fermented foods

5 Foods to Beat Bloat

We've all experienced that post-meal potbelly that causes us to unbutton our jeans underneath the table. It's one thing when this happens after our Thanksgiving dinner, but it's even more frustrating when we feel this way after a healthy meal. 

Treating bloat can be tricky as there are no universal triggers. Whether dairy, gluten, or carbonated drinks are the culprit, the aftermath is equally unpleasant. If you are aware of your trigger foods, unfortunately there is no better solution than eliminating or limiting them. For those of you out there still trying to figure out your comfort zone, we are going to discuss a few foods that you can add to your diet that can help relieve that horrible feeling of bloat.


1. Asparagus: Asparagus has gotten a less than sexy rep as the offender for smelly urine. We are here to give asparagus a comeback as a bloat-fighting superfood. By increasing your urine output, asparagus helps to relieve the water retention that is making your pants feel tight. Asparagus also contains prebiotics; the "food" that nourishes probiotics. Maintaining the healthy probiotics in the gut aids in a smooth digestion process, preventing and reducing excess gas. Finally, the insoluble and soluble fiber in asparagus increases overall digestive health. A side of roasted asparagus drizzled with lemon is now looking a bit sexier, right?


2. Ginger: This amazing anti-inflammatory food relaxes the muscles in the digestive tract to relieve cramping and spasms. It also helps move gas more quickly through the digestive tract to relieve any discomfort. Though we love ginger tea, you should not be intimidated by the actual ginger root. The root (yes, the odd looking ginger-bread man in the produce aisle) is a delicious compliment to hot water with lemon. Lemon is another natural diuretic and gentle laxative that will help your body relieve the excess water and sodium it is retaining.


3. Miso: Fermented foods such as miso are full of probiotics that, as we mentioned, help maintain balance in our gut. Antibiotics, diet, and lifestyle factors can all eliminate healthy bacteria living in our intestines that otherwise help digestion run smoothly. Eliminating healthy bacteria makes more room for the bad guys that are wreaking havoc during digestion. If you want more information on probiotics, we've got you covered in our previous post, "The Power of Probiotics". Miso paste contains healthy bacteria that have a similar content to the bacteria found in our intestines aiding in digestion. Be sure to choose unpasteurized miso, as the pasteurization process kills the healthy bacteria. 

peppermint tea

4 . Peppermint: We are all about a cup of peppermint tea to ease the belly. Peppermint helps prevent spasms or cramping of the intestines for a smoother digestive process. The volatile oils in peppermint stimulate your gallbladder to release bile that your body uses to effectively digest fats. Peppermint also has a detoxifying effect on the liver which helps the liver to do its job effectively.

fennel seeds

5. Fennel: Indian restaurants know what's up. Have you ever noticed a bowl of fennel seeds on your way out of an Indian restaurant? While chewing on the seeds helps freshen breath, they also can help prevent any unwanted aftermath of that spicy curry. The anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties of fennel relax contracted intestinal muscles so that trapped gas can dissipate. Fennel seeds can be found in bread but we recommend chewing directly on the seeds or sipping a fennel tea after eating. 

Spotlight on: Apple Cider Vinegar

apple cider vinegar

We love foods that have multiple uses and health benefits and apple cider vinegar is certainly one of them. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made in a two step fermentation process transitioning from apple cider-->alcohol-->vinegar. Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar brands (like Bragg's) also have added proteins, enzymes, and probiotics. The murky "blob" (for lack of a better word) in the ACV bottle is known as the "mother", or cloud of all the healthy bacteria and proteins. 

ACV was originally used as an antibacterial agent, cleaning and disinfecting less glamorous problems like nail fungus, lice, warts, and ear infections. It was also used to prevent food spoilage by inhibiting food borne pathogens from growing. Along these same lines, ACV is one of the best natural skin care products. It can be used to prevent acne by killing bacteria on the skin, and also removing dark spots. The vinegar contains powerful alpha hydroxy acids that remove dead skin revealing newer, fresher skin underneath. 

The next benefit of ACV is stabilizing blood sugar levels. This is important for both diabetics and non-diabetics. ACV improves insulin sensitivity and can lower blood glucose. One study showed that 2 tablespoons of ACV before bed can reduce fasting blood sugars by 4%. 

braggs apple cider vinegar

Newer studies have shown that ACV may help with weight loss by improving satiety and curbing cravings. Studies showed that having 1-2 tablespoons of ACV with high-carb meals could increase feelings of fullness. Participants in the study ate 200-275 fewer calories the rest of the day. 

Finally, ACV can help with digestive discomfort. Because it is a fermented food, the probiotics help maintain gut balance and aid in digestion. Vinegar contains malic acid which can help with constipation or acid reflux. Drinking vinegar stimulates the valve at the bottom of your throat to close shut, keeping stomach acid down where it belongs. 

How to use it? For the more hardcore health nuts, you may try taking a "shot" of ACV first thing in the morning. We recommend putting a tablespoon or two in eight ounces of warm water with lemon. Drinking this combo first thing in the morning will wake up your digestive tract and get things moving.   If that doesn't sound so appealing, simply try replacing balsamic vinegar with ACV for salad dressings or cooking. 

Power of Probiotics

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in your intestines. There are over 500 types of probiotics, but their general function is to aid in digestion, boost your immune system, and prevent toxins and harmful bacteria from proliferating. Increased species diversity increases the efficiency and productivity of your digestive system, making you less susceptible to external stressors. Think about it simply, when probiotics are abundant in your colon, there is less room for harmful bacteria.  

probiotic foods

Increasing your gut biodiversity results in easier digestion, reducing those less glamorous symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Probiotics are also essential for making some B vitamins, vitamin K, folate, and short-chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids  are a source of energy and may help prevent health complications including gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disease by reducing synthesis of cholesterol in the liver, and colon cancer by preventing abnormal cells from growing. There is new research surrounding the gut-brain connection that suggests a healthy gut could possibly alleviate mood swings and anxiety. Have we won you over yet?

In the nutrition world, the relationship between probiotics and obesity is a hot topic. There are two categories of probiotics. The firmicute category is very efficient at extracting energy from food, while the bacteroidetes are not. Researchers are focused on figuring out if an imbalance of the two categories is a cause or consequence of obesity. One study found that after just 10 days on a "Western diet" of processed, high sugar, high fat foods, participants had significantly decreased their intestinal probiotic diversity.

Aside from consuming a diet with highly processed foods, frequently taking antibiotics kills off your good bacteria along with the bad. It can take up to two years to replace the beneficial bacteria killed from just one round of antibiotics. You might want to think more carefully before you take your next Z-pack… or at least be sure to take a probiotic supplement with it. 

Probiotics are "fed" by prebiotics, a special form of dietary fiber found in many fruits and vegetables. Your body is unable to digest these fibers so they instead act as a “fertilizer” for probiotics in the gut. Sources of prebiotics include the skin of apples, bananas, onions and garlic, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root and beans. 


Where to find probiotics?

Yogurt and Kefir: the probiotics in yogurt or kefir are easier to digest for those of you who are lactose intolerant, versus probiotics found in cheese or milk. Yes, these are all sources of dairy, however, yogurt and kefir naturally contain bacteria that help you digest lactose. Make sure to look for yogurts that have "live and active cultures" on the label because many yogurts are pasteurized and have lost much of their probiotic count. Non-dairy yogurts made of coconuts, rice, almonds, or soy may have added probiotics for those who have trouble digesting dairy.

Fermented foods: kimchi, miso, tempeh, tamari, fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) and cucumbers (pickles) are an amazing source of probiotics. The fermentation process transforms sugar and carbohydrates into probiotics.

Kombucha: this fizzy fermented tea combines over 50 kinds of microorganisms, digestive enzymes, amino acids and vitamins which, ease digestion and help the liver detox

If the foods listed above seem a little funky for you, you may want to try a supplement. Many probiotic supplements are killed by stomach acids before they reach the intestines, so look for one that has "controlled-release technology" or "beadlet technology" which can survive stomach acid and do not need to be refrigerated. Many doctors recommend a VSL#3 probiotic supplement, which is a cocktail of several strands of probiotics. If you have a specific GI issue, talk to your gastroenterologist before investing in supplements. 

Take daily for at least 2 weeks and let us know if you feel a difference!