Overindulging goes hand in hand with the holiday season as we are bombarded with social events, dinners and family functions. And while this is what makes the holiday season so much fun, many of my patients spend the time feeling bloated and uncomfortable due to eating too much. It is easy to feel like we have lost control over our food intake. Increased alcohol, larger portions than what we are used to, multiple courses and sugary desserts can all combine to create digestive hell!
SO I have put together some simple tips for reducing your bloating over the holiday season. Some of these are common sense while some of these tips are great food for thought.
Strategies that you can use to keep bloating at bay:
- Eat slowly. The speed at which you eat your food affects how well you are able to digest your meal. The more you chew, the more food your stomach will realize is coming, and therefore a higher level of acids and enzymes will be released to digest this food. Research has found that most people chew an average of only 7-10 times per mouthful- we should be aiming for more like 20-30 times! Savour every mouthful of your delicious Christmas meals by chewing lots and eating slowly to take the strain of your digestive tract. This will inevitably mean that you eat less too.
- Saving yourself all day only to consume a 5 course meal for dinner is the worst thing you can do for bloating and fullness. Our digestive tract would much prefer smaller serves throughout the day which will also keep your appetite stable and reduce how much you eat in one sitting. It is better not to turn up to a function starving. Ensure the food you have consumed over the rest of the day is as healthy as can be and that you are not too hungry. This will give you more control over how much you feel like eating at dinner.
- Bitter foods will be your best friend. Bitter foods stimulate liver function, gall bladder function, bile flow and stomach acid production. Before you start a meal, wake your digestive system up with some bitter tasting foods. You might like to start the day with ½ a lemon juiced into room temperature water. Apple cider vinegar (1 tsp mixed into water) is also an effective method of stimulating digestion and something you can sip on before meals. Serve a few olives before the mains come out as the bitterness in olives helps to switch on digestion. Make a salad filled with bitter foods (such as rocket leaves, radicchio, artichoke, olives) with a tangy vinigarette dressing to consume alongside main meals
- Sip on some digestive herbal tea between meals. My favourites for improving digestion are ginger, fennel or dandelion root. Ginger is a warming digestive stimulant great for fullness or nausea (especially if you had one too many drinks the night before as it settles nausea). Fennel is great for gas, bloating and fullness and dandelion root is a bitter digestive that is lovely to consume between meals to enhance digestion.
- Keep breakfast simple. For most, breakfast is the one meal they eat at home that is fully in your control over the holiday season. Keep it light and healthy. Some natural yoghurt with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds is a great option. Try a couple of scrambled eggs with veggies such as mushrooms, spinach, tomato and avocado. Good quality grainy bread with almond butter or avocado are other light ideas. A breakfast power smoothie is easy too (using ingredients such as almond milk, berries, mango or banana, chia seeds, LSA, cacao, natural yoghurt and some cinnamon).
- Watch your alcohol intake! Alcoholic beverages are highly bloating, especially yeast filled champagne, beer or cider. My advice to all my patients is to always start with just 1-2 wine, beer or champagnes and then switch to a lighter, cleaner alcohol (such as a vodka soda or a gin and tonic) if you feel the need to have more. Swap a cocktail for a mocktail. Try a spritzer (wine diluted with soda water) to cut back on your alcohol intake. Dilute your champagne with freshly squeezed juice. Follow very glass of alcohol with a glass of water or mineral water to stay hydrated- and they say that if you have your drinks in a wine or champagne glass then you won’t feel like you are missing something.
I hope these tips see you through the festive season with a happy digestive system. Happy holidays!!