The next time you feel your tummy is stretched and puffy, head straight to the kitchen to make yourself a brew. But not any type of brew, studies reveal that peppermint tea could reduce abdominal pain and bloating.
The cool, refreshing flavour of peppermint (Mentha piperita) has been recognised in traditional medicine as helping to soothe digestive issues.
Now studies confirm the plant contains flavonoids, which may inhibit the activity of mast cells (immune system cells found in the gut that sometimes contribute to bloating).
Animal studies also show that peppermint relaxes the gut, which may relieve intestinal spasms — as well as bloating and pain that can accompany them.
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Furthermore, a study found that a single tea bag supplied six times more peppermint oil than a serving of peppermint leaf capsules.
This suggests that peppermint tea is more beneficial than peppermint supplements.
The NHS lists the following potential causes for bloating:
- Excess farting
- Swallowing air (from talking while eating)
- Food intolerance
- Coeliac disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
For excess wind, the health body suggests cutting down on certain foods. These include:
Constipated? Consume more fibre in your diet, drink lots of water and exercise more.
The recommended dietary intake of fibre is 30g per day, and good sources of fibre are:
- Wholemeal bread
- Brown rice
- Fruit and veg
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The NHS adds: “Sit down to eat (sitting upright and not slumped over), reduce the amount of fizzy drinks you consume, stop chewing gum and chew with your mouth closed so that you’re not taking in excess air.”
A food intolerance can lead to a bloated stomach when a reaction to the food causes too much gas to be produced.
Common culprits are wheat, gluten and dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yoghurt.
If you believe feelings of bloating is linked to a food intolerance you might have, it’s best to keep a food diary to check when symptoms flare up.
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Speaking of a gluten intolerance, Coeliac disease is a common digestive condition where the intestines can’t absorb gluten.
Symptoms of Coeliac disease include fatigue and diarrhoea, as well as abdominal pain.
Those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) frequently complain of bloating, too.
Dr Anton Emmanuel, consultant gastroenterologist at University College Hospital in London, said: “Most digestive problems are to do with lifestyle, the foods we’ve eaten, or stress.
“Taking steps to change your lifestyle can help, and often prevent, many of these problems.”
In particular, anxiety and worry can slow down digestion that leads to bloating.
Although digestive problems tend to be harmless, and often settle down in good time, when the issue of bloating persists, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP to rule out any other serious health conditions.
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