All-Natural Ways to Fight Bloating

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/13/2011 11:00 AM   :  9 comments   :  12,474 Views

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By Amanda Greene of WomansDay.com

Most of us are familiar with bloating—that uncomfortable, swollen feeling in your belly. Whether the bloating is caused by water retention, gas or constipation, you don't necessarily need to head to the pharmacy right away to find relief. The edibles below may be able to help, thanks to their natural anti-bloating properties. But before you chow down, check with your physician to make sure your symptoms aren't indicative of a more serious issue.

Papaya

"The enzyme papain, which is found in papaya, is very similar to some of the digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas to help break down proteins in food," says Timothy Harlan, MD, medical director at the Tulane University School of Medicine and author of "Just Tell Me What to Eat." Data, including a 2009 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food, has suggested the tropical fruit may help with many aspects of digestion, which can help ease bloating related to constipation or gas. To reap the maximum benefits of the enzyme, eat papaya whole or blend it into a smoothie—fruit juices are often devoid of essential vitamins and nutrients. And that goes for vitamins, too. "Taking papaya extract (papain) in supplement form would not be as beneficial as obtaining it from the whole papaya because the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes in whole foods interact to impart health benefits greater than an isolated nutrient or compound," says Kari Kooi, RD, corporate wellness dietician at The Methodist Hospital in Houston.

Yogurt



By now you've probably heard yogurt companies boasting that their products' probiotics aid in digestion. It's true that the good-for-you bacteria—the most common strains are lactobacillus, acidophilus and bifidus—can help regulate your system. But there's no need to spend more on fancy brands of yogurt because, as Kooi notes, "Companies must pay the National Yogurt Association a yearly fee to carry the 'Live and Active Cultures' symbol, so a brand could still meet these requirements even though it’s not carrying the symbol." Dr. Harlan agrees and says all yogurts contain probiotics—it's just a matter of choosing one that has the most live, active cultures. "A lot of highly processed yogurts don't have as many active cultures; avoid ones that contain high-fructose corn syrup or any other artificial sweeteners." Your best bet? Buy a container of plain, unflavored yogurt and add your own jam or honey—you'll reap the benefits of probiotics, plus save money and calories at the same time. To keep digestion-related bloating at bay, Kooi recommends eating yogurt regularly, but says there’s no magic number. "Even one cup of yogurt a day can impart health benefits."

Black Licorice Root



Don't head to the candy aisle for this natural bloat remedy. Black licorice root (what black licorice used to be made from) can be found in supplement and liquid extract form at most health food stores and is said to help with water retention, due to its natural diuretic and mild laxative properties. "It's been around forever," says Michael Kaplan, MD, board certified physician and founder of The Center for Medical Weight Loss, who adds that its healing effects are well-documented and taught in medical schools. Dr. Kaplan recommends taking 1 ml of black licorice root extract, three times daily, on the few days per month when you feel extra bloated. But if you have hypertension or congestive heart failure, steer clear: Black licorice root suppresses the release of aldosterone by the adrenal glands, which regulates sodium and potassium levels in the body, and can aggravate these conditions.

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