Reshaping your body takes time and requires hard work, consistency and discipline in terms of both diet and exercise. But there are also some things that have a more immediate impact on your body shape. That can make you put on a kilo in weight from one day to the next or your waist measurement can increase by centimetres in just a few hours. The body we see in the mirror in the morning is seldom the same body shape we see at the end of the day. What we have eaten and drunk during the day has a direct impact on our body.

I have IBS, which means I have a horribly sensitive digestive system – my stomach easily puffs up like a balloon. One day my jeans fit perfectly whereas the next day I find it’s impossible to do them up at all. There is just one day between the images below – one picture after a day of good eating practices and the other after a day of eating too much of what I don’t tolerate. What an enormous difference! And, above all, what an enormous difference between those days in terms of my well-being.

My stomach in its normal state on the left and swollen …..
….from above, with only one day between the photos.

Feeling bloated or puffed up can put a real damper on your day, not to mention the fact that it hurts! I don’t want to have clothes that fit too tightly on those bloated-stomach days, and my stomach sounding like the worst of all orchestras, which is the last thing you want in a quiet office.

What can we who have sensitive stomachs bear in mind to avoid bloating?

Reduce or completely avoid foods that cause gas. What causes the most gas in your body is something you have to work out by keeping a food diary. For me and for many others, it’s primarily about onions, cabbage and pulses.

Fibre is obviously healthy and, if you want to live a healthy life, wholegrains are a good choice. However, if you’re not really used to brown rice, wholemeal bread, and so on, your stomach may well react and get bloated. So, start carefully with fibre and increase your intake of wholegrain products gradually.

Stop chewing gum or sucking throat lozenges. When you do those things, you swallow a whole lot of air that ends up in your stomach and creates trouble.

Eliminate sweeteners. Especially sugar alcohols like Xylitol, Sorbitol and Erythritol. Throat lozenges and energy bars often contain these variants. Sugar alcohols are poorly absorbed by our digestive tract and circulate freely instead, becoming food for our intestinal bacteria. It may sound fine, but when the bacteria chew on the sugar alcohols, large amounts of gas are created – not great for how the stomach feels!

Eat regularly. Snacking or excessively long intervals between meals often create an upset and bloated stomach. It’s useful to aim to eat every 3–4 hours.

Stop drinking sparkling water and other carbonated drinks.

Do you eat in front of the computer or the TV? Stop doing that! When you focus on something else, you can easily end up gulping your food down, which means you also take in lots of air. There’s no doubt you’ll feel the difference in that you get more bloated after a lunch eaten in a rush than if you ate slowly and in relaxed fashion.

Exercise! Exercise keeps the intestines moving, and gases move along and OUT. Stomach ache and abdominal pains may often be air that is static and pushing against the walls of the digestive tract. A stomach that is sensitive will feel that much more intensely than one that is less so.

It is useful to remember that our body shape can change a lot, purely owing to what we ate a few hours ago. During the night we will have broken wind while we slept (what our partner asleep next to us doesn’t know can’t hurt them!), which is why the stomach usually feels settled and flat in the morning. If you bear the above tips in mind, your stomach will go on being settled and flat for the rest of the day.