How To Stop Uncomfortable Bloating After Your Meals
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re walking around with your belly feeling like it’s trying to burst through your shirt.
Feeling bloated or “gassy” is never a nice thing.
Neither is the sensation of heartburn after consuming a meal.
We’ve all probably experienced one, or a combination, of those things at some point.
However, what can we do if it’s a regular occurrence? Especially around lunchtime when we have the rest of our day to contend with.
Things can be stressful enough without adding moving and just sitting still to the list.
There’s a few things that can cause this.
Food intolerance, eating too quickly, overeating to name a few.
For the purpose of this post however, we’ll be looking at stress specificall, and the effects it can have on your digestion.
Something I’ve noticed a lot in the last few years is when this problem appears, it very often centres around eating in a stressed environment.
This can usually lead to food being consumed too quickly on top of that.
Putting your fork down every second bite in order to reply to emails, or jumping out of your chair numerous times to answer the call of a colleague.
It certainly doesn’t encourage an enjoyable meal.
I do get it, it can be tough to not do these things. Especially when you’re carrying a lot of responsibility and are in demand for large portions of your day.
So, how can we take a back some control, and allow ourselves to enjoy food a bit more without the worry that we’ll be carrying around belly bump for the rest of the day?
First, let’s take a quick look at what stress is, and how it impacts on your ability to digest food.
Stress is the survival response.
In short, it kicks in when our bodies feel it needs to be kicked in. Situations where we feel distressed or in danger will cause this.
This is your SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System).
It’s obviously very common in today’s workplace, with demands and expectations getting higher and higher, with no sign of any reprieve any time soon.
One of the effects the stress response, or SNS, will have in relation to your body is the rush of blood to the outer extremities in preparation to survive.
(Think hands, arms, legs, feet etc.)
Either by fighting your way out, or running for your life. Hence, Fight or Flight.
Very useful when in genuine danger. Not so much when trying to feed your body vital nutrients to digest.
When this happens, our bodies priorities change.
Our bodies generally have a standard hierarchy or priorities. It usually will follow something like, or similar, to this;
Digestion of food and the ability to transport and utilise nutrients will come under number 2, sustain.
However, when survival is threatened, that almost instantaneously becomes of greater concern.
The main issue comes when we’re trying to regularly eat and digest food whilst our bodies priorities are somewhere else.
Sure, we might know we’re in no great danger, but the stress response remains the same nonetheless.
As mentioned earlier too, this can quite often lead to eating too quickly. Something I’d imagine we’ve all done before, as we try and rush back to our To Do list and minimise any “wasted” time not working.
Trying to rush through meals whilst in the high alert mode of your SNS, will have a major impact on your bodies ability to digest it.
When food isn’t able to be digested properly, it can sit in the stomach. One word I’ve come across to describe this is that the food, when left too long in the stomach, essentially begins to “rot”.
Inflammation soon follows and the pressure inside our stomachs can soon begin to build and rise up, hence the possibility of the burning sensation in our throats that we associate with heartburn.
It’s simple in theory. We must allow ourselves and our bodies the opportunity to return to a more relaxed and rested state.
This is our PNS (Para-Sympathetic Nervous System).
Quick tip to remember the difference;
Para > Parachute > Slowing things down.
Back to the solution!
You’re probably thinking that you simply don’t have the time to sit and meditate for 20 minutes at work for this to happen.
True. I’d assume you don’t!
Something I do like to encourage however, when this is an ongoing problem, is a couple of things.
Solution #1 - Eat Less
Struggling to find the time to sit down and eat the chicken salad you bought that morning?
Then rather than trying to finish it as quickly as possible, try simply eating less.
Aiming to eat at a regular pace with the time you have available will go a long way to avoiding any problems with your digestion later in the day.
Solution #2 - 6 + 3 Breathing
It’s not quite what you’d call meditating, but it can do wonders for allowing you to stimulate your PNS.
Just as the PNS is the opposite of the SNS. Rest & Digest is the counter to Fight or Flight.
What does the 6 & 3 mean?
It’s simple in theory.
Take 6 breaths in and out before you take your first bite. Aiming for roughly 4 seconds on inhale, and anything between 4-8 seconds on the exhale.
Take 3 breaths of similar duration whilst you chew.
Hence, the 6 & 3.
It might feel like you’re eating into the little time you feel you have (pun absolutely intended as always), but this can be a great pace setter in helping to stop you eating too much too quickly.
It’s also a great way to help you reach a satisfied fullness without overdoing it.
This is because of something called Gastro Colic Reflex.
In other words, the stretching of the stomach that sends signals of fullness to the brain telling you that you’ve had enough. This takes about 10 minutes to kick in anyways.
So by slowing down, regardless of the time you feel you have, you decrease the chances of any bloating, gassiness or heartburn later in the day!