Holiday Bloating: How to Boost Your Digestion This Holiday Season

With the holidays approaching, we are sharing some tips for reducing bloating and indigestion. So, if you find yourself eating more sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and food in general over the holidays, this can help!

Here are some ways you can support yourself before and during meals to improve your digestion, and then after your meal if you find you’re more bloated than usual.

Before You Eat

Incorporate a digestive aid about 15 minutes before your meal

If you know you have a big meal coming up or are eating food that maybe isn’t part of your regular diet (i.e. more sugar, more bread, cheese, etc.), there are a few steps you can take to “prime” your digestive system about 15 minutes before your meal, to be better able to digest your food. Essentially, you’re stimulating your stomach to produce enough stomach acid (important for all of your digestive processes).

Here are some steps you can take, from the lightest to the strongest. I would choose one of these, not all at once:

  • Lemon water (½ a lemon mixed with 1 cup of water)
  • Apple cider vinegar (1 tsp - 1 TBSP mixed with a bit of water)
  • Digestive bitters - Bitters are made of bitter herbs that help stimulate stomach acid secretion. Stomach acid helps to stimulate the rest of the digestive process and is needed for proper digestion. My favourite is by St. Francis Herb Farm.
  • Digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile* - You can take supplemental digestive enzymes, which work in conjunction with your own digestive enzymes to help you digest food. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is supplemental stomach acid (not to be used if you have ulcers). Bile helps digest fats and is especially helpful for those of you who’ve had your gallbladder removed. You can sometimes get these in a formula that includes all three but I recommend starting with digestive enzymes as they’re the most gentle.

*This is not medical advice. Please consult with your practitioner before incorporating new supplements.

Holiday Bloating: How to Boost Your Digestion This Holiday Season

While You’re Eating

Keep up your veggie intake

The fiber found in vegetables is a great way to keep your digestion on track. Sugar, grains, and processed foods can be constipating, but veggies can help keep things moving. Dark leafy greens are a great source of fiber, as well as artichokes, which contain the prebiotic inulin. A review of research on inulin and constipation found that inulin increases stool frequency, improves consistency and decreases gut transit time (aka the speediness of your digestion). Bitter leafy greens also support digestion by promoting the release of bile, stomach acid and digestive enzymes. 

An easy way to do this through the holidays is a smoothie with a few handfuls of greens each day!

Chew Your Food Really Well

The process of digestion starts with the sight and smell of food and the act of chewing. Chewing helps to break up your food to prep it for the rest of your digestive system to break down further. Saliva contains the enzyme, salivary amylase, which starts to break down carbohydrates. If you skip this important step, you’re making more work for the rest of your digestive system.

Tune Into Your Meals & Relax

Part of digestion is actually mental and your digestion is slowed when you’re stressed or when you eat in a rush. While this isn’t always convenient, the great thing about the holidays is that they’re often a time to slow down, unplug, and really enjoy your meals with your loved ones. If you feel a bit stressed going into dinner, take some deep breaths, which can help lower your cortisol levels.

After Your Meal

If you ended up overeating or feeling more bloated than usual, firstly, don’t worry about it and be kind to yourself! It happens and hey, it was probably a really delicious meal!

Some things you can do to reduce bloating following a meal:

  • Go for a walk. This actually helps to reduce bloating by making it easier to pass gas. Movement in general is also a great laxative.
  • Drink a cup of herbal tea (slowly). Herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, ginger and dandelion can all help reduce bloating and aid in digestion.
  • Sip on apple cider vinegar or lemon water. I usually do 1 cup of water with ½ a lemon or a shot of apple cider vinegar. I’ve found both can help reduce bloating following a meal by helping to stimulate stomach acid and bile, which you need to properly digest food.

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