Beat the Bloat

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It’s something that many of us deal with and struggle with … Yes, the dreaded bloating. But what is bloating and how can we deal with it? My blog today will discuss this.

What is bloating?

Abdominal bloating is caused by excess gas stored around the abdomen causing feelings of fullness and possibly a distended stomach. It can cause sufferers to feel discomfort because of the built up gas but also feelings of self-consciousness because of the look of the stomach.

What causes a bloated stomach?

There are lots of things that can cause bloating. These can include:

  • Gassy foods such as beans and certain vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage
  • Food intolerances such as lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance
  • Changes to your diet
  • Swallowing air
  • Medication
  • Food supplements such as iron and magnesium
  • Stress

Sometimes, bloating can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. These include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diverticular Disease
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Gastritis
  • Cancers such as ovarian and colon
  • Premenstrual Syndrome

But don’t panic. Often bloating is related to lifestyle factors so can be managed.

My Top Tips to Manage Bloating

Identify any triggers

This can be food triggers or lifestyle triggers. Keep a diary of when you bloat and what you ate, what you were doing and how you were feeling around the time of the bloating. This will help you to narrow down factors and pinpoint the cause(s).

Try an elimination diet

If you find that your bloating seems to centre around meal times, it may benefit you to try an elimination diet. This is when you cut out a certain food for a period of time (usually 2-4 weeks) to see if there is a reduction in symptoms. You will then re-introduce this food to see if your symptoms return. This is the main way of determining whether you have a sensitivity or intolerance to certain foods. This is a process I went through myself. My bloating was constant and horrendous until I eliminated gluten in the elimination diet. It can take a while as you should eliminate and re-introduce foods one at a time. It is best to do this under the guidance of a dietician or nutritionist.

You could also consider the FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. They are a group of simple and complex carbohydrates that some people find difficult to digest. It is often recommended to people suffering from IBS to try and figure out their triggers. You can discuss the use of this diet with a dietician or nutritionist.

Monitor your supplements

If you take supplements to boost your nutritional needs, keep an eye to see if your bloating occurs around the time of taking them. Some nutrients taken in supplement form can be a struggle for us to digest. I personally find magnesium in supplement form gives me cramping and bloating. Some nutrients are available in oral spray or transdermal spray form which is meant to avoid the stomach and be absorbed straight into the blood stream. It may also be worth visiting a dietician or nutritionist to see if you need all these extra supplements and whether you are getting enough from your food.

Try stress relief techniques

Stress is a big cause of digestive issues and bloating. The theory is that when we experience stress and anxiety, our body goes into “Fight or Flight” mode which stops our body from digesting food properly until it reaches a state of “Rest and Digest”. So, it is important we implement some stress relieving techniques into our daily lives. These can include:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise (e.g. yoga)
  • Colouring books
  • A warm bath
  • A therapeutic or aromatherapy massage
  • Reading a book
  • Listening to music

Sit down to eat your food and eat slowly

Eating on the go can make it difficult for our bodies to fully digest the food we eat causing us to bloat. Aim to sit down while eating your food then go for a walk afterwards to aid digestion. Take your time eating. Rushing a meal can cause you to swallow excess air while taking bites causing bloating. A simple trick is to not put another piece of food onto your fork until you have swallowed the bite you are currently chewing.

Exercise

Exercise can greatly improve our digestion and associated issues. Yoga is particularly helpful when suffering from bloating as you bend into shapes that can help relieve trapped wind. Make sure you allow an hour in between eating to prevent indigestion.

Try a soothing tea

There are lots of teas out there that can help sooth a bloated stomach. I like to start my day with a mixture of hot water and juice from a squeezed lemon as it is said to help stimulate the digestive system, especially if you have it first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. Peppermint and camomile teas are also supposed to be helpful in soothing a bloated tum.

Go see a doctor if you’re concerned

As I said, most of the time, bloating isn’t something to be concerned about and can be managed with lifestyle changes. However, if you notice other symptoms such as diarrhoea, blood in your stools or diarrhoea, weight loss, etc. you should go see your GP to get blood tests and possibly a referral for further testing.

I hope my little tips can help you and your tum live a happier life

Do you need a Sports Drink?

With every big sports event, we will usually see our favourite athletes grab a bottle of their favourite brand of sports drink to quench their first during those brief moments in between races or games. Inspired by our greatest sports men and women, many of us also reach for a sports drink during a session at the gym or a running session. But what are sports drinks and do the general public need to incorporate one into their gym routine? My blog today explores the different types of sports drinks and their ideal uses:

What are sports drinks?

The definition of a sports drink according to the British Soft Drink Association is “Sports drinks are functional drinks specifically designed to help athletes and other active people hydrate before, during and after exercise.” (http://www.britishsoftdrinks.com/Sports-Drinks). These drinks have added minerals to ensure optimum replacement of lost nutrients through sweat.

There are three types of sports drinks:

  • Hypotonic
  • Isotonic
  • Hypertonic

Hypotonic

Hypotonic sports drinks are designed to replace fluids quickly during exercise. They contain very low amounts of carbohydrate and a high concentration of sugar and salt.

Isotonic

Isotonic sports drinks are designed to quickly replace fluids lost during exercise. In comparison to hypotonic drinks, they contain higher amounts of carbohydrate and lower amounts of salt and sugar.

Hypertonic

Hypertonic sports drinks are designed to supplement daily carbohydrate intake. They contain the highest amount of carbohydrate and lowest amount of salt and sugar out of all the drinks. This type of drink is best drunk after exercise so it can help replace glycogen levels quickly after exercise.

When should I use a sports drink?

The general guidelines for sports drinks are to be used if you are training for 90mins+ (as you are more likely to burn more energy that needs to be restored) and if it is a hot day or particularly sweaty workout (as you will lose more salt through sweat). Otherwise, you should be fine with water.

What about diet sports drinks?

Diet versions of sports drinks are sweetened with sweetener rather than sugar so they have a lower carbohydrate content. That means they will not be suitable for restoring carbohydrate levels lost during an intense workout. You can use them for quenching your thirst during shorter, less intense workouts. However, make sure to check the ingredients list of these drinks. Some contain sweeteners such as aspartame which have been linked to ailments such as weight gain and cancer.

My homemade sports drink

I have started to include a sports drink into my 2x 2 hour long dance and gymnastics training sessions to give me a bit of a boost and to re-hydrate (Michelle from DNAFit recommended I should get around 30g carbohydrates from a sports drink during these longer sessions). I decided to make my own so I have control over the ingredients in it. Here’s how I make it:

  • 250ml fruit juice (not from concentrate) – can be orange, pineapple, apple, etc.
  • 250ml water

I do have to say that I find including my sports drink comes in handy when I have 2 hour training sessions and I do get a boost (in a natural way). The point I am trying to make is that if you have a long or sweaty training session, you may benefit from a sports drink. The important thing is to listen to your own body and see if it works for you as they may not benefit everyone. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with good old water.

I tried DNA testing … How did I get on?

With every new year comes new diet and fitness trends. Shows such as “Trust Me: I’m A Doctor” and ITV’s Tonight programme have talked about the concept of DNA testing for your nutritional and fitness needs. It works on the idea that our DNA can determine what type of exercise best suits us and whether we are more sensitive to certain foods. Using this information, we can alter our exercise and eating habits to live healthier and happier lives.

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I am clearly happy to receive my DNAFit kit

Intrigued by the concept, I thought I’d give it a go. I got in touch with a company called “DNAFit”. They were very helpful explaining how it all works. Once you send off your DNA sample, they will test the sample against 38 different gene variants which relate to different aspects of diet and fitness such macronutrient sensitivities, exercise type that suits you best, etc. These results are presented to you in the form of booklets which explain the genes tested and how you can change your habits according to the results. You will also receive a telephone consultation from one of their sports scientists or dieticians to help you interpret the results and incorporate them into your life.

Sounds good to me … So I thought I’d give it a go.

I decided to go for the DNAFit Diet Pro as part of their New Year New You promotion. This package includes:

  • The full diet package which tests:
    • The most suitable diet type for you
    • Carbohydrate sensitivity
    • Fat sensitivity
    • Lactose tolerance
    • Coeliac predisposition
    • Detoxification ability
    • Antioxidant needs
    • B vitamin needs
    • Vitamin D needs
    • Omega 3 needs
    • Salt, caffeine and alcohol sensitivity
  • The full fitness package which tests:
    • Training intensity response
    • Aerobic response
    • Post-exercise recovery
    • Injury predisposition

As part of their New Year New You promotion, they also included their brand new Stress Report.

Once I put in the order, a few days later I received a kit which included a swab that you use to take a sample from your cheek, a container for the swab, a capsule which you put in the container to keep the sample fresh, a form to fill out, a label to stick on the sample for identification purposes and an envelope to send the sample and form back to the lab. Once I took my swab, I registered the number on the sample label on the DNAFit website and sent it off. It was quick and easy to do.

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The DNA testing kit

After about 10 days, I received an email saying my results were in and I was able to download and view them. So excited!

I received a colourful infographic which gave a brief overview of the results and three reports detailing all the genes tested and what my results show with recommendations. There are also added extras such as a shopping list and a guide to my specific dietary recommendation with the option of purchasing a meal planner and a fitness plan.

A couple of weeks later, I had my complementary consultation with Michelle, one of the sports scientists at DNAFit. She was extremely helpful and explained the reports fully offering specific advice once she got to know me and my lifestyle needs.

Here is a rundown of my results:

Diet Report

  • My ideal diet type is the low carbohydrate plan (this does not mean I cannot have any form of carbohydrate. The consultant recommended percentages of my macros so I can work out how many grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat I should have depending on height, weight and activity level)
  • I have a high sensitivity to carbohydrates – this means that I am more likely to gain weight from high carbohydrate intake, specifically refined carbohydrates
  • I have a low sensitivity to fat – this means that I am able to eat more fat than some people without gaining weight (although it’s still best to limit saturated fat)
  • I am at a higher risk of DNA damage from smoked and chargrilled meat (good thing I’m mostly vegetarian)
  • My detoxification ability is normal
  • I have an increased need for antioxidants (which include Vitamins A, C and E and Selenium)
  • I have a raised need for Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • I have normal Vitamin B requirements
  • I have a raised need for Vitamin D
  • I have a normal salt sensitivity – this means that salt has less of an effect on my blood pressure than for some people (although it is still recommended I stick to the standard guideline of maximum 6g per day)
  • Alcohol has a positive effect on my cholesterol if I were to have 1-2 units of alcohol a day (or up to 3 times a week)
  • I am a fast metabolizer of caffeine – this means that it will only stay in my system for around 1-2 hours but may stay in longer for slower metabolisers. It’s still recommended I have no more than 300mg per day
  • I am lactose tolerant – this means that I don’t have a primary intolerance to lactose (found in dairy products) and that if I do experience symptoms, it is a secondary intolerance following an illness
  • I have a negative result for Coeliac Disease – this means I have a less than 1 in 2000 chance to develop coeliac so there may still be a chance of me developing coeliac. I know that I definitely have an intolerance to gluten if it isn’t coeliac. I will keep an eye on any signs that it could be coeliac and get tested accordingly

Fitness Report

  • I am suited to more power based activities (60% power and 40% endurance). This includes activities such as weight training, sprinting and track cycling. This makes complete sense to me with my gymnastics. Michelle also told me that this means that I am more likely to put on muscle and maintain it (but don’t panic – you won’t see a picture of me looking like the Hulk). She recommended I do a 2:1 split on my power and endurance. For example, if I was training 5 days a week, I should do power training 3 days and endurance 2 days
  • I have a medium VO2 Max aerobic potential. VO2 Max is a test used by scientists to measure maximum or optimum rate an individual can effectively use oxygen during exercise. Mine is in the middle. Including a mixture of power and endurance can help me to improve my VO2 Max
  • I recover from exercise quickly. This is good to hear but DNAFit still gave me recommendations to include in my diet to help with recovery such as Omega 3 and Beta Carotene
  • I have a high injury risk (that explains a lot – I do tend to hurt myself quite easily). Michelle recommended I do some eccentric training in my resistance training sessions (during the last set) as this will help with strengthening my joints and muscles and preventing injuries. This involves you slowing down the returning to start position phase of an exercise. For example, when doing a bicep curl, lift the weights up for one count then lower for 3 counts

Stress Report

Overall, I have a low/medium stress response, presenting a mixture of strategist and warrior responses. I guess this makes sense to me as I do manage to come up with strategies during stressful times. Some stress reducing strategies are suggested in the report such as meditation and exercise.

Overall thoughts

Overall, I found DNA testing a very interesting experience. It was fascinating to see what my genetics say about my body’s response to diet and fitness and seeing how it actually fits in my lifestyle. The support I got from Michelle during the consultation was great and she offers to continue that support afterwards through email which is great so I don’t feel like I am struggling on my own. I look forward to trying all of the recommended advice and see if it makes any difference to my overall shape and tone and sports performance.

Would I recommend it to anyone else? It does come with a price tag with plans starting from £99 so I would certainly recommend looking at your finances to see if you really can afford it before buying. While I am only at the starting point of the DNAFit journey so am yet to see if the recommendations have the desired effects, just from the amount of information, recommendations and support I was given, I believe it was money well spent.

 

For more information, see http://www.dnafit.com