Think you have to starve yourself or work out like a maniac to lose that maddening muffin-top? Diet and exercise do play crucial roles, but you don't have to completely redo your daily routine to get real results. Use these fast-acting solutions to minimize waist-widening gas and water retention.
- Skip the soda. Carbonated drinks release carbon dioxide gas into your digestive tract, causing your stomach to expand. Choose plain water, which spurs the digestive system.
- Give up gum. Chewing gum can cause you to swallow air that becomes trapped in your gastrointestinal tract, leading to bloating.
- Slow down. When you eat fast, you take in gulps of air that get trapped in your belly. Plus, by gulping your food, you don't give your body time to tell you you're full—resulting in overeating.
- Avoid sodium. Salt promotes water retention. Fill up on unprocessed, high-fiber foods; skip high-sodium fare such as lunch meats and frozen dinners.
- Go easy on artificial sweeteners. Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol—found in sugar-free and low-carb sweets—are digested slowly or not at all, so eating large amounts of such foods can cause gas and bloating. Artificial sweeteners that lack those alcohols don't cause the problem.
- Take a breather. Stress hormones speed digestion, leading to gas and diarrhea. Tense? Go for a stroll to ease anxiety and improve gastrointestinal function.
- Get tested. Chronic bloating and gas can be symptoms of lactose intolerance (sensitivity to the sugar found in milk) or fructose malabsorption (sensitivity to a sugar found in fruit juice, table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup). Your doctor can diagnose either with a simple breath test.