While late summer can bring refreshing, cooler evenings and a focused appreciation for the fleeting beauty of summer… it can also bring an unwanted guest: bloating. All those later evenings, summer indulgences (ahem: ice cream), road travel and hotel food, excessive heat and disrupted exercise routines can contribute to “bloat babies” and less humorous gas and digestive woes.
The later summer season is actually called Varsha ritu or “rainy season" in Ayurvedic tradition and it is marked by a gradual transition from heat to coolness, from spring hardiness to a softer late summer harvest. We can leverage this time to help our bodies assimilate to the coming change in season and support our body's natural ability to detoxify. Bloating is a symptom of disharmony in the digestive system and we can help our body rebalance to support the underlying mechanical and chemical processes to improve digestion.
Here are a few simple strategies to explore:
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Ensuring you are enjoying lots of pure, filtered water is key to keeping the digestive system working optimally. A general guideline is to aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water.
Carbonated drinks can cause bloating to become even worse due to the added carbon dioxide in your belly as can drinking out of a straw. And you'll want to avoid notorious dehydrators like alcohol and coffee which can exacerbate your bloat. Your best option is plain water or fancy water infused with fresh fruit like lemon or cucumber or herbs like rosemary or mint.
Another easy tip for summer hydration is to enjoy watery fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe and grapes.
2. Focus on lightly cooked, water-rich vegetables.
In late summer, digestion tends to slow down. It is a good time to start moving from lots of raw, fibrous salads to more cooked, easy-to-digest foods that are nutrient-dense but warm and light. Cruciferous vegetables - while rich in fiber and nutrients - like cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts require more time for digestion and more digestive enzymes which when things are "off" can contribute to bloating.
Water-rich fruits and veggies: provide water, key electrolytes and beneficial enzymes are your best friend when it comes to relieving stomach bloating naturally. Try eating more leafy greens, cucumber, celery, fennel, artichoke, melon, berries, steamed veggies and cultured/fermented vegetables like real pickles and gingered carrots.
3. Enjoy herbs that help relieve digestive symptoms.
Let your herb garden and spice cabinet be your medicine. For ages, many cultures have infused their cooking with digestive-supportive herbs and soothed their digestive tracts with calming herbs. Some of my favorites include ginger, fennel, peppermint and chamomile. As teas, these herbs can reduce gas and bloating, calm angry guts and relax the digestive tract.
Turmeric added to a morning tonic, tea or grilling or stir-fry sauces has been shown to reduce the inflammation that can contribute to bloating and digestive complaints.
Or try enjoying a blend of herbal roots in the form of digestive bitters 15-20 minutes before your meal. I love this one from Urban Moonshine.
These strategies along with taking the time to chew your food thoroughly and mindfully should help you leave bloating behind. However, if your bloating goes beyond the mere indulgences of summer, you may want to go deeper to address these symptoms which could be related to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or other conditions. Start by keeping a food journal and note everything you are eating and drinking and when you experience bloating or other symptoms. There are literally dozens of factors that can contribute to digestive distress from hormonal changes to food sensitivities to bacterial overgrowth to dehydration. It is important that you address the underlying cause to achieve lasting relief.
And try this light but healing Summer Chicken Soup with Fresh Herbs to get the benefit of all three strategies outlined here!.