Is everyone ready for their winter break? Right now, I'm in Rhode Island, soaking up my last few days across the pond before heading back to London next week and spending Christmas with my husband's family.
Tummy troubles do not have to be a given around the holidays. It seems that we put up with indigestion, bloating, heartburn, and elimination issues because we assume it's normal. I'm sure the odd upset stomach affects all of us at some point around the holiday season, and this comes down to a variety of factors.
Traveling, playing host/ess, and spending extra money can all create added stress. In turn, this stress affects us physically, most often through IBS symptoms, such as bloating, cramps, gas, diarrhea, or constipation.
The holiday feast is something we all look forward to, and for great reason! It's the culmination of a celebratory season. But with all of that food comes a taxed digestive system.
Parties and gatherings = alcohol. While I couldn't call myself a nutrition advisor without first mentioning that, except for the occasional glass of red wine (and organic red wine at that!), I'm not a big advocate of drinking. It creates physical issues that can easily be resolved by avoiding it all together. But I'm a realist and know that alcohol is a part of most of our lives and a vital part of our social culture. Awareness of how it affects you digestively is important, though, so keep it in mind next time you're headed out on the town. (Next week, I'll be addressing hangovers, so don't worry if you've indulged!)
Those pretty little bowls of candy and chips that seem to appear everywhere at Christmas time are dangerously addictive. We can all too easily pack away salty and sweet snacks that we otherwise wouldn't touch simply because they're there. These contribute to a sluggish and weakened digestive system.
- Stay hydrated! Plenty of pure, filtered water will keep your system in good working order. For every non-water beverage you consume, supplement it with another glass of water. Most of us don't drink enough water in a day which can create loads of unpleasant symptoms associated with dehydration.
- Eat the rainbow. The holidays aren't usually a time for fresh and raw fruit and vegetable consumption, and this can affect our digestion in a major way (not to mention our overall health). Try and continue your colorful fruit and veg consumption during the festive season with green smoothies, veggie canapes, chopped fruit with breakfast, and lightly steamed vegetable side dishes with evening meals.
- Walk after meals. Taking a snowy walk with your family and friends is not only adorable, it's also a great way to get in a little exercise and encourage peristalsis (the wave-like contractions that move food through your digestive system) to ease that bloated feeling.
- Mindful eating. Savour each homemade bite! Take time to appreciate your food. Chew slowly and stop when you are full (if not just before). Take small bites and encourage dinner table chatting!
- Avoid carbonated beverages. Champagne, prosecco, beer, and sodas all contribute to gas and bloating, so if those are issues for you, try and avoid these drinks or at least keep them to a minimum.
- Probiotics. Improper digestion is a sign that your intestinal flora may be out of balance. Taking probiotics as a supplement will reinnoculate and keep your tummy happy. And consumption of fermented foods, such as tempeh, sauerkraut, and probiotic yogurt, ensures a "top up" of friendly bacteria in the meantime.