Bloating. We all experience it. It’s not necessarily fun, but feeling bloated during dance occasionally is something that is normal and natural for us to go through! It does not mean that we are “bad” or “unhealthy”, and sometimes it happens due to factors that are completely out of our control. We are going to explore what bloating is, why bloating can happen, ways to deal with bloating, and how we can still eat intuitively.
As a dancer, I am no stranger to feeling uncomfortable in a leotard and tights with the tight, uncomfortable feeling of a bloated stomach. It’s hard to think about jumping and holding your core, when your stomach hurts and you feel gassy. While it’s not possible to eliminate bloating, intuitive eating has helped me to identify what foods or combination of foods cause my stomach to be uncomfortable. And it has also taught me that it’s okay to not have a flat stomach! (I can definitely talk more about that later!)
So, what is bloating?
Bloating is when your gastrointestinal tract is filled with air or gas. Your stomach might feel full, swollen, hard, or painful. A small amount of bloating is totally normal as our body is digesting what we are eating, but there are many different factors that can contribute to uncomfortable bloating. The three main common triggers are digestive issues, what foods we eat, and hormonal changes. I am not going to dive into digestive disorders, because there are so many other people who are way more knowledgeable than I am, but some of these include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), food sensitivities and allergies, and other gastrointestinal issues.
While everyone experiences temporary bloating from time to time, if you are someone who feels bloated all the time, I would highly encourage you to talk to your doctor and a nutrition professional about what you are experiencing. They will help you find if there are any underlying issues, chronic symptoms, allergies, or intolerances that are affecting your digestive system. This is especially important if you are not able to eat enough and if bloating is masking your hunger cues.
Bloating also happens for us women during our menstrual cycle because of hormone changes and fluctuations. Stress can also affect our digestive system because it can upset our hormone balance and it can also make it harder for our bodies to digest foods that we normally have no issues with. While we can somewhat control our stress levels, we cannot control the fact that our hormones fluctuate for our menstrual cycle to function.
Bloating can also occur based on what we eat, when we eat, and how we eat.
Overly salty or fatty food, and eating too much sugar can cause some bloating. Does this mean that we need to avoid these foods altogether? Absolutely not! But, we can think about it intuitively – more on that a little later. There are also specific foods that might cause some people to have more bloating if your body is not used to digesting them – beans, cruciferous vegetables, dairy, or large quantities of whole grains are some of those foods. Caffeine, which can over excite the digestive tract, and carbonated beverages, which are filled with carbon gas to create bubbles, can also cause bloating.
Bloating can also happen with disordered eating. If we have not been eating enough, or if we have been restricting certain types of foods or whole food groups, it is likely that we will experience digesting distress when we go back to a more normal way of eating. We can also experience bloating when we eat large quantities of food at one time, eat too little, eat too quickly, fail to chew our food fully before swallowing, etc. There are so many factors that can contribute to bloating, and each individual is different!
Again, I am going to say that it is normal to experience bloating after eating, so you might feel bloated during dance occasionally. Our digestive system produces gas when breaking down food, and it is normal to swallow some amount of air when eating or drinking. Personally, I experience more uncomfortable bloating when eating right before bed, during my menstrual cycle, eating rich foods or a big meal, if I have caffeine on an empty stomach, if I wait too long to eat, if I am not consistently drinking enough water, not sleeping well, and stress. You might experience bloating with completely different factors, and that’s okay! Intuitive eating helps us investigate the food causes behind uncomfortable bloating.
When you are bloated, start taking notice of the scenario.
Is it at a specific time of day? Is it before or after a meal? What foods did you eat? Did you eat too quickly? Have you been getting enough to eat? How is your stress? Have you been sleeping well? Take mental or written notes! This can help us to discover patterns between foods or food behaviors and bloating. This does not mean that we can never eat certain foods again, or that we have to figure out how to eat perfectly, but paying attention to how food makes us feel can help us find balance and reduce uncomfortable bloating.
For example, knowing that having a rich meal can make me feel bloated, I will probably not opt for a burger or a curry before dancing, but afterwards, these are delicious options to replenish my body! For dancers, it is helpful to pack easily digestible foods like eggs, sweet potatoes, avocado, crackers, rice, bananas, and yogurt to eat during a day filled with classes and rehearsals. Also, remember to pack enough food and eat at regular intervals to avoid intense hunger.
What are some ways to deal with uncomfortable bloating?
Like intuitive eating, the methods that help to soothe your stomach might be different from your peers. Here are a few suggestions if you need a place to start exploring.
- De-stress – this could mean some light stretching, breathing practices, or whatever helps to put you into a relaxed state
- Drink water
- Go on a light walk
- Try some yoga poses like supported bridge, hugging your knees to your chest, happy baby, spinal twist while lying on your back, and cat/cow poses
- Give yourself an abdominal massage
- Take a warm bath or use a heating pad
- Drink peppermint tea or lemon ginger tea to soothe an upset stomach
Bloating can be frustrating and sometimes difficult to pinpoint and to deal with, especially if you are having to dance in class and rehearsal with a painful, swollen stomach. But, this is totally normal to experience feeling bloated during dance from time to time, and I hope that you learned some tools of how to use intuitive eating to help! If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment or reach out to me here! Make sure to also watch my YouTube video down below!