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Nothing’s more frustrating than grabbing your favorite jeans and -- eek! -- they aren’t even close to buttoning. But don’t despair: The reason for your puffy belly may be bloat, not fat. In fact, one of the worst culprits for this problem -- a slow digestive system -- is common among women over age 40. The good news is that there are lots of simple tweaks that can counteract common bloat-inducers. Here’s how to slim your silhouette.

Start off with fiber

Nothing distends a belly like constipation, so start your morning with a breakfast cereal packed with fiber to get things moving. Look for a cereal with both insoluble fiber (from bran) and gel-like soluble fiber (from psyllium).

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Slim your veggies

Instead of noshing on raw vegetables, opt for steamed ones instead. A half-cup serving of cooked carrots delivers the same nutrition as one cup raw, but it takes up less belt-bloating room in your GI tract.

Hold the hot stuff

Give dishes a flavor boost with in-season fresh or dried herbs like dill, basil, mint, sage, tarragon and rosemary -- instead of super-spicy additions like black pepper, chili powder, hot sauces and vinegar. Spicy foods can stimulate the release of stomach acid, which can cause irritation.

Spit out the gum

When you chew gum, you swallow air. All that air gets trapped in your gut and causes pressure, bloating and belly expansion.

Skip fake sugars

Sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol are bloat-inducing sugar alcohols found in diet sodas and sugar-free gum. Avoid them for a slimmer silhouette.

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Cut the carbs

As a backup energy source, your muscles store a type of carbohydrate called glycogen -- and each gram of glycogen is stored with about three grams of water. But most people don't need all this stockpiled fuel. Decreasing high-carb foods like bagels, pasta and pretzels will help drain off excess stored fluids.

Be smart about beans

There’s a reason they’re called the magical fruit. Legumes and veggies like cabbage and Brussels sprouts induce more gas in your GI tract and can make you look like you swallowed a balloon. Soak dried beans overnight or take the OTC enzyme Beano.

Get a move on

Moving your body helps release air that has been trapped in your GI tract, relieving pressure and -- you guessed it -- bloating. Increasing your heart rate and breathing stimulates the natural contractions of the intestinal muscles, helping to prevent constipation and gas buildup by expediting digestion. Walk for at least five minutes to help get things moving inside your belly.

Guzzle more liquids

It seems counterintuitive -- you’d think more liquid would equal more puff, right? -- but getting rid of bloat means being well hydrated, so aim for at least eight glasses of water each day. Instead of plain water, try our Sassy Water that has ginger in it to help soothe your GI tract. Here’s the recipe.

Avoid acidic sips

Coffee, tea, juice and alcohol are all high-acid beverages that can irritate your GI tract, causing swelling

Bring on the bananas

Foods such as bananas, potatoes and spinach help your body get rid of excess water weight, minimizing your middle. Extra fluid tends to accumulate when your potassium and sodium levels are out of balance. Increasing your potassium intake can lower your sodium levels.


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