Not feeling so Swell? Foods that can cause and cure inflammation, and one quick and dirty cure for when the going gets rough

Increasingly my friends have been complaining about a wide variety of gastrointestinal discomforts, from things that are disabling as aggressive, but undiagnosable food allergies, to a basic discomfort impacting their ability to enjoy foods. Whether it's part of the process of aging (even just a little), or has something to do with the additives in most commercial foods (probably more than just a little), it's still unpleasant. One of the main complaints I hear from friends, family, and especially my own mouth, is the problem of bloating (which can be particularly painful) or more broadly, inflammation in general. Though everyone's relationship with food is a little bit different, and some foods may cause me instant pain while they don't affect you, here are some of the possible culprits, based on their makeup. Now, though inflammation and bloating aren't always the same thing, I'm going to put it all in one list, because if you suffer from either of these discomforts, you probably want to take all of these things into account.

Baddies for inflammation:
  • Foods high in saturated or trans fats both cause inflammation and can cause that uncomfortable "too full" feeling
  • Processed meats: between the nitrates and the sodium..bad news
  • Deep fried foods, or foods cooked at extremely high temperatures
  • High fructose foods, or foods with high sugar contents
Tip: Limit your omega-6 fatty acids intake by balancing it with omega-3s

Baddies for bloating:
  • naturally gassy foods: broccoli, cauliflower, onions, legumes, cabbage and now you're going WHAT? healthy foods? Yes, in a word. These guys are all huge catalysts for me personally, and I'm a vegetarian, so that's bad news. I've learned that eating these foods more slowly, or in a still-nutritious cooked form, like roasting or steaming, reduces my suffering. The good news is that these foods will help with overall inflammation, but they might cause short term bloating until they've passed through your system. Pay attention to what you're eating around periods of bloating, and deteremine what causes you discomfort. For example, I've determined that only onions and broccoli actually cause me to bloat or feel stomach pain, so I know to be careful around these foods, while the others don't bother me at all. Learn your belly, in short.
  • Foods containing artificial sweeteners (sorbitol, mannitol, and malitol), including protein supplements
  • Carbonated drinks (kind of a no-brainer that one)
  • Starchy foods in too-large quantities or too-fast consumption (pasta, rice, breads) - just eat these guys slowly and in moderation, as you should to control your sugar intake anyways
  • Fatty foods - AGAIN...The lesson here is to focus on taking in healthy helpful fats, and balance out your bad fats with the good ones, which can actually improve the stomach situation.

Good guys, generally: 
  • fruits and veggies (particularly ones high in phytonutrients): some key foods are oranges, grapefruits, watermelons, strawberries and blueberries, lettuce, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower (i know i know...try eating a small serving, a half cup at a time, and avoid the bloat that can come along with huge helping of raw veggies), cucumbers (apparently, a natural diuretic!)
  • Apparently, pineapple is an anti-inflammatory and bloating superfood that deserves independent recognition in this department because it's soooo SUPER
  • increased fiber intake: you should be taking in 25-30 g of fiber a day, and very few people actually do. Take in both soluble and non-soluble fibers, in the forms of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and legumes (beans, etc), but make sure you're not taking in a whole lot of sugar or salt at the same time. One tip is to look for cereals with less than 5g of sugar in them.
  • omega-3 fatty acids...these are good for so many different things, and this is one of them! Get them in supplement form, in fish, etc.
  • walnuts, flax seed, canola oil 
  •  chili peppers, peppermint, ginger, and garlic
  • yogurt - this superfood helps good bacteria grow in your gut, and that good bacteria is a gas-killer. Again, check your labels and choose options with a little bit of fat (no-fat yogurt always has wayyy too much sugar, or artificial sweeteners that are a trigger for gas and inflammation) and a little bit of sugar. I like Astro Biobest for the time being. Personally, going off fat-free yogurt really improved my stomach discomforts.

Inflammation and bloating can be caused by different things in different people, so if limiting and taking in these foods don't improve your situation, you may have to start monitoring your diet even more carefully to find the culprit. Having recently improved my own situation though, let me say that it's really worth it to find what works, or doesn't for you.

Need a quick fix? I tried everything. I used to experience such bad pain that on one occasion I called paramedics because I thought my appendix was bursting (imagine my embarrassment when it turned out to be stomach gas :P). I've improved my diet, and the situation is much improved, but when you really need some help, particularly for stomach gas or rapid bloating up that's causing you serious discomfort, the only thing that ever worked, and continues to work, for me, was Eno, available in your local pharmacy. A la Don Draper, a bi-carbonate of soda can really help (though your fingers might be swollen in the morning ...sodium etc., not necessarily a friend for inflammation sufferers, but amazing for gas and bloating relief, and actually, makes a good antacid as well). It's been around since the 1850s, so you know it's good ;)
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