Are you striving for a bikini body but just don’t seem to be able to shift the weight around your tummy area?  It’s not an uncommon complaint among women, but with a few, simple lifestyle changes, you can combat that uncomfortable bloating.

A survey conducted by Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield has found that nearly half (42%) of Bristol women suffer from bloating but only 18% have sought medical help.

Over a third of women with symptoms said they feel self-conscious when bloated and 28 per cent experience pain. Despite this, only 15 per cent of women questioned had been tested for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common cause of bloating.

The findings come from research carried out by not-for-profit healthcare provider, Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield, who questioned women in Bristol aged 21 to 60+ during a free Women’s Health event held in the city centre.

“I would recommend reducing wheat and gluten based foods and replacing these with vegetables such as sweet potatoes.”

Emma Dawson, Nutritional Therapist at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, the Chesterfield, said: “Bloating around the middle is a common complaint for many women, not only because of the pain it can cause but also the frustration of having a protruding stomach, despite not overindulging. Unexplained bloating may indicate an imbalance in the gut or an intolerance to a certain food group, so I would always advise women to seek professional advice to rule these out.”

Emma Dawson

Emma Dawson

What we eat is obviously an important factor when trying to combat digestive disturbances. A third of the women questioned (33%) had adjusted their eating habits to try and beat the bloat, omitting wheat and dairy products from their diet and keeping a food diary to identify triggers.

Emma commented: “Nowadays it is extremely common for people to include wheat based foods in their breakfast, lunch and evening meals. If you are experiencing bloating regularly, I would recommend reducing wheat and gluten based foods and replacing these with vegetables such as sweet potatoes, corn, brown rice and pseudo grains such as buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa.”

We all know that food should be savoured rather than gobbled but when we’re pushed for time, we’re all guilty of eating in a hurry or on the go. Almost a quarter of respondents admitted to regularly eating at their desk while working – something which can stimulate stress hormones and impact our digestion. When we’re not taking the time to chew our food properly, we swallow bigger food particles, putting our digestive system under strain.

Emma explained: “If foods are not digested and absorbed properly, they can be fermented by bacteria which produce gas and lead to bloating. This can cause further problems such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea and/or constipation. This vicious circle means we struggle to absorb the nutrients needed to help us digest, resulting in swelling.”

Nuffield Health Top Tips:

To alleviate bloating, Nuffield Health recommend the following:

1. Aim for 80:20 balance so 80% of your foods are healthy, whole foods.
2. Make up your varied food plate with eggs, fish, poultry, lean meat, soy, nuts, seeds, pulses and legumes and a rainbow of vegetables and fruit.
3. Include fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and natural yoghurt.
4. Take your time when you eat and avoid eating and working at the same time.
5. Seek nutritional support to identify the individual programme you need to support your gut to heal and allow the bloating to dissipate.

Emma concluded: “Healthy guts are necessary for absorption, energy, repair and strength as well as to process toxins, to feel happy and relaxed, and to ensure the thousands of daily chemical processes can happen. Containing over 70% of the immune system, the gut protects us from absorbing harmful bacteria, undigested foods or other particles that we may have unwittingly eaten or swallowed.”

Emma offers a range of services and support to those experiencing problems with their gut. Personalised food plans can be developed and appropriate alternative medicines, such as supplements, may be recommended to alleviate and control bloating. She also offers a range of tests, including food intolerance and stool tests, to identify the profile of bacteria, yeast and parasites in the gut.

To find out more about these and other services available to women including menopause, breast, gynaecology, fertility and general fitness, please visit: