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Condition - Bloated - Why am I so bloated?

By Corin Evans DipION FdSc MBANT

This is a familiar cry from many people, particularly women around the time of menstruation. Excess accumulation of fluid in the body tissues, more commonly known as water retention, can make us feel bloated, puffy and uncomfortable. But what causes it and what can you do about it?

Water balance in the body is under the control of various hormones, one of which is aldosterone, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which sit just above the kidneys. It acts on the kidneys, causing them to either conserve or eliminate sodium, with the knock-on effect of conserving or eliminating water. This is a fine balancing act, and one that can be affected by various factors, such as stress and high levels of insulin, both of which increase aldosterone and, therefore, water retention.

Other reasons for the body to retain water are food intolerances, excess salt intake, kidney or heart problems and hormonal imbalance, where fluid retention can occur around the breasts and abdomen before a period. Ironically, if you are dehydrated, you may well suffer from water retention, as the body tries to hang on to the fluid it has! Whatever the cause, there are things that you can do to help you feel more comfortable. 

·        Lower your salt intake – add more herbs and spices for extra flavour and swap to a potassium-based salt to add to foods

·        Parsley is thought to increase kidney blood flow and urine formation, acting as a diuretic, so try adding this to dishes

·        Dandelion, chicory and burdock are also considered to have diuretic properties, so eating these may be beneficial too

·        Keep your blood sugar levels stable to help ensure insulin levels remain low – eat small, frequent meals that include protein; increase fibre from wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts and seeds; and avoid sugary foods, drinks, alcohol and caffeine. Nutrients that support healthy blood sugar control include chromium and vitamin B3

·        Check for food intolerances, using either a diagnostic test or by following an elimination diet. Try avoiding the identified foods for six months, after which time, you may find you can gradually reintroduce them back into the diet

·        Keep stress, and therefore aldosterone levels, in check by taking regular exercise and using relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga. Ensure adequate intakes of nutrients, such as magnesium and B vitamins. The traditional medicinal herbs passionflower and rhodiola both help support the body during stressful periods

·        If water retention around the time of your period is the problem, try to ensure your intake of nutrients includes chromium, vitamins B3 and B6 and magnesium, which may help support healthy hormone and blood sugar levels

·        Finally, increase your water intake! Aim to drink around two litres of water a day to really hydrate the body, and encourage healthy water balance

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