By: Erin Stair, MD, MPH
Who struggles with bloating? I know I have, and I think we’ve all been there from time to time. You look pregnant when you’re not and can’t fit comfortably into your clothes. The balloon-like jogging pants become our best friends. Certain foods, stress and life factors can definitely instigate bloating, but first we need to talk about gas. You can’t talk about bloating without talking about gas.
Gas forms when bacteria in our colon ferments carbohydrates that aren’t digested in the small intestine. There are certain foods and drinks notorious for producing gas, including carbonated beverages, like beer and soda, those loaded with artificial sweeteners, and those with lots of fiber. The normal human, on average, should pass gas 10-20 times per day. I know some of you out there well exceed that statistic, and I toast to all you over-achievers. It’s a great feeling to pass gas. When you can’t, something is wrong and you BLOAT.
There are a gazillion home remedies for bloating, but the one I’ll focus on today is dill weed, or Anethum Graveolens. Dill is full of essential oils that calm the stomach by working as an antispasmodic, which relieves cramping and stomach pain. The oils innate to dill also help release gas, thereby reducing bloating. Dill also acts as a natural diuretic, which is another way it reduces bloating. One laboratory study showed it to significantly improve the integrity of our gastrointestinal system’s mucosal lining, which could help prevent GI ulcers.
To maximize the benefits of dill, I like to cook with it and drink it as dill water. Dill water is commonly referred to as gripe water, and it’s been used for years and years as a homeopathic treatment for colicky babies with GI distress. To make dill water, all you have to do is boil 1 TBSP of dill seeds in approximately 200 ml of water, let it cool, and sip it throughout the day or 30 minutes before you eat. An alternative to making your own dill water is to simply chew on dill seeds, but I’ve found that the warm dill water works better. Another thing you can do is drink pickle juice, which is essentially cold dill water. I eat a lot of pickles. Whenever I’m through with the pickles, I save some of the “dill water” in a separate container. When do I drink it? When I’m premenstrual, as it helps counteract PMS bloating. Also, a randomized controlled trial showed that dill significantly reduces pain associated with the premenstrual period, possibly due to its effect on bloating.
Other health benefits of dill can be attributed to its many antioxidants. Dill weed contains caryone, flavonoids, coumarins and xanthones, all antioxidants with healing benefits throughout our bodies. Research has shown that dill weed has a significant lipid-lowering effect, by reducing LDL cholesterol ( the bad kind) and increasing HDL ( The good kind). Dill also has antibacterial activity, which can potentially control bacterial and yeast overgrowth in our guts and help reduce gas formation. There is anecdotal evidence that dill works as a sleep aid too, so if you’re a bloated insomniac, give dill water a try.
If you want to buy Dill Weed, I recommend Frontier Herb Organic Dill Weed.
If dill water isn’t your homemade treatment of choice, there are plenty of other things you can try to alleviate gas and bloating, including:
1) Boil mint leaves. Drink after meals.
2) Chew Fennel seeds ( which have very similar properties to dill) after meals
3) Take charcoal tablets ( found at most natural health food stores)
4) Exercise ( Simply put, moving moves gas. If people moved more, they’d bloat less. I highly recommend walks after larger meals. )
5) Try sipping hot lemon water ( hot water molecules move faster than cold ones)
6) Lay on your left side, which adds optimal pressure to remove trapped gas
7) Lay on your back on the floor, pull your legs into your stomach and hold that position. You can also do the bicycle from that position, which also helps some people release gas.
8) Do Yoga
9) Quit swallowing air: Okay, that’s impossible and bound to happen, but don’t swallow more air than you have to. If you chew a lot of gum, try to cut back, as that’s a big air-swallowing culprit. And if it’s sugar-free gum, you’re not only swallowing air you don’t need, but will face the wrath of artificial sweeteners, too. Both cause bloat.
10) Try cutting out lactose and/or gluten. Many people have an allergy and don’t even know it. Or they eat too much lactose, thereby saturating the enzyme lactase, which results in excess gas and bloating.
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