7 Ways to Banish Bloat

No matter how dedicated you've been to your diet and exercise routine, bloating can still strike. According to the National Institutes of Health, it's more common among people who have intestinal disorders-such as Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome-but it can affect anyone. Whether it originates from dehydration or consuming certain foods, no one likes it.  Here, seven ways to banish bloat.

1. Drink Up. Water, that is. Contrary to popular belief, bloating is not a result of consuming too much water-in fact, it's just the opposite.  If you're dehydrated, your body actually holds onto water, increasing puffiness and bloating. Drinking water also helps prevent constipation by helping flush waste out of your system and keeping your digestive tract moving. Aim to drink at least eight glasses (64 ounces) daily, and try to steer clear (or at least limit your intake) of alcohol; it acts as a diuretic.

2. Move Your Body. Exercise helps gas pass through the digestive tract more quickly, so you'll experience relief faster. If you don't feel like moving much, start with a 15-minute walk. Even something so simple could work wonders.

3. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners. Sorbitol and maltitol are commonly used sugar substitutes that can cause gas and bloating.  If you're addicted to diet soda or sugarless gum, you might want to try to kick your habit-especially if you need to fit into your skinny jeans. An added bonus to kicking your cola habit? Less carbonation equals less bloating.

4. Ditch the Dairy. Dairy products can cause bloating in those who have a deficiency in lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose). Try eliminating dairy products from your diet for a week and see if you notice a difference.

5. Chew Slower. If you're a notoriously fast eater, you might be more prone to bloating and gas. When you eat quickly, you swallow more air, which results in bloating. Also, it takes about 30 minutes for your stomach to realize that it's full. Consuming too much food in one sitting by eating quickly will only add to your abdominal discomfort.

6. Slash the Sodium. Chinese-take-out connoisseurs and potato-chip lovers beware-not only is excess salt bad for your heart, it is also a notorious bloating culprit. Sodium causes our bodies to retain water, inevitably resulting in a puffy, uncomfortable stomach.  Read labels carefully and avoid consuming more than the USDA's recommended daily allowance of 2,400 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon).

7. The Fiber Factor. Fiber works wonders for your digestive system.  It keeps your tummy full and your digestive system regular. But as with most things in life, balance is key. Bloating can actually be caused by consuming too much fiber AND too little fiber.  Try to stay between 20 and 25 grams a day, make sure to drink enough water, and remember to increase your consumption gradually.