After researching the most natural (and effective) ways to debloat, I decided to try out each one on my own body. As I've learned previously, everything works differently for every single body. Like, while some have trouble digesting dairy, that's never been an issue for me. For me personally, it's sugar and gluten that wreak havoc. And so on. So, a little experimentation was in order.
I tried all the most popular debloating tactics, from apple cider vinegar and fermented foods and MCT oil and chewing very slowly (yes, that's a thing). Below, find which ones worked best and which, well, didn't make much of a difference. Of course, as a sidenote, it's important to check with your doctor before taking any supplements or to see if something out of the ordinary is causing your bloat. Afterward, feel free to join me in what I like to call "how to stop looking so damn puffy all the time." Perhaps that should be the title of my memoir.
#1: Taking Shots of Apple Cider Vinegar
For me, the product that made the most resounding difference was a shot of apple cider vinegar in the morning. Not only was a shocking pick-me-up for my groggy, fatigued body (I should get more sleep, but alas), but the results were pretty much instant. After the shot, I felt an actual sucking in effect without my doing much of anything. My clothes seemed like they fit better after less than a week. Could it be placebo? Maybe. But Nicole Granato, a women's health specialist, recommend drinking it to boost the de-bloating process.
"Women who frequently gain weight in the abdominal and stomach area do so because of digestion issues, hormonal balance, and bloating. This supertonic balances healthy bacteria in the gut, promoting better digestion, balancing pH levels in the body, and killing any viruses and unwanted bacteria," she says.
The thing is it makes total sense for me. I carry weight mostly around my midsection, allowing an even more noticeable difference when I'm bloated. The fact that apple cider vinegar made such a difference for me entirely aligns with Granato's expertise. Now, I try to incorporate it into my salad dressings, smoothies, and juices as much as possible, along with that morning shot of de-bloating goodness.
#2: Giving Up TV Dinners
Coming in at the number two spot is eating mindfully—which, I know, sounds obvious and a little bit frustrating. But, here's the thing: It works.
"Multitasking with some sort of digital distraction leads to overeating or scarfing down food hurriedly, which (you guessed it) translates to poor digestion. It's also one of the main reasons people face spleen qi deficiency, according to Emma Suttie, DAc, AP. According to traditional Chinese medicine, that very spleen deficiency is entirely tied to your bloat.
I made a conscious effort to not only eat slowly and with intention (chewing slowly, really tasting each bite, etc.) but also without distraction. My usual go-to nightly habit is to order Seamless, sit down in front of the TV, and eat while I watch. This does, of course, result in overeating and a ton of consistent bloating. I found, even when eating the same foods as before, if I ate them peacefully without a phone or Netflix show, I noticed far less bloat. Like, way, way less. I would wake up in the morning with that lean, sucked-in feeling that I haven't felt in months.
#3: Cutting Out Sugar
I know, it sucks. And I did everything I could to not have to exclude things I love from my diet before realizing eating sugar is a real issue for my body. The founders of Honey Hi were not the first to give me the recommendation, but they certainly were the ones who really drove it home for me.
"Cool it on the sugar," Honey Hi co-founder Caitlin Sullivan told me, "or at least scale way back." Her business partner Kacie Carter explained, "It can spike your blood sugar, lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, feed pathogenic bacteria, create food addictions, and profoundly mess with your hormones."
That, and once I cut it out of my diet, I was able to identify it as a trigger food for me, one that substantially caused excess bloating. I should mention, though, that it's not all sugar. It's refined sugars and/or excess sugar intake through carbohydrates that cause my inflammation.
#4: Adding MCT Oil to My Morning Coffee
I was slow to jump on the MCT oil train, but now that I'm here, I'm staying. It's an oil derived from coconut oil that I add to my morning coffee as a way to de-bloat and speed up my metabolism. The reason I was wary at first is that it has a ton of fat. But see, fat is not the enemy. In fact, a diet filled with healthy fats is a fountain of youth diet secret from the one and only Halle Berry.
"Medium-chain triglycerides are a unique form of fat that requires less energy and fewer enzymes to be digested," explains Alexandra Samit, Be Well health coach at Dr. Lipman's Eleven Eleven Wellness Center. "As a result, they are readily available sources of energy, leading to an increase in metabolism and providing quick energy replenishment."
What it did was speed along my digestion in the morning post-coffee, which is certainly an easy way to banish annoying bloat. Throughout the day, though, I stayed de-puffed and happy because MCTs don't get stored as fat in the body—rather, they get burned for energy.
#5: Taking a Probiotic
Richard Lin, the CEO of microbiome wellness company Thryve, notes studies have shown certain (but not necessarily all) probiotic strains can help relieve symptoms of bloating. So, I wasn't positive taking a probiotic daily would help, but it was worth a shot. While I didn't notice anything immediate from taking the pills alone, visible results did creep up pretty quickly when the pills were taken in conjunction with the other aforementioned methods.
Basically, probiotics alone may not do the trick—especially not as quickly as you'd hope for in a pinch. But, they're healthy and helpful as part of a wellness plan. Studies show that probiotics can help ease anxiety and depression, among other benefits.
"A healthy, balanced gut microbiome can reduce blood pressure; normalize cholesterol levels; improve vaginal, urinary, and kidney health; and fight heart disease, some cancers, and even dementia," says Jeannel Astarita, skincare expert and founder of Just Ageless NYC Wellness and Medspa.
So, regardless of their effect on my bloat, I'm going to keep taking them. And, as long as your doctor is cool with it, you should too.