4 Tips For Stress Free Digestion Through The Holidays
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.
1. Don’t rush!
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.
2. Plan ahead.
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.
4. Digestive ammo.
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 multistrain probiotic to help keep you regular and fight against indigestion.
Yours in health,
Dr. Jessica Geil, ND