The battle of the bloat is no joke. Whether it’s one too many cocktails or late-night pizza, any number of things can leave your stomach swollen and distended. (Oh, and FYI, sometimes even stress alone can cause bloating, even if you’re not going to town on chips and margs.) It’s uncomfortable to say the least, not to mention a challenge when it comes to fitting into your jeans or feeling good in a bathing suit. The good news is that just as fast as bloat can come on, it can go down. Here, experts share the best way to flatten your tummy, fast, no matter how much — or how little — time you have.
If you have a few hours…
Make a cup of tea
Ginger tea, to be exact. In Eastern medicine, a weakened digestive system is usually the cause of bloating, explains Simone Wan, LAC, MS, a licensed herbalist and acupuncturist, and founder of IN: Total Wellness. Ginger helps boost qi (aka energy) in the stomach, she adds, not to mention is also high in antioxidants and can help with nausea, too. Wan suggests adding 10 slices of ginger to two cups of water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for three to five minutes.
Hydrate. Then hydrate some more
“One of the things that causes rapid bloating is, in fact, dehydration. So even though it might feel counterintuitive to drink fluids when you’re feeling bloated, it’s extremely helpful,” says Tania Elliott, MD, chief medical officer of preventive health company EHE. That being said, we’re talking about plain ol’ water, and no, not the fun sparkling kind (carbonation only contributes to bloating). Also important: Take small sips. “You don’t want to take big gulps and swallow a ton of air, which can exacerbate bloating,” adds Dr. Elliott.
Lay on your back, lay on one side, lay on your stomach, then switch to the other side, spending 15 minutes in each position. “This is a quick and easy way to get the gas — and other stuff — moving in your bowels to help you de-bloat,” explains Dr. Elliott. It may look silly, but hey, whatever works, right?
If you have overnight…
Go to bed early
For a flatter tummy come morning, get to bed early. Not only does this eliminate the opportunity for late night munching, but bloat can decrease just from some deep sleep, adds Wan. For the best results, aim to finish eating dinner (sorry, no dessert this time) at least four hours before you hit the sack.
Don’t drink with dinner
Speaking of dinner, this is one time when you should not be hydrating. Drinking while eating is one of the most common habits that can cause digestive issues, including -- you guessed it -- bloating, says Christina LaMacchia, a certified nutrition coach, colon hydrotherapist, and owner of Christina’s Colonics in Chicago. “For optimal digestion, avoid drinking anything, even water, roughly 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after eating,” she suggests.
Take a dandelion root supplement
Aside from helping to detox the liver (a good option if your bloat is brought on after one too many glasses of rosé), it also acts as a safe and natural diuretic, explains LaMacchia. In other words, it will help flush out excess fluids that may be bringing on your bloat. She recommends one 900mg supplement in the morning and one before bed. Though you should, of course, check with your doc before taking any kind of herb or supplement for the first time.
If you have a few days...
Cut out processed foods
“Processed foods can be highly indigestible and lack nutrition, a recipe for bad bloat,” says Wan. Not to mention that processed foods are high in two of the main contributors to bloating: salt and sugar. This means not only passing on packaged foods, but steering clear of restaurant meals and take-out, since you really have no idea what is going into what you’re eating. Now’s the time to channel your inner Barefoot Contessa and get into the kitchen.
Pass on probiotics
While the good-for-your-gut bacteria is in fact good, adjusting to probiotics can take some time and have the opposite effect of what you’re going for in the interim, cautions Dr. Elliot. “This is not the time to start probiotics or go crazy eating kimchi or kombucha,” she says. “These foods can initially make belly bloat worse, until your body adjusts and swaps out the bad bacteria for the good.”
Swap your veggies
While this is the ideal time to be loading up on vegetables (along with lean protein and minimal carbs), not all are created equal. Cruciferous veggies — broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts — are known for causing gas and digestive issues, so ditch these in lieu of water-rich vegetables, advises LaMacchia. Zucchini, cucumber, and asparagus are all good picks.
If you have a week…
Ditch the sugar
Like, seriously ditch the sugar. As it makes its way into the stomach, the bacteria in your gut breaks it down, producing gas and making you look and feel bloated. And this doesn’t just mean forgoing cookies, candy, and cupcakes. “Certain fruits, such as mango, pineapple, and bananas are high in sugar and a surprising cause of bloating,” says LaMacchia (water-rich fruits, like berries and watermelon, are a better pick). Alcohol also won’t do you any favors, and avoid sugar-free foods, too, since the sugar alcohols can be hard to digest and cause bloating.
Get a colonic
It’s a fast and easy way to, quite literally, flush out gas and all kinds of other matter (you know what we’re talking about) that may be leaving your stomach swollen and distended. While it may be slightly uncomfortable, it’s not painful, and usually done in less than an hour. And if you’re an overachiever, LaMacchia says you can even do two in a week, one in the middle of the week, and one on the last day.
“Meditating trains your mind to not worry, which drains your stomach energy,” says Wan. Anything you can do to reduce stress is only going to help, not only with how your stomach looks and feels, but in general. And who doesn’t want that?