says Karishma.

Try this: Soya milk or almond milk products are good substitutes for dairy goods. “Jowar, bajra, quinoa, rye, amaranth, brown rice, red rice and black rice can be recommended if gluten doesn’t agree with you,” advises Karishma. She mentions that she has also had patients who have been allergic to whole pulses like channa that has caused bloating.

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5. Lay off High GI Foods: “Consuming foods with a high glycemic index (GI) which in turn will affect your blood sugar levels can cause bloating and sluggishness in the long run. It would be wise to opt for low GI foods daily and reward yourself with high GI foods occasionally,” says Karishma. Sweeteners tend to cause bloating in the form of stomach gas.

Try this: If you do use sugar substitutes, aim for alternatives like honey or jaggery in small amounts to sweeten your foods. Karishma suggests these food swaps: “Replace high GI foods like rawa or rice with quinoa or oats. Grapes also has high GI, and can be swapped for papaya or apple.”

Just for Women: A few days before the onset of your monthly menstruation or if you are heading toward menopause, many women complain of bloating and an inflated abdomen. “Include soya beans in your meals because this food has compounds whose activity is similar to that of estrogen, and will give you some relief,” says Ritika. Karishma adds that a diet that has adequate amounts of protein, and if you don’t give into your cravings to ingest high caloric foods, you should be fine. GLA, Omega-3 and B6 supplements can help too to beat the bloat.

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