Even when you do your best to avoid dairy, greasy food, and anything carbonated, bloat can still happen. You’d think ordering a kale salad would be safe, but even that can sometimes lead to feeling ballooned. It hardly seems fair.
Thankfully, Traditional Chinese Medicine has some insightful reasons as to why unsuspecting foods might be the culprit. “When the stomach is running too hot or too cold, you can feel bloated,” explains Vie Healing founder Mona Dan, an acupuncturist, herbalist, and TCM expert. “That’s why both spicy food, which is hot, and salad, which is cold, can make you feel bloated.”
Incorporating spices and herbs can help bring balance to a dish—and your body. And the good news is that if the damage is already done, you can use an herb blend to neutralize the problem that’s already occurring. The key is knowing what to use. “In Chinese medicine, a single herb doesn’t make a big difference because a tiny amount can get lost, but if you have a blend, it creates a stronger force,” Dan says.
“When the stomach is running too hot or too cold, you can feel bloated. That’s why both spicy food and salad can make you feel bloated.”
Dr. Eric Karchmer, Ph.D, has studied TCM for over 20 years and is in complete agreement. Drawing upon a popular herb blend that has been used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years, he created an anti-bloating powder for DAO Labs with eight different ingredients, which work in harmony with each other.
Here, both experts share TCM’s all-star herbs to mix into your meals or sip afterwards as a tea to combat bloat.
Keep reading to get in on the remedies that have long been known to work.
Warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Both Dan and Dr. Karchmer say ginger is great for making you feel less stuffed. “It’s a really important herb in Chinese medicine,” Dr. Karchmer says. If you’re having something that could lead to gut problems—such as cool dishes like a kale salad, smoothie, or sushi—one tip is to add ginger right into your meal to prevent bloating altogether. “On its own, sushi could cause bloating because it’s cooling, but adding ginger and wasabi help balance that out,” Dan says.
Since ginger is warming, it’s a good one to pair with other warming spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg are two of Dr. Karchmer’s favorites. “We tend to like them because of the taste, but they actually have a medicinal benefit too,” he says.
There’s a reason celebs love drinking lemon water or starting their day with hot lemon tea: Citrus is a great bloat buster. “There are a bunch of citrus fruits used in Chinese medicine,” Dr. Karchmer says. “Things like lemon and lime aren’t as common there, but they use orange peel, which has similar properties, in helping with digestion.”
One he used in the DAO Labs tea blend, red tangerine, has been known to support the spleen. “In Chinese medicine, we talk about the spleen and the stomach,” Dr. Karchmer says. “The spleen controls digestion, taking out the essences of foods and distributing them to the rest of the body, and the stomach puts things into the rest of the digestive system, moving things down,” he explains. “Herbs that support the spleen help get rid of dampness, which in Chinese medicine refers to fluids getting stuck.”
Dan explains it this way: “You know how it’s harder to move when it’s humid out and you’re just slower? The body is like that, too—everything moves slower and that can lead to bloat.” That’s why citrusy zests can help, well, get things moving. They help get rid of that dampness.
If you want to get a little more exotic with your TCM herbs, Dr. Karchmer recommends incorporating hawthorn berry, known as shan zha in Chinese, which is linked to helping with blood flow. Dan has her fave red berries too: goji and juju beads. “Anything that can help get the blood flowing more reduces bloating, which is why antioxidant-rich red berries are great for that,” she says. Looking for tea blends with a few red berry powders together can help knock out that full feeling after one too many helping at dinner.
The most important way to use TCM to get rid of bloating is to think about what will make your body feel more balanced. And then, mix your concoctions accordingly.
If you’re looking for more ways to use Traditional Chinese Medicine, here’s how it can help clear up your acne. Plus, what to do when food isn’t the cause of your bloat.
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