We have all been there, with an endless supply of wine and cheeses, family members encouraging thirds of Christmas dinner, or the cornucopia of decadent desserts, eventually your digestion system will tell you “enough is enough” and make it known its not too happy with what you are putting it through. Despite the endorphin release from indulging in your favourite foods, bloating, flatulence, excess abdominal fat and indigestion often ensue to help steer you towards more health conscious choices.
Here are few of the main culprits that can be behind your bloated belly and a few tips to help your body cope:
- Low levels of stomach acid – Low stomach acid in combination with a large amount of rich food can lead to major gastrointestinal strain. This is because our stomach acid is essential to help us break down our food into absorbable parts. This may be the cause of your bloating if you feel overly full after eating or if you experience constipation, heartburn, or see undigested food in your stools. Take a look at your fingernails – if you have vertical ridges this can be a key sign of low stomach acid.
TIP: Try having a teaspoon of fermented apple cider vinegar (ACV) before and after enjoying your meal. Fermented ACV adds probiotic benefit.
- Food sensitivities – We tend to consume a high concentration of the most inflammatory foods when celebrating a holiday, such as dairy, eggs, rice, refined sugar, wheat, corn and soy. So it is natural to experience inflammation within our gastrointestinal system including heartburn, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, among other concerns.
TIP: After the fun and games have past, consider completing a 14 day elimination diet to remove the most common triggers (as listed above) and reintroduce each individual item in isolation to identify which food aggravates you the most. Your naturopathic doctor can help you navigate this process if needed.
- Lack of Fibre – Ensuring proper fibre intake may be one of the most challenging tasks through the holiday season but one of the most important. It helps to balance blood sugar and also helps to defend against constipation and bloating. Vegetables and fruit may be the easiest food sources over the holidays, but you could also add 1-2 tbsp of ground flaxseeds to a rice dish or cereal in the morning.
TIP: If the flaxseed doesn’t provide relief, try to steep 1 tea bag of chamomile and 1 tea bag of peppermint tea together in a mug for 10 minutes. Enjoy up to 3 cups per day to help promote a bowel movement.
- Consider a probiotic – Probiotics provide healthy micro-organisms to your gastrointestinal tract to aid in digestion of your food. This may be particularly helpful when you are eating foods that are rich in sugar and refined carbohydrates which most likely are contributing to gas ad bloating through the holidays. There are many other health benefits of probiotics including immune boosting properties, skin health, mental emotional support, among others, and your naturopathic doctor will be able to help you navigate which one is best for you.
TIP: I would recommend seeking the guidance of a naturopathic doctor, but should you wish to experiment on your own, consider dairy-free product with both acidophilus and bifido bacterium.
- Don’t forget to chew! – Sometimes we forget to start simple and realize digestion starts when we chew our food. Take your time to enjoy each bite and you may realize you feel full faster as well!
TIP: Aiming to chew between 6-12 times before swallowing is the goal!
To give yourself the gift of a healthier lifestyle this holiday season, schedule your appointment with Dr. Kate McLaird at the Toronto Wellness Centre online!