A common complaint I hear from people is that they feel bloated in their stomach area, just below the chest and above the waist. This is often particularly bad after eating and can limit the amount of food that they want to eat.
Having seen this problem repeatedly in the clinic, the one common link I can make is that these people are often eating when they are stressed. The body is amazing and one of it’s primary functions is to react to stressful situations via the Sympathetic Nervous System, often known as the fight or flight response. When this is activated your heart beats faster, your blood pressure increases and your digestion slows down. This is because in our natural environment, when faced with an angry sabre-toothed tiger, our subconscious responds by trying to get us out of there alive rather than worrying about digesting the woolly mammoth steak we just ate.
Once the stress is over and we have escaped or killed the tiger for tonight’s dinner, our body relaxes and reverts to the parasympathetic nervous system, and our heart rate stabilises, blood pressure drops and our digestive function resumes. When you watch wildlife programmes of animals on the African plain this is very well illustrated by antelope who may have a near escape from a lion. When they have escaped from the gaping jaws of their prey, they stand still and tremble for a minute or two, almost as though they are shaking off the fear and then resume happily grazing with the rest of the herd.
Humans are less adept at shaking off the fear and many people live in a state of constant stress. This is understandable if you live with an aggressive partner or parent or child and are constantly waiting for something to happen. The same applies if you live in a place which isn’t safe; inevitably you will feel fear whenever you go outside. However, for many people it may be their job, imminent house move, or poor health which causes them constant stress. And commonly it is these people who experience bloating when they eat.
So what can you do?
- Well, firstly address your stress levels. There are not many circumstances in modern life where it is necessary to become highly stressed unless you are a lion tamer, so learning to relax properly, using meditation, breathing techniques, yoga or tai chi will be helpful.
- Get rid of stressors from your diet. All caffienated products such as coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and chocolate will increase stress levels. Other stimulants such as alcohol, crisps, recreational drugs and some over the counter medicines and even food supplements will have the same effect.
- Eat slowly, in a relaxed environment, around a table (not from your lap), preferably with good company. Many European nations have this approach well worked out and spend a couple of hours over a convivial lunch with friends and family. Become a little more continental and eat your food slowly and thoughtfully, not in a hurry or whilst standing up.
- Take Nux Vomica if you get they symptoms, particularly after an especially large meal. This remedy is widely available and is excellent for aiding digestion.
- Be in bed ready to sleep by 10.30pm at least three times a week. This enables your body to process cortisol and allows your adrenal glands to have some time off.
- EFT is one of the best methods I’ve found for de-stressing. Learning how to do it with a practitioner first then enables you to use it whenever you wish. It can bring stress levels down in a very short space of time.
Note that the bloat I’m referring too is the one above the waistline. Bloated feelings below or around the waist usually have a different cause.