Garnishing meals with parsley, swapping sugar for honey and better understanding your period are the key to reducing stomach bloating, the founder of a women’s only weight loss empire has claimed.
Rhian Allen, from Sydney, is the CEO of The Healthy Mummy, an online fitness program which helps mothers to shed unwanted weight with easy exercises, affordable recipes and round the clock support.
Ms Allen said it’s crucial for women to take supplements like calcium and magnesium the week before and during their period to combat the effects of menstrual hormones which slow digestion and increase water retention, leaving you sluggish, fatigued and bloated.
She said incorporating herbs like parsley, dandelion and hibiscus into the diet, swapping sugar and sweeteners for honey and drinking homemade blends of water and ginger also will alleviate stress on the digestive system and help you to avoid the dreaded bloat.
Porridge seasoned with strawberries and honey, which The Healthy Mummy founder Rhian Allen says we should use instead of sugar (stock image)
1. GARNISH MEALS WITH PARSLEY
Ms Allen recommends garnishing meals with parsley, a natural diuretic which relieves water retention in the body.
Steeping parsley in hot water and drinking it as a herbal tisane is the best way to fight bloating and reduce excess water weight.
Ms Allen also suggests mixing parsley through salads or sprinkling a pinch on top of your dinner to reduce the risk of bloating without changing your diet.
A chef chops a board of parsley, a natural diuretic which alleviates water retention (stock image)
2. SWAP SUGAR FOR HONEY
Ms Allen said sugar and sweeteners should be swapped for honey wherever possible to eliminate excess gas, which is caused when food sits undigested in the stomach, leading to bloating.
Bloating is usually caused by excess gas production or disturbances in the movement of the muscles of the digestive system.
It can cause pain, discomfort and a ‘stuffed’ feeling which can also make the stomach swell. Bloating is common. Roughly 30 percent of people experience bloating regularly.
Sugar is also higher on the Glycemic Index than honey, meaning it raises blood sugar more sharply and generates shock, which can cause the stomach to swell.
Artificial sweeteners are among the biggest culprits for triggering a build up of gas inside the digestive tract, which is how bloating begins in the body.
Fructose, a natural sugar added to processed foods, is difficult to digest, while sorbitol, a low-calorie sweetener used in breakfast bars, fizzy drinks, ice cream and sugar-free gum, contains compounds called polyols that cannot be digested at all.
Instead, sorbitol enters the colon or large intestine where it’s converted to gas, which manifests as discomfort and cramping in the stomach.
Because honey is low in fructose and other sweeteners, it’s processed and absorbed more slowly than refined sugar, which means a lower risk of shock, excess gas or bloating.
Honey can be substituted for sugar in sauces, hot drinks and baking.
Ms Allen said sugar and sweeteners should be swapped for honey wherever possible to eliminate excess gas (pictured is cookies made with sugar and sweeteners)
3. KNOW YOUR PERIOD
A growing body of research suggests that women should alter their diet and exercise routine around their menstrual cycle, tailoring their lifestyle to fit weeks of higher energy and days of greater fatigue.
The sudden increase in hormones like progesterone, oestrogen and prostaglandins immediately before your period can slow digestion and trigger water retention, leaving you sluggish, uncomfortable and bloated.
For women who experience more intense bloating around the time their period is due, Ms Allen recommends upping intake of calcium and magnesium, both proven to reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including bloating.
A graph shows four common period complaints, including cramps and premenstrual headaches which can be traced back to health issues like hormonal imbalances to endometriosis
What your menstrual cycle is trying to tell you
Cramps, migraines and a heavy or irregular menstrual flow could be caused by thyroid issues, chronic stress or endometriosis, Brisbane gynaecologist Dr Gino Pecoraro previously told Daily Mail Australia.
A sudden increase in the volume of your period could be a sign of underlying issues like hypothyroidism, uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or polyps, which are abnormal growths of tissue in the cervix.
Between 20ml and 30ml is the average flow of a healthy period, which should be easily contained with pads or tampons, but not both.
‘If you need to line your bed with towels, or you’re ‘flooding’ through sanitary products overnight, that’s significant bleeding and you should consult with your GP,’ Dr Pecoraro said.
SUDDENLY IRREGULAR PERIODS
Irregular periods are perfectly normal for many women, but sudden changes in frequency are always worth investigating.
‘A stereotypical, healthy cycle is 28 days long, so you ovulate on day 14 and have a period on day 21 that lasts between four and seven days,’ Dr Pecoraro said. ‘But not everyone has a 28 day cycle – lots of women have 21 day cycles, and some have anywhere up to 35.’
‘Your cycle is individual to your body clock. It’s changes in the timeline of your period that you need to watch for.’
And while a range of health issues can cause missed periods – the most obvious being pregnancy – stress is often the biggest culprit.
‘Once pregnancy has been ruled out, the most common cause of missed periods is stress. In young women, this is often liked to exams, sporting fixtures and applying for new jobs,’ he said.
BLEEDING BETWEEN PERIODS
Bleeding between periods or directly after sex is ‘never normal’, Dr Pecoraro warned, and could be an indication of serious health issues.
‘Bleeding between periods is one of the hallmark symptoms of endometriosis, and the same goes for bleeding after intercourse,’ Dr Pecoraro said.
He urged women to consult with a doctor, even if your latest cervical screen came back clear.
‘Even if you’ve had a normal cervical screen, you need to have unexplained bleeding checked by a gynaecologist – it could be the only sign of precancerous cells. Remember, it’s only a screening. If you’ve got irregular bleeding, you need further testing,’ he said.
Cramping is one of the most talked about period complaints, but Dr Pecoraro insists anything more than mild aching should be investigated.
‘Having a period is a normal part of life, but if you’re having pain that’s interfering with your daily life – causing you to miss days at work or school – that shouldn’t be accepted,’ he said.
Dr Pecoraro wants to see a change in the level of pain and discomfort women are willing to accept during their period, and hopes more will take control of their health because periods are ‘not something women should dread’.
4. SIP ON GINGER TEA
Ms Allen recommends homemaking a cup of ginger or peppermint tea after a large meal to soothe irritated stomachs.
Used in traditional medicine for centuries, ginger is a powerful digestive aid that soothes stomach pain, ease cramps and reduces bloating by naturally stimulating the body’s enzymes to relieve inflammation and strengthen the stomach lining.
Peppermint similarly improves digestion by relaxing the intestinal tract, which prevents muscle spasms linked to excess gas and bloating.
A tisane of cinnamon and ginger tea, a powerful digestive aid that soothes stomach pain, ease cramps and reduces bloating
5. DRINK EIGHT GLASSES OF WATER
Ms Allen said one of the simplest ways to avoid bloating is to follow the age old advice of staying properly hydrated throughout the day.
Drinking water might be the last thing on your mind when you feel swollen and bloated, but doing so will restore a balance of sodium in the body, flush out your system and clear the digestive tract, relieving bloating and reducing the risk of constipation.
Healthline advises drinking eight glasses of water – the equivalent of two to two and a half litres – every day to ensure your energy levels, brain function and digestion are performing as they should.
For more information on the causes of bloating and how to reduce it, visit Health Direct Australia.