The Christmas period is often associated with indulgence. Large roast dinners, desserts, chocolates by the thousands…and lots of celebrating with alcohol. Although a little indulgence is absolutely fine on occasion, Christmas time can increase the frequency, with terms like ‘it’s Christmas’ often being used as rationalisation.
With the lead up to Christmas starting earlier and earlier, the temptations become plentiful. This puts a lot of stress on our digestive system, with lots of carbohydrates, fats, sugars and proteins to break down sufficiently. As one of many side effects, our stomach can begin to feel bloated and uncomfortable.
To help battle some of that bloating, I’ve been speaking with Beth Morris, BioCare Clinical Nutritionist who has kindly shared her top tips for looking after your digestive system without missing out on the festive fun!
What happens in the body when we bloat?
Beth says, “Essentially bloating is the sensation of increased pressure in the abdominal area which can cause discomfort and pain, excess gas with burping, and heartburn. If we don’t have adequate stomach acid or enzymes to digest our food, we can then have ‘maldigestion’ where undigested proteins can get stuck in the colon, leading to unpleasant bloating and gas.”
Are some foods worse than others for bloating?
“Gut health is absolutely vital for our general health. Our ability to digest food and absorb nutrients from the food we consume is reliant on our digestive health. Certain foods can negatively impact our gut health, such as those that are high in gluten, dairy, trans fats and added sugars, which can be abundant in the ‘luxurious’ foods we indulge into at Christmas time. Deserts, baked goods and chocolates as well and processed/cured meats and pastries are all commonly eaten in excess and are the usual culprits to digestive symptoms such as bloating.”
How can we relieve discomfort from bloating?
“Relax and enjoy – it is only once a year after all. The Christmas stress may raise your cortisol and cause you to crash and burn and so you may be more susceptible to lowered immunity and a ‘stressed stomach’. When we feel stressed, the digestive system can become depleted in enzymes and stomach acid, which both help to break down carbohydrates and proteins. So make time to relax every day and ensure you get some good quality sleep (so watch the coffee and the alcohol).”
“I’d also suggest taking a supplement to take the load of your digestive system and increase your digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes help us break down sugars, carbohydrates, proteins and fats in foods. Look for a supplement that contains a broad spectrum of these enzymes to aid digestion and relieve symptoms such as acid reflux and bloating. BioCare’s Polyzyme Forte® (Enzyme Complex) is a staple for me this time of year.”
Three top tips for giving your digestive system a helping hand this Christmas
- Try not to over indulge this Christmas, introducing some self-control and balance in your diet. For example, if you know you have a family dinner in the evening, arm yourself with a breakfast high in good quality protein, healthy fats and loaded with antioxidants. A healthy ‘fry up’ is an easy and hearty breakfast choice, including poached eggs, wilted spinach, grilled tomatoes, homemade baked beans and sliced avocado. This is a wonderful way to replenish your body. Remember to save your main indulgence for the big day, Christmas Day itself, and enjoy every single mouthful.
- Instead of waiting until the New Year, try to gently detox your body throughout the Christmas period. This can reduce your chances of weight gain and feeling generally fatigued and run down. Green vegetables and fruits really are your friend as they are packed full of nutrients and support the detoxification process of rich food and alcohol from your body. Smoothies including kale, spinach, broccoli, and apples can be a great way to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs. As it is winter time, you can also put green vegetables into a soup for lunch or dinner, adding in herbs such as coriander, which is highly detoxifying and full of plant chemicals.
- Although it is tempting to curl up on the sofa after eating Christmas dinner, a good way to get your digestion moving is to put on your hat and scarf and go for a walk. Gentle exercise can stimulate the digestion and support healthy passage of stools.
Three top tips for giving your digestive system the best start to 2019
- Stress can deplete us of essential nutrients and have a large impact on our digestive system, so it would be important to focus on taking time every day to relax as the stressful winter comes to a close. Things like mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, knitting etc., good sleep hygiene and spending quality time with family and friends in the outdoors can really help boost your mood and regain
- Taking a good quality probiotic supplement may help regulate digestion and get you back on track. It’s an effective way to keep your gut bacteria levels topped up. I suggest BioCare’s Everyday BioAcidophilus.
- After over eating through the Christmas period, it’s important to get our eating habits back on track. Portion control and resisting the urge to eat and snack to excess are easy ways to support the pancreas as well as leaving a gap between your evening meal and bedtime. This can disrupt sleeping patterns and the gut’s ability to repair at night.
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