I recently posted a video of my stomach after having eaten a really large meal captioned with “Never in my life did i think I could eat such a huge meal, and then not be bloated after.” I used to get bloated at the tiniest amount of food and I struggled with bad gut health for a long time. After receiving many responses asking how I fixed this, I decided to lay out my story for you here.
Where It Started
It all started back in 2015 when a lot of things started to upset my stomach. I became intolerant to gluten and could not eat it without getting extreme bloating, stomach pain, brain fog, and depression for the following few days. I did an elimination diet and knowing that I felt horrible every time I ate gluten, I figured I was either intolerant or celiac. Despite never getting a diagnosis, I stopped eating it altogether. My stomach was fine for a while but last year I started experiencing the same symptoms with other foods that seemed completely unrelated, things like garlic, onions, and coffee would really upset my stomach. This sudden onset of symptoms with foods I’d been perfectly capable of eating before led me to start looking into gut health and researching ways to improve it.
What I Did To Fix It
The first thing I stumbled upon was L-glutamine, which comes in a tasteless powder that you mix into water. It’s an amino acid that your body uses to make proteins and is especially important in gut health and immunity. It helps provide energy to cells, and crucially, maintains the barrier between intestinal and other body cells. This means you’ll be less prone to leaky gut and inflammation if you have enough L-glutamine in your body.
I also started intermittent fasting, which at the time was more for weight loss, but ended up improving my gut health as well. The benefits of fasting lie in the time it gives to let your body repair itself. If you’re constantly eating, any issues in your stomach or intestines don’t have the opportunity to fix themselves. Fasting can give those suffering from recurring gut issues time to heal and reduce inflammation.
I also eliminated all trigger foods: if coffee hurt my stomach, I quit coffee, if garlic hurt my stomach, I quit garlic. There were so many different foods that aggravated my symptoms so I cut all of them out and kept my diet very simple. All I ate was egg whites, greek yogurt, a couple of vegetables I knew were safe, and all-around very bland foods. It felt like it helped my stomach enough so it could heal, and now I can eat those foods normally again. You don’t have to eliminate all these foods forever, but just long enough to give your body a break from irritating ingredients before re-introducing them into your diet.
Working on Reducing Stress
The most impactful thing other than L-glutamine was reducing stress levels. Thinking back now, I struggled with gut health for so long because my stress levels were so high.
When I first developed symptoms of gluten intolerance, I was working three jobs, I was in full-time school, I had just bought my car, and had just gone through a horrible breakup. I was in the worst mental state of my life and was trying to hustle through so I could forget it and numb it all out. Every time that I’ve had bad episodes with my stomach, it has been directly related to stress.
If you are struggling with digestive problems, I would encourage you to look at your stress levels and evaluate how those two things might be connected. Many people with IBS, anecdotally, also have bad anxiety. Your gut health and your brain are very interrelated, and that was something I noticed was especially true for me.
When my stress levels dissipated so did my stomach pain and bloating. There’s a lot of new science supporting the gut-brain connection, and working on your mental state can help tremendously with reducing bloating and improving other symptoms.
The last thing I did was I started taking electrolytes, which I do through a BCAA powder. For the longest time, I was told salt is bad, and to avoid salting food, so I didn’t salt my food ever since I was a child.
When I started doing research into gut health, I found out a lot about how important salt is in your body. Not only is it used for producing bile and stomach acid (so important for digestion!), it is also essential for muscle contraction. Back when I had bad stomach issues, one of my symptoms was extreme diarrhea, which is massively dehydrating.
Salt is one of the keys to rehydrating in that kind of situation, but I didn’t think of that at the time and so was constantly dehydrated. Even my workouts dropped in quality. Since salt is such a huge component of muscle contraction, when you’re dehydrated you’re not going to have the same strength or potential.
At the time I thought I was weak because I was psychosomatically psyching myself in regard to my stomach issues, but I was actually physically weakened because of the dehydration. I’ve always drank a lot of water but my skin often felt dry and I still didn’t feel fully hydrated. I realized drinking so much water without an appropriate intake of electrolytes meant I was diluting my salts without ever replenishing them.
Workouts exacerbated this, where I would sweat out more salt and lose it even more quickly. Now I take electrolytes daily and it has made a huge difference. I don’t feel bloated, even when I eat a large amount in one sitting, my stomach stays flat, whereas before even a small snack would make it blow up.
My Takeaways From This Experience
My main issue was a leaky gut, where parts of the digestive lining deteriorate due to many factors, including stress. Almost any food can then trigger a reaction in your body, leading to inflammation and bloating. This can cause further pain and other digestive problems like diarrhea, constipation, and excessive gas.
If you’re struggling with any of these issues then I highly recommend you do your own research, because every body is different, and what works for me may not work for you. As you go through your research, take what fits and leave what doesn’t.
My main tips are the points I’ve touched on here; supplementing daily with L-glutamine, intermittent fasting, cutting out trigger foods in the short term, taking electrolytes, and reducing stress. Another consideration is if you’re a drinker. For me, even a sip of alcohol would cause major bloating. Alcohol has many detrimental health effects so consider cutting it out, at least while your gut heals.
After having gone through all this, I’m finally able to enjoy all the foods I love without having to worry about bloating or stomach pain. If you’re struggling, try some of the same things I did, or look deeper and find what resonates with you, listening to your body for what feels right. If you have more specific questions feel free to reach out to me on my socials, I’d love to do all I can to help you further.