We are entering that season again. The holiday season of endless feasts with amazing food which we love to indulge in, buuut our digestive systems don't always appreciate afterward. You can often experience bloating, a feeling the food is sitting in your stomach, heartburn, nausea, gas, or experience bowel changes amongst other symptoms. There are ways to prevent this and help when you do experience it.
So, here are my top 7 tips to help you improve your digestion during these food laden months!
1. Move your body.
Exercise has a clear benefit of increasing blood flow to your digestive tract which can help improve it's function making sure nutrients are being absorbed well, and moving through the body efficiently. Often a sedentary lifestyle will slow down our digestion and add to the bloat and "food just sits in my stomach forever" feeling some may experience. It will also speed up your metabolism, which will also help mitigate weight gain during the holidays as well.
Exercising any time of the day, but at least 1 to 2 hours before eating can help with these benefits.
2. Know what works for you (and doesn't).
If you can't eat cheese any other day of the year without feeling bad in some way... THIS WILL NOT CHANGE ON THANKSGIVING OR CHRISTMAS! (I'm so sorry for raising my voice, but I just want to make sure everyone hears this.) This goes for any other food that you may know affects you. Don't let your suffering happen simply because you decided you were going to indulge "because it's the holidays". (I know this is for another article, but don't self sabotage with this excuse, because you are worth more.) Unless you are knowingly and willingly ready to suffer because the dish is worth it to you (then so be it), skip the dish and let your digestive tract thank you later.
If you don't know what foods are affecting you and may be contributing to your digestive symptoms, I recommend having a food allergy test run or having a doctor or other licensed professional assist you with an elimination diet to help you know for sure and help relieve your symptoms.
3. Limit your food intake.
I know... the food is really good which makes it hard to stop eating it. But an excess of really good food in your stomach overwhelms the amount of stomach acid you are producing and makes for slow and terrible digestion.
Ideally, slowly eat and savor your food as you are eating. Mindfully enjoy it and stop eating your meal around 80% full (especially if you plan on having dessert later). IF you do over-eat, having digestive enzymes can assist as a rescue. The best way to regulate this is to start with small portions and go back for more, if necessary.
4. Put lemon in your water.
Adding fresh lemon juice to your water can help increase your stomach acid level to help you digest more efficiently.
5. Avoid alcohol.
I promise I'm not a party pooper. If you already struggle with digestive issues, though, alcohol is a huge digestive tract irritant and will just make all of your symptoms that much worse. So, avoiding it can save you a lot of pain and indigestion.
6. Focus on the Veggies!
Fat slows down digestion, so the more fat you eat, the slower the digestive process and the more indigestion you are likely to feel. This explains why a lot of holiday foods which are rich in butter, cream, bacon, and stocks will naturally cause more digestive stress, especially with the amounts of food we end up eating at the holidays. We just aren't digesting it quickly. So I recommend focusing on dishes that are lighter in fat, which are usually the veggies and plant based items on the table. At least if there is fat on them, they aren't laden with fat throughout as well. Vegetables are also easier to digest than the meat is, so keeping the meat portion to 1/4 of your plate or less, while the rest of your plate has more plant based items can tremendously help with digestion. The fiber in plant based foods also helps create a healthy digestive tract.
7. Drink Ginger tea.
Finally, something that everyone can benefit from to assist digestion is drinking ginger tea. It can help many of the symptoms that we talked about earlier as well as aid in the digestive process. Simply simmer 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger in 2 cups of water for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain and then drink. You can feel free to add lemon and a little bit of raw honey as well, or maybe a dash of cinnamon and or tumeric if you would like. This is a delightful after dinner drink to soothe the digestive tract.
So there you have it, holiday digestion tips from a naturopathic doctor.
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