My Top Tips to Beat the Christmas Belly Bloat
We’re all prone to a little indulgence at Christmas (yes, even me), but rich food and overeating can play havoc with your digestion, leaving you feeling bloated and uncomfortable for months to come. 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.
· 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 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. Just follow my expert tips to trouble-proof your tummy 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.
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.
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)!
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.
BALANCE YOUR STOMACH ACID
Sales for heartburn tablets 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).
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, you can neutralise the acid by taking a little bicarbonate of soda.
TAKE A DIGESTIVE ENZYME SUPPLEMENT
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 – eating pineapple or papaya before a meal can help.
If you aren’t a fan of these fruits, 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.
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!
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 free 20 minute call at https://www.goodfoodnutrition.co.uk/free-consultation. I can help you understand what might be going on in your gut and take greater steps towards a resolution.
To book your free health call with Aine and see how she can help you with your digestion or any other health issues you may have, click FREE mini consultation today.