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Feel Better Fast with 17 Bloat-Busters

When you have PMS, the last thing you want to do is exercise and ditch your favorite foods. Dr. Mike Moreno, author of The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor’s Plan Designed for Rapid Results, shares easy ways to relieve bloat.

1. Stop eating high-sodium stuff like canned soups, fast food and cured meats. Sodium causes your body to hang on to water.

2. Drink more water. Believe it or not, extra fluids will help to flush out the sodium — and the bloat.

3. Avoid simple carbs (think white bread, white pasta, chips, etc.). Carbs get broken down into glucose and stored in the body as glycogen for energy. In order to be stored, a water molecule must attach to that glucose. The more stored carbs you have, the heavier you’ll feel.

4. Opt for high-fiber carbs like vegetables and fruit. The longer food sits in your intestines, the more likely you are to retain water.

5. Exercise. It sweats out excess water and speeds up digestion. When you exercise, you stimulate the muscles that help move food and water through your system faster. Fight constipation by walking for at least 17 minutes each day to keep food moving through your digestive tract. Working up a sweat also releases fluids. In addition, research shows that moderate exercise soothes cramps, headaches and lower-back pain, improves sleep and reduces fatigue. And exercise boosts endorphin levels, which helps improve your mood.

6. Take calcium and magnesium, as I mentioned above. Both compete with sodium for absorption into your body, so if you take in adequate amounts of either, your body is forced to flush out the salt that wasn’t effectively absorbed.

7. Be wary of diuretics. When you stop taking a diuretic, your body retains more water, making you bloat for one to two weeks afterward. This can lead to a physical dependency so that your body needs the drug to rid itself of the excess fluid instead of doing it naturally.

8. Shun sodas. I just cannot overstate this recommendation. The caffeine in sodas dehydrates you, and phosphorous, a common soda additive, can inflame your intestinal wall, making you feel even puffier.

9. Discuss the appropriateness of birth control pills with your physician. Birth control pills may stabilize your level of progesterone, a bloat-inducing hormone.

10. Boost your B6. Many PMS symptoms, including water retention, are triggered by a defect in your body’s metabolism of vitamin B6. Take 50 to 100 milligrams of B6 daily to see if it helps.

11. Stop the junk. Reduce your intake of foods that are difficult to digest, such as sugary, fatty and fried fare, which can sit in your gut, causing constipation and distention.

12. Enjoy water-flushing vegetables.

13. To beat bloat, try a natural diuretic drink, such as a cup of chamomile or dandelion tea or a glass of noncarbonated water with lemon or lime.

14. The artificial sweetener sorbitol, found in some sugarless gums and candies, can contribute to bloating, as can the consumption of alcohol, caffeine and even nicotine.

15. Also avoid dairy products that contain lactose — milk sugar — if they seem to worsen your bloating symptoms.

16. Up your protein the week before and during your period. Protein has a diuretic effect on the body.

17. Take supplemental probiotics.

If the changes I’m recommending seem too daunting, try making just a few at a time. My patients tell me that eating more regularly, eliminating refined sugar and caffeine, plus exercising more, make the biggest difference. Or target your most bothersome symptoms: If your breasts really bother you, for example, try taking evening primrose oil or cutting out salt to see if you get relief.

ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Michael Rafael Moreno, author of The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor’s Plan Designed for Rapid Results, better known as Dr. Mike, is a graduate of the University of California at Irvine and Hahnemann Medical School (now Drexel University). Following his residency at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, California, Dr. Mike moved to San Diego, where he now practices family medicine and sits on the board of the San Diego Chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians. In 2008, Dr. Mike launched “Walk with Your Doc” (http://www.walkwithyourdoc.com), which he participates in every Tuesday and Thursday morning before his workday begins. The program began when Dr. Mike offered to walk with a patient to motivate her to exercise, and has since grown into a thriving community.

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