Holidays seem to always mean lots of dinners, parties, potlucks, and sweet treats that add leaving your tummy far from happy. Bloating, gas, bowel, and digestive troubles can all occur as a result of overindulging and consuming the amounts of rich and fatty foods that tend to come with this time of year.
The good news is there are a few simple things you can do to help soothe your tummy and enhance digestion this holiday season. This way you can enjoy these events without the negative after effects.
1) Wake-up and Drink this
Upon rising, have 2 cups of room temperature water with the juice of half a lemon. This helps to stimulate the secretion of gastric juices (HCl) in the stomach for the day ahead to stimulate healthy digestion. Lemon also promotes the bile secretion in the liver that helps with the breakdown of fat, detoxification and elimination of toxins from our body. Room temperature, as to not shake the system and it’s closer to body temperature.
So how are you supposed to do this first thing? I like to cut up lemons into wedges on Sunday and place them in an airtight container in the fridge for the week. Each night, I will fill up a mason jar with filtered water and secure the lid and leave it out on the counter. This way in the morning everything is ready to go! Easy.
2) Eat Fruit Alone & on an Empty Stomach
We all know that fruit is very healthy and packed with great nutrition, however not eating correctly can have issues for some people with their digestion. Each food group has different digestion times and specific digestive enzymes that break down these foods. The simple sugars contained in fruit need time to be broken down and completely absorbed bin the body. When fruits are eaten alone, your stomach can more easily process all of the nutrients, fiber and the simple sugars contained in the fruit and easily assimilate the nutrients.
However, if you eat fruit with a meal, consume it as a dessert (too close to eating) then it’s held longer in the stomach which leads to rot and fermentation in the gut. What does that mean? Gas, indigestion, heartburn, bloating, discomfort in the gut for some people. People may blame the meal after when they have digestive discomfort but it may just be the poor food combining of simple sugars with fat and protein that causes your upset stomach. If left uncontrolled it could lead to other health problems that stem from the digestive tract. So eat your fruit 30min-1 hour before a meal on an empty stomach and your will reap the digestive benefits. For all my smoothie lovers, don’t panic continue to add small amounts of fruit to your smoothie as the blender helps to breakdown and “predigest” the fruits before you consume them.
3) Digestive Enzymes
Additional supplements like digestive enzymes can be beneficial as they act as a catalyst in speeding up specific chemical reactions in the body. Basically, they help break down larger molecules into more easily absorbed particles, which aids digestive health and overall nutrient absorption. Digestive enzymes can take stress off of the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and intestines by breaking down the difficult-to-digest proteins, starches and fats (such as the types of foods we find over the holiday season).
Digestive Enzymes can be particularly helpful for those with digestive issues such as acid reflux, gas or bloating, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcers or diverticulitis, and diarrhea or constipation.
4) Keep liquids Away During Meal Times
OK, this was a learning curve for me that took some time to adjust too. I grew up being told to fill up a water glass for everyone at the dinner table. However, for optimal digestion you want to keep fluid away from meals. Filling water glasses at the dinner table is an old habit that only flushes the digestive enzymes away we need to aid digestion. If you need water to rinse down your meal down, take only small sips as needed and be conscious of trying and drink pre or posting the dinner versus during the meal.
5) Start your Day Right
Over the holidays your regular routine can be disrupted, so ensure that your breakfast is packed with nutrients your body needs to keep energy high and cravings low. An alkaline superfood smoothie can pack in a ton of veggies and help you feel satisfied all morning. It’s also an easy way to add in foods that are known to support digestion such as ginger root or pineapple that contains bromelain. Check out my Mermaid Superfood Smoothie as a tasty way to start your day and support digestion.
6) Practice Rest & Digest
When we are driving, stressed or eating on the run our body is not in a relaxed state and our sympathetic system is at work. This means we are in “fight or flight” as are body perceives there is a stress response and therefore the blood is redirected from digestive functions too are arms and legs for example so we can avoid the danger. For our digestive functions to ideally breakdown the foods, we need and not cause discomfort to our tummy we want to eat when our body is relaxed and our parasympathetic sympathetic system is at work.
To achieve a rest and digest state we need to not eat while driving, standing or on the run. Sit down, slow down and enjoy. Take the time to slow down in between bites (i.e. put the cutlery down after each bite), this allows you to be thoughtful about chewing your food well. Most people eat quickly and don’t think about chewing their food. Did you know research suggests you chew your food between 10-35 times based on what you are eating? How many times do you chew before swallowing? Digestions starts in the mouth and if you are not chewing properly you use more energy and resources to break the foods down in the intestines and place a greater burden on your digestive track.
Once the food is broken down it is either acidic or alkaline in nature within our body. Now our body is amazing in that it will maintain a perfect pH of 7.35-7.45 in order to keep us alive. However, this takes energy and nutrients to maintain are perfect homeostasis, therefore, your body may steal needed minerals from your bones to perform these functions if the right nutrients are not available from our diet. So what does this mean? Overtime is you eat mainly acidic foods your body is working hard, nutrient deficiencies can arise and long-term disease can develop.
Consuming Alkaline and nutrient dense foods give our body the edge it needs to perform its function of keeping us alive without comprising our health long-term. Christmas foods tend to sit on the Acidic end of the scale (anything white, dairy, meat, or sugar), check out the food chart here for a clearer picture.
So outside of your holiday treats, try and consume high amounts of alkaline foods, which include things like leafy green vegetables, fresh herbs, and pineapple. Check out the blog for further food ideas.