We’ve learned to appreciate what we call the “extra love” around our waists, but bloating is still something we’d rather not deal with, mainly because it feels so out of our control. Seriously, there’s nothing more aggravating than going to bed feeling like yourself and waking up with what feels (and looks) like gallons of water wrapped around your midsection. Now you have to lie down before zipping up your pants and anticipate feeling even more uncomfortable when you eat later.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for bloating. We can’t point at our stomachs, scream “abracadabra,” and zap it away. Beyond that, there are a number of reasons it could be happening, with causes ranging from diet to menstruation and even stress.
The first step to relief is identifying the exact cause, but if it isn’t an ongoing problem that requires professional attention, there are a handful of natural ways to kick the bloat. Of course, they won’t fix things at the snap of a finger, but with concentrated effort, they’re still pretty quick. Ahead, a few experts share the most effective ones.
Drink More Water
It may feel counterintuitive to drink more water when it already feels as though your body is carrying more than enough. However, according to Thumbtack Trainer Kaitlyn Noble, this is exactly what you should do.
“In simple terms, your body holds onto water when it ‘thinks’ it is at risk of dehydration. When you drink plenty of fluids, you signal to your body the risk isn’t real, and it will get rid of excess water naturally,” she says. To avoid this, drink a minimum of half your body weight in water (more in hot weather or if exercising) per day.
Decrease Processed Carb Intake
We don’t recommend permanently removing heart-healthy carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, whole grains, legumes, and so much more) from your diet. These foods taste pretty damn great and help fuel major organs of the body, including the heart, kidneys, and brain. However, when you’re feeling uncomfortably bloated and need more immediate relief, temporarily abstaining from processed carbs (PCs) is a huge help. PCs are best defined as anything that’s been refined to a more consumer- or travel-friendly version, but stripped of its nutrients in the process. Bleached pastas, baked goods, and white bread are just a few examples.
“Carbs convert to glycogen in the body and for every gram of glycogen your body stores, you gain approximately 2.7 grams of water,” says Noble. “This is why cutting carbohydrates has an intense diuretic impact almost immediately. Try cutting out bread, rice, and other grains and choose vegetables (especially leafy greens) instead.” This will probably have a lasting effect on your diet overall, as you’ll learn to prioritize healthy carbs over the harmful ones.
Try Dry Brushing
According to many experts, exfoliating wet skin doesn’t always eliminate dead skin cells and debris. In fact, it can even fold those cells back into the skin. For those reasons, dry brushing’s been touted as a technique that not only improves the skin’s tone and texture, but also improves the body’s internal processes.
Noble says, “Dry brushing helps encourage circulation, which will leave you glowing, and also improves digestion. It encourages your lymphatic system to remove waste and toxins more effectively, leaving you slimmer and energized when performed regularly.”
The best time to do is just before a shower or bath. Using a natural bristle brush that’s slightly stiff with some movement, brush your skin in small, circular motions, starting at your feet and working up.
Relax with Mint
According to Noble, “Mint can help relax the digestive system, encouraging your body to rid itself of toxins and waste.” She recommends sipping on peppermint tea throughout the day to keep your stomach at ease. Another way to ingest the calming ingredient is by mixing it with water.
In an interview with Glamour U.K., Ashley Graham revealed that she loves mixing peppermint oil in her water and counts Young Living Essential Oils as her go-to brand. Peppermint specifically alleviates a gang of digestive challenges, such as bloating, cramps, and gas.
Suppress Your Savory Tooth
Luke Bucci, PhD, CCN, CNS, vice president of research and development for Ritual supplements, confirms that salt increases water retention, so avoiding salty foods makes a huge difference. “The big deal is to rebalance sodium and potassium intakes to favor potassium, which, by the way, is the number-one nutrient deficiency in the U.S. 95 percent of us do not get the Daily Value, according to CDC NHANES data.”
Noble also says that decreasing your salt intake has a similar effect in ridding your diet of the processed carbs we talked about earlier. “An overconsumption of sodium can cause an electrolyte imbalance, and your body may hold on to water as a result, leaving you puffy and bloated.”
Stock Up on Fruits and Veggies
This should go without saying, but fresh fruits and veggies are key to a healthy diet overall. And although there are some that can actually contribute to bloating, there are also plenty that do the opposite.
For instance, those containing potassium (bananas, spinach) help regulate fluid levels in the body. Also, water-heavy fruits and veggies, such as cantaloupe, cucumbers, and watermelon, alleviate bloating because they’re super easy to digest.
Other star de-bloaters according to Charles Passler, DC, nutritionist and founder of Pure Change, are yogurt (with live strains of friendly bacteria), “which has been shown in dozens of studies to aid in digestion and reduce intestinal bloating and cramps,” as well as fennel seeds, which “contain a compound that relaxes the intestines” and push foods comfortably and efficiently through the digestive tract.
Magnesium has also shown some usefulness as a supplement to manage fluid retention, although you can get plenty of it through leafy, green vegetables, too.
Apply Topical Oils
If you’re already a healthy eater, consuming foods that promote healthy fluid levels and digestion within the body, there are also holistic options that may deliver timely relief. In an interview with Byrdie, “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi shared her go-to topical diuretic for de-bloating before red-carpet events. The combo of all the ingredients is said to promote faster metabolism and increased blood circulation, although she recommends doing a patch test on the skin first to ensure the mix doesn’t cause irritation.
“So I buy a four-ounce bottle of Desert Essence jojoba oil, take out about a teaspoon so it’s not super full, then put directly into the bottle: 40 drops of juniper oil, 30 drops of grapefruit oil, 20 drops of black pepper oil (or ginger or clove oil, if you can’t find black pepper, though those two are really hot, so if you’re using them, you probably only want to use 12 or 15 drops versus the 20).” Once it’s all mixed, she applies to the body the same way she would a body oil or moisturizer.