The holiday season is upon us, and with that brings more gatherings with potlucks, heavy
meals, and festive treats. It is a time that we often indulge a little bit more than we’d like to
admit, which typically results in the notorious holiday bloat. And while the holidays are
meant to be a jolly time spent with loved ones, they can quickly turn sour if your stomach is
not feeling up to par.
This year, let’s break away from this holiday trend and address it before it even occurs.
Follow these simple tips to help keep your digestion in check throughout the holidays, so
that you can enjoy them as they are meant to.
The holidays are a hectic time. Between all the shopping, baking, social
commitments, and planning, free time can be hard to come by. To keep up with these extra
demands, you may find that many aspects of your health may begin to suffer – digestion
included. While it is easy to eat on the run, try to avoid it as best as you can. To digest your
food properly your body needs to be in a parasympathetic state, meaning that you must feel
relaxed and calm. Eating in a stressed or rushed environment activates the sympathetic
nervous system, creating a “fight or flight” response that ultimately decreases digestive
secretions, reduces peristalsis, and slows down blood flow to the digestive organs. To avoid
this, take time to sit down and enjoy your meals without distractions or electronics. Be sure
to chew each piece at least 10-30 times, which helps to kick start your digestion, reduce
bloating, and prevent overeating.
Careful planning is one of the best ways that you can overcome the holiday bloat. If you are
particularly worried about overindulging, take control before you even arrive at the event
and eat at home. By filling up on lean protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables prior to
leaving the house you will stay full longer and will less likely want to reach for the dessert
tray. If you are hosting the event yourself, take the time to plan a healthy menu. If your
guests offer to bring a dish, assign them something specific rather than leaving it up to
them. Be mindful of known food triggers/sensitivities when planning and have options
available that are accessible to all of your guests. Making basic substitutions with gluten
free flour, coconut oil, or non dairy milk is an easy way to make holiday classics a bit more
health conscious. It is okay to indulge a little bit (we all do!), but being mindful of your
choices will help to prevent overdoing it.
Isn’t this what the holiday are all about?! When you are at an event and there seems to be
an endless supply of goodies to choose from, instead of trying them all individually share
them with a loved one. This way you can sample small bites of different items without
getting the full dose of calories that comes with them. Remember that it’s okay to say no
when you are offered food or beverages. Pay attention to your body and the cues that it is
telling you. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are about 80% full.
Sometimes your digestive system requires additional support, especially during the holidays
when we tend to skew away from our daily routines a little bit more. If you know in advance
that you will be indulging in a heavier meal and tend towards post-meal bloating you may
want to try a digestive enzyme about 15 minutes before eating. Digestive enzymes,
specifically those with added betaine hydrochloride and ox bile help to break down your
food into small absorbable nutrients. Many processes can affect your body’s own natural
production of these enzymes, such as chronic stress and inflammation caused by food
sensitivities, certain digestive conditions, and an imbalance in the good and bad bacteria
within your gut. When you are eating more food than you normally do, your body may have
a hard time keeping up and additional supplementation is needed. It is important to not take
these if you suffer from gastritis or ulcers. If you find yourself feeling gassy, bloated,
crampy, and heavy after dinner, reach for a soothing digestive tea containing botanicals
such as peppermint, fennel, ginger, chamomile, lemon balm, or cinnamon. As you gear up
for the holiday season, don’t forget to take your probiotics. Having a healthy gut flora is
extremely important for many things, digestion included. Opt for a multi-strain probiotic to
help keep you regular and fight against indigestion.