Have you ever had the frustrating experience of an unwanted guest in your home? You know, the kind that shows up unexpectedly, makes things uncomfortable and stays too long.
If this home was actually your body, then bloating may be the name of that unwanted guest. It shows up uninvited and often unexpectedly. Sometimes, it drops in right after a great meal. It definitely makes you feel uncomfortable, and if you’re really unlucky, it will linger for several days.
Bloating can look different from one person to the next and may even vary depending on the scenario. Sometimes it may be as simple as a feeling of excessive fullness, but other times it can be as distressing as a hard, swollen, and painful abdomen. It is often accompanied by excessive gas, burping, or belching. You might even hear gurgling and rumbling in your stomach.
No matter what the symptoms, the quicker you can escort this guest out the better off you will feel.
These 7 home remedies help you kick this unwanted guest to the curb.
1) Slippery Elm
Do you remember watching those classic Cowboys-and-Indians movies? At some point, the Indian chief would create a special balm from tree bark, herbs, and a bit of spit, and the magical substance would heal the gunshot wound or rattlesnake bite.
More than likely, he used the bark of a Slippery Elm tree.
Even though you may not have heard of this natural remedy, it has been around North America for centuries. As a result of having high antioxidant properties, it helps a whole host of inflammatory conditions, including bloating.(1)
When mixed with water, it creates a mucilage, a gelatinous substance that coats the digestive tract and can help with bloating.
How to Use
Slippery Elm is available from most health food stores and herb shops. It can come in many forms, but the powder is the best way to make the mucilage or tea, which are both helpful for bloating.
Boil 2 cups of water and add 2 tablespoons of powdered bark. Steep for 3-5 minutes, then drink. It will have a consistency similar to uncooked egg white. This is the mucilage.
If you have difficulty drinking it in this form, you can make a tea by placing 1 tablespoon of elm bark powder in 1 cup of boiling water. Then add 1 teaspoon of honey, 3 ounces of coconut milk, and ½ teaspoon of cacao. This is definitely a tastier version.
Here are several other issues that can benefit from Slippery Elm mucilage:
- Acid Reflux
- Skin irritations for people and pets (make a poultice to use externally)
Turmeric, a member of the ginger root family, boasts a laundry list of health benefits, including some that affect the digestive process. Known as the “Golden Spice” in India, it is the ingredient that gives curry dishes their color.
It aids in kicking out our unwanted guest because it may prevent the formation of gas in the intestinal tract. It also is an anti-flatulent, which allows you to get rid of gas already present.
Here are some of its claims to fame:
- Modifies the immune response
- Prevents cancer cells from proliferating
- Manages symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Helps with cramps
How to Use
To release gas already present, mix 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder in a glass of water. Let it steep for 3 minutes, then drink slowly.
If you plan to add this spice to your food for its health benefits, it is important to add black pepper for better absorption of the curcumin. Just a pinch of pepper can increase the effectiveness of the turmeric by 2000%.(2)
Although you might be tempted to tell that unwelcome houseguest to take a hike, instead you should be the one taking a hike. Bloating, which is usually a result of gas buildup, can be relieved by simply lacing up those sneakers and moving your body.
You might think, “exercising is the last thing I feel like doing when I am bloated,” but research shows that light physical activity enhances the body’s ability to clear out the gas and reduce the symptoms of bloating.(3)
How to Use
This is about as simple as it gets. Plan to take a 15 – 30-minute walk after dinner. Often times gas builds up throughout the day and becomes worse in the evening. The movement from a simple walk will help the digestive process to expel the gas.
If you are unable to fit a walk in, try at least to do some stretching before bed. Remember that regular, consistent exercise that includes strengthening the core muscles will help your digestive system work more efficiently on a regular basis.
4) Activated Charcoal
Charcoal briquettes, which are usually associated with sitting around a campfire, are not the same as activated charcoal. One difference is that only non-toxic materials, such as coconut shells, sawdust, olive pits, and peat are used to make the capsules that are a great home remedy for a bloated belly.
Picture a wet sponge soaking up dirt on a floor;this is how the activated charcoal works in your gut. It binds to toxins in the stomach and digestive tract, soaking them up and moving them out.
An interesting study taking two groups of people with different diets (American and Indian) found that activated charcoal significantly reduced the symptoms of bloating and abdominal cramps in both groups.(4)
How to Use
Activated charcoal should be purchased from a health food store or an herb shop. It comes in a liquid, powder, or pill form. It should not be taken regularly as you would a vitamin, but instead used on an as-needed basis.
As with most home remedies, do not take without consulting a doctor if you are pregnant, have compromised liver and/or kidney function, or are on medications for other conditions.
5) Peppermint Oil
If you’re looking for the best tasting home remedy for bloating, then you might stop here. Peppermint has long been known to help with digestive woes. The therapeutic qualities come from the oil that is harvested from the stems and leaves of this pretty plant.
Compounds in the oil have antispasmodic action that helps soothe menstrual cramps and Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms (IBS), such as bloating.(5)
How to Use
Peppermint oil can provide relief topically and by ingesting.
For a calming tea, boil a cup of water and add 2 teaspoons of dried peppermint leaves. Allow it to steep for 8-10 minutes. Strain and drink after a meal for relief from bloating.
Additionally, you can drink it in cold water for a cool refreshing remedy. Add 2 drops of peppermint oil and 2-3 drops of lemon to a ½ cup of cool water.
For a soothing oil rub, take 3-5 drops of peppermint oil and mix with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Massage onto your lower abdomen for relief from digestive distress.
6) Aloe Vera Juice
Anyone that has suffered a bad sunburn has probably used aloe vera to bring relief. But did you know that drinking the juice of this tropical plant can also reduce gas buildup after a meal?
Phytochemicals, the active compounds in the plant, are responsible for several healing properties related to good digestion. They have antibiotic, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory effects.
Research shows that aloe vera juice can reduce the pain and discomfort associated with flatulence and IBS symptoms.(6)
How to Use
Making a glass of fresh aloe juice is relatively easy. The clear gel pulp taken directly from the plant is what you want to use.
Taking a sharp knife, peel the rind away and remove the yellow layer that is just beneath it. Once you have the gel, clean it with running water over a strainer. Place the gel into a blender with orange juice or grapefruit juice. You can also just add water if you prefer or a tablespoon of honey for sweetness.
7) Take a Probiotic
If your actual houseguest was very disruptive you might look for reinforcements – someone who could help you to convince your unwanted guest to pack up and leave early. This is how a probiotic works in your gut to rid you of symptoms such as bloating.
Billions of good bacteria, in the form of a probiotic pill, are sent in to restore balance and health to your digestive system. Certain bacteria have been found to be particularly helpful with bloating: Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium Longum.(6) Those are really big names for some helpful little guys.
By providing your gut with good bacteria you are ensuring that the bad bacteria will not get out of control.
How to Use
A probiotic is something that can provide long term health in the gut. It should be viewed as you might view a vitamin – something to be taken regularly to ensure your body has all it needs to work optimally.
If you struggle with bloating often then be sure that your probiotic includes the two bacteria strains mentioned above (Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium Longum.) If you are interested in learning more about Bifidobacterium Longum and its other benefits, check out this article.
Bonus – Reduce Stress
Just as stress in your life could make it difficult for you to welcome in even a friendly houseguest, it can also make it challenging for your body to function normally.
You probably already realize that when you’re stressed it often shows up in your gut. Stress actually affects all of our body systems. Some are just “louder” than others. This is the case with our digestive system.
When we are under stress, we tend to eat irregularly and/or for comfort. This can wreak havoc in our gut, causing several digestive woes such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and growth of bad bacteria.
Reducing stress needs to go hand-in-hand with any other home remedies we might try in order to see any results. Treating symptoms without getting rid of an aggravator such as stress would be no different than asking a houseguest to leave but giving them the house key.
Getting rid of stress is often easier said than done. Life can bring many complications that are out of our control.
Here are a few ways that might help:
- Limiting commitments to only what is necessary
- Get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep
- Regular exercise
Be Purposeful About Your Gut Health
Chances are that if you have dealt with a bloated belly once, you have dealt with it numerous times. Unfortunately, a balanced gut does not happen by accident. Eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting proper sleep, and managing stress are the basic tenets of good health.
Home remedies provide an option for relief that utilizes natural means. As always, it is important to consult your doctor if symptoms persist or if you are on other medications.
Please take a moment to share with us a remedy that you have found to be effective in relieving discomfort from a bloated belly or comment on which course of action you plan to take the next time your unwanted guest shows up.
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?
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(2) Shoba, G1 and Joy, D and Joseph, T and Majeed, M and Rajendran, R and Srinivas, PS (1998) Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9619120
(3) Villoria, A1 and Serra, J and Azpiroz, F and Malagelada, JR (2006) Physical activity and intestinal gas clearance in patients with bloating. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17029608
(4) Jain, NK and Patel, VP and Pitchumoni, CS (1986) Efficacy of activated charcoal in reducing intestinal gas: a double-blind clinical trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3521259
(5) Cash, Brooks D. and Epstein, Michael S. and Shah, Syed M (2015) A Novel Delivery System of Peppermint Oil Is an Effective Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4729798/
(6) Khedmat, Hossein and Karbasi, Ashraf and Amini, Moshsen and Aghaei, Aghdas and Taheri, Saeed (2013) Aloe vera in treatment of refractory irritable bowel syndrome: Trial on Iranian patients. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872617/