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Tips To Improve Digestion Through The Holidays
Feeling extra-stuffed post-Turkey Day is par for the course. But what happens when multiple meals and holiday parties leave you feeling constantly bloated, sometimes even days later?
It’s likely most of us have been in this position and simply dealt with it, or waited things out. However, there are actually several tips and tricks you can do to minimize bloat (and perhaps even prevent it)!
Let’s gather ’round.
1. Digestive Enzymes/Digestive Bitters
A little science here: for every type of macronutrient we digest (carbs, protein, fats), there is a corresponding enzyme produced by our bodies that helps break down and digest it. Protease helps us digest protein, lipase helps break down fats, and amylase helps us digest starches, or carbs.
Typically, the production of these enzymes is kicked off the moment a certain type of food touches our tongue. However, there are many, many factors that can disrupt normal enzyme production (and this is something to pay attention to if you’re experiencing bloat quite often, not just during the holidays). Stress can halt enzyme production, as well as not eating enough bitter foods, whose flavor acts as a catalyst to enzymes and gastric juices.
Not to mention, consuming heavy meals with all three macronutrients can require quite a bit more digestive enzymes than normal, which is another reason we feel sluggish after eating the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
To offset this and give your body some assistance, try supplementing with a digestive enzyme blend before meals, and/or a digestive bitter spray (your can find these online). Enzymes are an affordable supplement, and may even help you absorb more nutrients with your meals.
Probiotics are another option to help effectively break down rich foods. These are the “beneficial bugs” that live in our digestive track and assist with nutrient assimilation. To get the most benefit, start supplementing with probiotics regularly, or indulging in more fermented foods daily, like sauerkraut, kimchi, and non-dairy, unsweetened yogurt.
HCL, or hydrochloric acid, is the fancy term for our stomach acid. Like enzymes, it is responsible for breaking down proteins and fats, as well as keeping our digestive system at a certain pH in order to ward off viruses and bacteria. Also like enzymes, HCL levels can drop due to stress, over or under-use (if you don’t eat much meat or protein, you may not release as much HCL with protein meals and feel a bit of discomfort).
To supplement with HCL, you want to be sure to choose a brand that also contains pepsin, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Some people won’t need HCL every day, so try and reserve it for large protein meals (aka: lots of turkey, ham, or even tofu).
4. Limit Snacking
While it’s tempting to snack, especially at get-togethers and holiday parties, try to limit it when possible. When we snack excessively between meals, our digestive system has no opportunity to “rest” between what it perceives as meals, which can leave you feeling sluggish and bloated as your body works to digest food from hours ago PLUS new food.
5. Reduce Portion Sizes
Have you ever eaten just enough to where you felt satisfied, yet not overly full? This is the feeling you should aim for with any meal, as over-eating can, once again, tax your digestive system and cause your belly to expand. Eating smaller portions equals less food to break down overall, meaning your body can do it faster and more efficiently.
6. Ginger and Peppermint Tea
Ginger and peppermint both contain anti-inflammatory compounds and have been shown to have positive effects on digestion and reducing bloating, gas, nausea, and other digestive issues. Drinking these post-large-meal and before bed can help soothe a bloated tummy, and work on “moving things along” as you sleep.
Movement is also great for bloating and digestive issues, with yoga being particularly helpful! When we twist and bend we help not only increase circulation (get things moving) but we also encourage any air (aka: gas) to pass out of the digestive system, lessening our discomfort. Try doing a flow with various twists to get relief.
The Bottom Line
Most of these techniques are relatively affordable, and when combined can truly help, at the very least, reduce the amount of time you spend feeling bloated and off. We know the feeling isn’t the greatest (and kind of makes you not want to leave the house!), so give them a shot through the holiday season and see how you feel!
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