In my time as a nutritionist, one of the most common physical issues clients and readers have brought up to me is bloating. We have a tendency to blame this symptom on physical things, like the foods we ate and drinks we imbibed. But while food (and how we digest it) can heavily influence bloating, there’s another factor of the equation we often forget: our feelings.
Feelings play a tremendous role in the body’s ability to function. More and more scientific research today supports the connection between our emotions and physical health. For example, a study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that stress alters the brain-gut interactions, leading to the development of gastrointestinal disorders that cause bloating.
Just like food, the way we process feelings can really make a difference in how we feel overall. When it comes to our food, we need to chew it, digest it, process it, and then let it pass. If we hold onto it, it leads to bloating and then constipation, which can lead to a dangerous blockage in our digestive system. The same is true of feelings. If we hold onto feelings of guilt, shame and insecurity, that can also contribute to stress and impaired digestion. When we hold onto things, both physically and emotionally, we not only feel heavy and blocked, but we can even make ourselves sick. Even though we tend to think these parts of us are separate, the truth is that everything really is all connected.
Beyond Just Bloating: Emotion and Inflammation
The modern epidemic of chronic, low-grade inflammation can be linked back to food and – you guessed it – feelings! Chronic inflammation makes our bodies more susceptible to disease and can manifest with symptoms like bloating, acne, wrinkles, chronic pain, acid reflux and more.
One of the major factors contributing to chronic inflammation is a diet high in refined sugar, processed oils and excessive animal protein. Research shows that stress, depression, anger, hostility, and negative emotions can also promote inflammation and disease. The more inflamed our bodies are, the worse we ultimately feel, both physically and emotionally, leading to a cycle of poor health.
To find out more about chronic, low-grade inflammation (and ways to reduce it) check out Organic Authority's guide to reducing inflammation in your diet.
5 Ways to Reduce Negative Feelings and Minimize Bloating
So what can we do to boost our emotional state to feel better and reduce bloating symptoms?
1. Feel your feelings.
Let your feelings be felt and processed in real time instead of just pushing them down. Repression accumulates a brewing storehouse of negativity that can be harmful to our emotional well-being and, ultimately, our bodies. As humans, it’s healthy for us to experience a range of feelings and process them, so we can eventually carry on.
2. Let go.
Think of this as a way to digest our feelings, the way we digest and then release food. In the book "Letting Go" by Dr. David Hawkins, the author describes the "letting go" technique, where we call attention to any physical cues that come up with our feelings and be present to them. Focusing on the feeling itself can be uncomfortable, but won’t last long. Eventually, the feeling will cycle through and release from your body, like an emotional detox.
Starting and ending the day with even a few moments of conscious breathing can transform your day and boost your mood. Meditation also helps you to let go of stress, negativity, anxiety, and even weight. If you are new to meditation, start small – even two minutes in the morning can have a profound impact on your day. For five easy ways to integrate meditation into your daily life, check out our guide to practicing mindfulness every day.
4. Silence your inner critic, and be kind to yourself.
Instead of focusing on the things you don’t like about yourself, pick three things that you love about yourself, and turn your attention there. Love yourself for who you are, and you will be on your way to owning your true self. Changing your thoughts, your old beliefs, and the stories you tell yourself can be hard to do. But once you break through and overcome the feeling of not being good enough, you can own your true self and radiate light into the world.
5. Move your body.
Take 30 minutes for yourself every day to move in a dynamic way. My personal faves are walking, hiking and yoga. Studies show that regular movement can impact our feelings, because of the body-brain connection, causing a reduction in negativity and stress and helping to quell bloating and inflammation.
Foods to Feel Great
If you are focused on reducing bloat and also improving your feelings, it’s crucial to address a major factor that influences both, which is food. The good news is that, by adopting a diet for optimal digestion, your mood will be elevated as a side effect, and vice versa.
As a general rule, try replacing congestive, “downer” foods with ones that are more digestible. For example, replace bloat-promoting dairy products with plant-based alternatives, like milk, cheese and yogurt made from nuts or seeds. There are so many great brands out there now, like Myokos Dairy-Free Creamery. If you’re craving a carb-heavy meal like pasta, which could leave you feeling mentally and physically sluggish, experiment with gluten-free, fiber-rich pasta made from lentils, brown rice or quinoa.
Try consuming more dark, leafy greens and omega-3 fatty acids to show your body and brain some love. Leafy greens, like kale and spinach, are full of antioxidants and fiber, which keep bloating and inflammation at bay. Walnuts, chia seeds and hemp seeds are all wonderful sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for brain health and have been shown to help reduce depression and anxiety.
If you’re looking for extra help in the bloating department, try incorporating a magnesium-oxide supplement into your routine, like Detoxy. It’s a non-habit-forming way to cleanse waste effectively from the body without laxatives. Keeping things moving makes an enormous difference in our energy, moods, digestion and ability to radiate and glow from the inside out.
Our body and minds truly are interconnected, so by working to improve both our digestion and feelings, we’ll be happier and healthier overall.
Have you been dealing with bloating? Leave a comment below!
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