It is probably not surprising to hear that gas and bloating are one of the most common digestive issues I deal with as an Ayurvedic practitioner. According to Ayurveda, gas and bloating stem from increased Vata (the air and space element) in the GI tract and typically are signs of weak or impaired digestion. Chronic gas and bloating can impede one’s daily life due to the discomfort and embarrassing social stigma related to it. Severe bloating can even make one look overweight or pregnant when really it is simply excessive air in the gut. How frustrating!
There is not typically an easy or quick answer when treating a longterm issue such as gas and bloating. However, by making small changes one will begin to find some much needed relief and with consistent treatment, the gas and bloating should come to an end overtime. Although high Vata tends to be one of the major causes of this condition, there are numerous other factors that may be contributing as well. Since the first step in treatment is to eliminate the cause, then these triggers need to be identified in order to remove them. Here are some common causes to look out for.
Common Causes of Gas and Bloating
- High Vata
- Weak digestive fire
- Fall season
- Chronic stress
- Dryness in the colon
- Chronic constipation
- Vata-increasing diet
- Poor diet high in processed foods and chemicals
- Incompatible food combinations (read more details here)
- Intake of food allergens (discover how to treat food allergies here)*
- Parasitic infection (discover how to treat parasitic infections here)*
- Candida or other imbalance of the gut flora (discover how to treat Candida here)*
*These issues are severe all in themselves and should be treated separately from the gas and bloating in order to truly obtain healthy digestion. If these issues are present but not treated, one will not find effective, longterm relief with these remedies alone.
Once you have realized the causes, one can begin to slowly remove them from the picture. As you are going through this process, adding in these recommendations below will further help to eliminate the gas and bloating giving you much needed relief, higher confidence levels and overtime dietary freedom! The amount of time you will need for the treatment plan will depend on the severity of the imbalance. The longer and more severe the gas and bloating, the more in depth and longterm the treatment will need to be.
11 Ways to Eliminate Gas and Bloating
1. Follow a Vata-soothing diet.
Since Vata is always going to have some role in the cause of gas and bloating, then it will be necessary to follow a fairly strict Vata-soothing diet during the treatment process. Although there are many Vata-pacifying food rules to look out for, here are some of the most important ones to remember.
Vata-Reducing Food Rules:
- Avoid all raw, cold, dry and rough foods. This includes raw veggies, cold juices and smoothies, salads, crackers, dry cereal or granola (especially with cold milk), popcorn, dry toast, frozen foods, cold foods and iced or cold beverages.
- Eat mainly warm, well-cooked meals using lots of warming spices (ginger, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, etc) and healthy oils.
- Sip on hot water between meals.
- Limit heavy, hard-to-digest proteins such as meat and most beans. Lighter meats (chicken and fish) and beans (soaked mung beans and red lentils) are fine.
- Avoid processed, preserved and refined foods (basmati rice is good however!).
- Nuts can be hard to digest during times of high Vata and should be eaten in moderation or eliminated if needed.
2. Allow your GI tract to rest, digest and reset!
Chronic gas and bloating are clear signs of a weak or impaired digestion. One of the best ways to increase the digestive fire is to give it a break! The best way to do this is do perform a mono-diet Kitchari cleanse. This means that you will solely eat Kitchari for a specified amount of time. Since Kitchari is so easy to digest, this temporary diet allows your digestive fire a chance to rest, remove previous obstructions, eliminate toxins, strengthen and reset.
How long you do this for will depend on the severity of the gas and bloating. I would generally suggest performing this mono-diet at least 3 days and up to 10. Remember that energy may be a bit lower during this time of cleansing, so activity and stress levels should be kept low.
3. Take a short walk after meals.
Taking a walk after food intake is a great way to enhance the digestive process, as it allows movement in the GI tract and reduces stress and tension in the body (which is also essential for proper digestion). On the contrary, sitting down, laying down or being sedentary after food intake is a sure way to hamper the digestion, as it inhibits the movement in the GI tract causing stagnation and block channels.
Make it a daily goal to take a walk after each meal, even if only for 10 minutes. The more you are able to follow this recommendation, the stronger the digestion will become. If time is limited I would suggest to make it a priority after any large meal, after the intake of heavier foods and after dinner as these are all times when the digestion will be in need of a boost the most.
4. Perform herbal or oil enemas (aka Basti).
When treating gas and bloating there is not much more effective of a treatment than the Ayurvedic basti or herbal enema. This is because gas and bloating are related to increased Vata dosha in the colon. The Ayurvedic enema is used to administer herbs and oils directly into the colon, expelling air, reducing dryness, removing obstruction and reducing the overall Vata in the GI tract.
The best herbs to administer with the enema (basti) for chronic gas and bloating will be an infusion of Dashamula. If dryness is also a factor in this condition, a warm sesame oil enema may be administered as well, alternating treatments of each. The duration of the enema treatment will be dependent on the individual and the severity of the gas and bloating. A general recommendation would be to apply the Dashamul basti (enema) 1-3 times a week for a minimum of four weeks, alternating with the sesame oil enema if appropriate. After four weeks of treatment, one can reassess the amount done per week.
5. Drink ajwain and fennel tea before or between each meal.
Ajwain is one of the most powerful herbs for expelling and preventing excessive air in the system and correcting the flow of Vata. Fennel is one of the essential Ayurvedic spices for treating any digestive issue and strengthening the digestive fire. Drinking this tea between meals will increase the digestive force, reduce air in the system, flush out toxins and prevent symptoms of indigestion such as the gas and bloating.
Directions: Boil 4 cups of water. Add in 1 Tbsp of fennel seed and 2 tsp of ajwain seed. Simmer on a low heat until there are only 2 cups remaining. Strain the seeds and drink one cup of the tea between breakfast and lunch and another cup between lunch and dinner. For severe issues an additional cup should be taken 1 hour after the dinner meal. Make sure to be consistent for noticeable results. **For an added bonus add in 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger to the steeping process.
6. Drink lassi after each meal.
Lassi is the Ayurvedic probiotic that is taken after meals to enhance the digestive fire and prevent symptoms of indigestion. This spiced yogurt drink is simple to make and can be made in larger quantities in order to ensure consistent intake after meals. Although we are a culture of more is better, only small amounts are needed per meal.
Basic Lassi Recipe:
Take 1/4 cup of plain organic yogurt or kefir (homemade if possible) and add in 1/4 cup of water. Add in 1/4 tsp of roasted cumin seed powder and stir well (or blend with a hand blender). Take this directly after each meal. If needed, make a large batch to drink of off each day by multiplying the recipe by three.
NOTE: Although delicious, the mango lassi should be avoided as this is an improper food combination that will lead to fermentation in the gut, causing more gas and bloating.
7. Avoid grazing.
Routinely eating small amounts of food taxes the digestive fire by forcing it to be in a constant state of work. This in time will exhaust and deplete the fire, causing symptoms of indigestion and toxic accumulation (which further weakens the digestion).
When grazing, the previous food or meal is not fully digested by the time more food is coming in. This can often lead to improper food combinations (see number 9) being consumed and also clogs the channels of the GI tract like a traffic jam. Finally grazing is often done on-the-go, mindlessly with poor food choices and overconsumption of calories.
Ideally one with digestive issues should be eating three meals a day, at proper times with no snacking in between. This allows sufficient time between food intake to fully digest the previous meal and should reduce the amount of gas and bloating straightaway.
If a snack is needed, make sure to keep it simple, healthy and relatively small (about 200 calories), making sure to avoid any improper food combinations (see number 9). The snack should be consumed at least two hours post meal and at least one to two hours before the next meal. Some healthy options include plain yogurt with honey, a piece of fruit, a spoonful of nut butter, bone broth, herbal with honey or some steamed veggies.
8. Avoid overeating.
Similar to the grazing habit above, eating beyond one’s capacity overtaxes the digestive fire, reducing its strength and effectiveness and clogging the vital channels due to undigested food and toxic accumulation. Overeating is a huge cause of gas and bloating and will only worsen this condition if done routinely overtime.
Keeping this in mind one should eat slowly, sitting down and with full awareness, making sure to stop eating once you are truly satiated. Remember that it takes several minutes for the mind to realize true fullness. The food should ideally fill the stomach just over half way, leaving a small amount of room for a few sips of warm water (see number 11) with the remaining space left for the digestive process.
This may take some getting used to since we are often habituated to eating beyond our true capacity with the typical American portion sizes sadly in extreme excess. However, when practicing slow and mindful eating overtime, it will become much more obvious when your system has had enough.
9. Avoid improper food combinations.
Improper food combinations top the list for one of the most common causes of gas and bloating. Certain food types that may be healthy when consumed on their own, can cause extreme digestive upset when taken with other food types that are not digestively compatible.
One of the main examples would be fruit which should always be eaten on its own. This is because fruit digests at a very quick rate, transitioning from the stomach down to the colon within 30-60 minutes. When it is mixed with other food types however, this transit time increases and the fruit is left in the stomach and small intestine much longer than it is meant to. This in turn creates fermentation in the gut leading to gas and bloating.
Other foods such as grains and animal protein are not compatible since they both require different enzymes to be broken down. This causes some confusion in the GI tract, once again leading to indigestion, gas and bloating. When improper food combinations are taken in regularly, this weakens the digestive fire which creates toxicity and blockages in the system, continuing the cycle of gas and bloating.
10. Avoid eating on the go.
There may not seem to be a relationship between eating on the run and gas and bloating, but once again it all comes down to Vata and digestion. Eating while driving or running around naturally will increase Vata in the system, while simultaneously reducing the ability to digest food properly. This means that even food that may be healthy and easier to digest becomes a potential instigator for gas and bloating.
In order to process and absorb our food properly, it is essential to sit and relax while eating (whether snacking or eating a full meal!). By doing this our brains are able to signal to the GI tract that food is on its way, allowing the proper digestive juices to flow and promoting healthy digestion. On the contrary, eating on the go diminishes our fire by creating a disconnect between the brain and the gut. This causes stagnation of our food and prolonged transit times, leading to symptoms of indigestion such as gas and bloating. Eating on the go can also lead to improper food combinations, poor food choices and overeating since it tends to be done mindlessly.
11. Avoid excessive fluid intake before, during and after meals.
This one may be a bit of a surprise to some individuals, but drinking too many fluids while eating food waters down the necessary enzymes for proper digestion. It literally will douse out our fire and create a soupy slug in the gut that tends to sit in the stomach for way too long. This can lead to many forms of indigestion and if you are already prone to gas and bloating, this is a sure way to add fuel to the fire.
So how much is too much? A few sips of (ideally warm) water can be taken to help get the food down if needed. The total amount of fluid intake should be less than 1/2 cup directly before food, while eating and up to two hours post meal. This should become a strict habit until the digestion is stronger and beyond!
Gas and bloating are common conditions stemming from a debilitated digestive fire and increased Vata in the colon. Although you may have suffered from this condition for a longtime, it is definitely possible to find permanent relief with the proper treatment, disciple and patience. Like most conditions, if the imbalance is severe one will need to be quite strict and consistent about the dietary, lifestyle and herbal remedies that are recommended. Although complete relief may not come straightaway, there will be noticeable signs of improvement and with time the gas and bloating will dissipate completely.
For extreme cases, more herbal medicine may be needed (but only along with the proper diet and lifestyle changes!). Here are some of our most powerful and effective products for treating gas and bloating.