Most of us celebrate the good ol' U.S. of A the best way we know how: with food, flag colors and fun in the sun. But if you're like the average American, one day – or hey, four days – of salty dips, rich desserts and carb-loaded drinks can leave you feeling pretty bloated.
Bloating generally happens for two reasons: increased salt intake and gas. Sodium-heavy foods, which are prevalent on the Fourth of July, cause the body to retain water. Bloat can also be caused by gas-producing foods, such as cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage) dairy products and grains like barley and wheat, as well as foods high in fat and sugar. Even things as simple as taking in more air by drinking through a straw, chewing gum, drinking carbonated beverages or eating too quickly can cause bloat.
Luckily, there are many excellent (and delicious!) natural ways to beat bloat:
These good bacteria – microorganisms, to be precise – help with digestion and keep harmful bacteria away. Greek yogurt, kefir or low-fat yogurt are good foods to eat if you're feeling bloated because they are rich in probiotics. They also have a high water content, which helps reduce bloat as well. However, yogurt might not be the best option if you have even a slight level of lactose intolerance. Yogurts packed with sugar should also be avoided because sugar can cause bloat, according to Kristi King, a registered dietician at Texas Children's Hospital:
"What actually happens with the sugar is, one, you're fueling the bacteria in your gut to start eating those sugars that are being digested, so they may produce more gas," King said.
A probiotic supplement is an excellent option to help regulate your digestive system and reduce bloat. Try one like Naturade Probiotics 30 B CFU to help you stay regulated and bloat-free.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but drinking more water is an excellent way to help you body out – water is a natural diuretic and helps to get things moving in your system.
Another good idea is to snack on water rich foods like watermelon, cucumbers and pineapples. Watermelon are – unsurprisingly – made up of 90 percent water. Cucumbers are water-filled too, and are also rich in sulfur, which stimulates the kidneys. Pineapples – made up of 85 percent water – have the enzyme bromelain, which promotes digestion and helps break down certain proteins in the gut. Oranges and grapefruit are excellent choices too, as are bananas – they're packed with potassium, a good antidote to sodium.
Certain herbs and spices are good for belly-flattening as well. Try ginger, peppermint or chamomile tea, or trying sucking on a peppermint candy. They reduce gas, stimulate the digestive system and have other health benefits, too. Make a broth (with low amounts of sodium) that incorporates things like turmeric, rosemary, garlic and parsley.
And last but not least, remember to exercise. Even if your bloated belly is telling you no – carry on. Thirty minutes a day is good to keep the digestive tract moving efficiently.