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Christmas Season Top Tips

My Top Tips to Beat the Christmas Belly Bloat

We’re all prone to a little indulgence at Christmas (yes, even me), but lots of rich and indulgent food can cause problems with your digestion, leaving you feeling bloated and uncomfortable for the months following the festive season. There are a variety of reasons why the holidays create more tummy troubles than the rest of the year:

  • You often eat more than you usually would, putting pressure on the digestive system. This includes foods you normally avoid (often for good reason)

  • You might be drinking a lot more when you eat – whether it’s prosecco at a party or red wine on Christmas Day – and this dilutes stomach acid, making it harder to properly digest your food.

  • More rich, creamy or sugary foods than you’re used to can trigger heartburn or reflux or else make uncomfortable digestive symptoms worse.

Though festive food and drink can be tough on the digestive system, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some of my top tips to ensure you don’t end up spending January recovering.

Tip No 1 for beating belly bloat this Christmas: Use your senses

The first step in the digestive process is often overlooked, but it’s a really important one. Known as the cephalic phase, it’s triggered when you see or smell food. You are literally whetting your appetite. When you start thinking about the lovely meal you are going to prepare, you are getting your digestive juices flowing. We call this Mindful Eating – being totally present in the moment at mealtimes.

It may sound an incredibly simple step – and it is – but these days we are often so busy that we don’t make the time to think about our food in this way. If you find you’re always eating on the go, throwing a sandwich down your neck at your desk or having a TV dinner TV, this is a vital step you are missing out on. One trick is to be mindful and try and spend a few minutes thinking about your tasty lunch before you eat it to get the digestive juices going.

Tip No 2 for beating the belly bloat this Christmas: Chew your Food

Remember what Mum used to say? Well, she was right! Chewing your food (the second phase of digestion) is key when it comes to good gut health. With proper chewing, you are mechanically breaking down the food into smaller pieces which leads to easier digestion.

Not chewing also means the food you eat takes much longer to break down, and, as it hangs around in your digestive system, it can start to ferment, causing uncomfortable wind, gas and bloating (yes, we have all been there when we have wolfed down our food)!

Don’t worry about chewing a certain number of times – that all depends on what you are eating and various other factors. Instead try this test: chew your food enough so that if someone asked you to spit it out, they wouldn’t know what you had been eating.

Tip No 3 for beating the belly bloat this Christmas: Tummy troubles

Sales for heartburn tablets and liquids are skyrocketing because so many people wrongly assume that their digestive troubles are because of too much stomach acid. What nutritionists like me find more frequently in clinic is the total opposite! Getting older, stress and some over-the-counter medications can make your stomach acid levels drop to the extent that you don’t produce enough to digest food sufficiently.

One solution is to have a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before each main meal if you find you suffer with digestive symptoms as noted above. It’s important you choose apple cider vinegar with ‘mother’, rather than one you can buy in the supermarket (that’s for your chips). Choose an organic variety and you can also use it in dressings for your salads and roast veggies.

Note: There are people who genuinely produce too much stomach acid and, if you try the apple cider vinegar trick and it seems to make things worse. If you notice this, stop taking it and stick to smaller meals, chewing your food well and eliminating those foods that you notice are having the biggest impact on your symptoms.

Tip No. 4 – Digestive enzyme supplements

Digestive enzymes break down our food into nutrients so our bodies can absorb them. But as we age, we naturally produce fewer of these helpful enzymes. You can counteract this by increasing your intake of foods that are higher in them – foods include pineapples, papayas, mangoes, honey, bananas, avocados, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kiwifruit and ginger.

If you aren’t a fan of these foods, instead try a digestive enzyme capsule (available from health food shops), which will give your system a gentle boost to help it do its job properly. This might be a good help over the festive season.

Tip No. 5 – Time Out

It’s important to space out your meals so the digestive system actually gets a chance to rest. This might require some self discipline, if your house is routinely full of bowls of nuts or towers of chocolate boxes.

Eating every 3-4 hours is a good benchmark to aim for, and gives the body enough time to completely digest the previous meal and have a break before you put it to work again. Of course there will be days when your eating routine falls out of whack, but don’t beat yourself up. Just try and get back on track the following day – no guilt allowed!

Tip No. 6 – Walk it Off

When you walk shortly after you’ve eaten, magic starts to happen. To start, a gentle walk lowers your blood sugar levels, so your body makes less insulin. As insulin is the fat-storage hormone, taking a gentle stroll for 15 minutes makes you less likely to store fat and gain weight. Walking can also help you digest your food better, according to research. This is because a gentle walk increases the speed at which the food moves through the digestive system.

Go ahead - try these tips out for yourself this Christmas and see if any of your symptoms improve. If you have been struggling with digestive problems for a while, book a call at I can help you understand what might be going on in your gut and take greater steps towards a resolution.


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