Nutritionally speaking, the festive season is a total shock to the system. Suddenly we’re eating large roast dinners with rich desserts, devouring endless boxes of chocolates, and drinking countless glasses of champagne.
December is, without doubt, the month when our digestive system takes its biggest hit with all the feasting. And while Christmas is a time to let go a little and indulge, there is a downside, and that comes in the form of bloating – sometimes quite painful bloating.
Christmas Day is when people will feel most bloated and it’s no surprise given that the average person consumes around 6,000 calories on December 25th alone – at least three times the amount we need!
Bloating can really put a dampener on the celebrations, especially if you want to dress up and look nice, and don’t want to have to wear a giant bin bag in preparation for your stomach’s inevitable expansion.
If you’re a sufferer of IBS, certain foods can trigger symptoms, so it’s important to avoid and/or limit them during the Christmas period, however hard it may be!
And for those of you who don’t have IBS but still bloat? The main reason you bloat during the festive season is because of the excess of food and drink, particularly if your body is not used to that type of diet, or you’re over 50 and have found that your digestive system is not as robust as it once was.
Your digestive system has a certain capacity to digest food. Just think about the size of your stomach, for example. The stomach of an adult is approximately 12 inches long and 6 inches wide, with around a litre of capacity. Yes, it does have the capacity to stretch, but there is no doubt about it, Christmas food and drink puts the organs of digestion under strain, not to mention the chemicals involved in digesting food – saliva, enzymes, mucous, bile, bacteria.
You can just imagine the amount of energy having to be produced in the body to deal with this mountain of food and drink, so it’s not surprising that we can sometimes feel quite ill when we overeat. If you feel unwell, or you simply want to go to sleep after the feasting, take it as a warning sign from your body telling you to stop, as it can’t take any more.
For more on the ins and outs (excuse the pun!) of bloating, you can download my Bloating Brochure here.
So how can we eat our Christmas meal and not end up looking like a stuffed turkey?
It is still possible to enjoy the traditional foods and not bloat; it all comes down to the food choices you make and the amount you consume.
Avoid eating a large volume of food in one sitting, as this can lead to becoming uncomfortably full and bloated. Aim for ‘little and often’ instead.
When you do load up your plate for Christmas, make mindful choices – go easy on the potatoes, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower for a start. There are lots more tips on how to survive Christmas dinner in my Christmas Survival Guide, including alternatives and gluten-free options.
What are the tips and tricks for preventing bloating when we still want to eat our body weight in food over the festive period?
- There are so many tempting treats around at Christmas time, but it’s important to get the balance right to minimise bloating, and this includes portion control. I recently purchased some new plates, and opted for pasta plates instead of the larger dinner plates. This is a great way of reducing the amount of food you serve up, and you can still have a little bit of everything.
- Don’t forget to chew too. Each mouthful should be chewed at least 30 times so the food is like a paste before you swallow it.
- If you have weak digestion, don’t drink water with your meals; a small glass of red wine with lunch or dinner is OK, however, as this will aid digestion. I always keep Fever Tree tonic water in at home because it contains real quinine and this can help relieve biliousness after eating too much, as can good old-fashioned Andrews Liver Salts, which help to alkalise an acidic stomach. (Fortunately we can still buy Andrews Liver Salts – not been banned yet!)
- Sit up straight! No slumping in the chair as it can create kinks and bends in your digestive tract causing spasm and pain.
- Avoid getting constipated. This is so important. If you’re eating more food, you should notice more poo in the toilet bowl. If not, where is it? In your bowel, putrefying and creating gas and bloating. If you’re prone to constipation, drink plenty of water, get some exercise during Christmas and, if necessary, take some natural laxatives like Senokot to get things moving.
- Don’t forget to book in for that colon hydrotherapy treatment in January. Your poor, overworked digestive system will thank you for it.
What should I eat – and avoid – to prevent bloating?
Here’s a short summary – a naughty and nice list if you will – of what to reduce and the alternatives that will minimise the Christmas bloat. There’s a more comprehensive list in both my Bloating Brochure and Christmas Survival Guide, so do take time to download them and have a read!
The naughty list
- Bread sauce – there are plenty of things you can still enjoy during a traditional Christmas lunch, however, I would suggest avoiding the bread sauce, as it contains gluten, sugars and yeast, which are all bloating triggers
- Wind producing foods, such as Brussel sprouts, cauliflower or cabbage
- Alcohol – try and limit the amount of alcohol you consume and stick to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that don’t contain fizz
- Cheese – avoid aged cheeses, such as blue cheese, and go for the harder varieties – in moderation. Eat them with gluten-free crackers. I love Nairns gluten-free cheese crackers (available from all supermarkets) or Erbology Greek olive crackers from Ocado
- Dairy products – try to go easy on the cream / custard that you pour over your Christmas pud; there are plenty of dairy-free alternatives that are more tummy-friendly
- Chocolates and other Christmas treats – who doesn’t love a box of truffles or a few choccy coins at Christmas? The hard part is knowing when to stop! Maybe you can take one then give the rest away, or give them to someone to hide so that you aren’t tempted to go back for more!
The nice list
- Try to opt for the lower fat content main dishes, e.g. fish or turkey rather than lamb/beef or pork
- Kick off Christmas Day with eggs and smoked salmon – this will give you plenty of energy, and fill you up enough to not go overboard when it comes to the main meal
- Eat healthy snacks before drinking any alcohol to prevent it reaching the bloodstream too rapidly. A combination of protein and carbs (e.g., carrot sticks and hummus) will help the body absorb sugars and extend energy.
- Make as much of your Christmas food as you can from scratch – I know this is not always possible, but there are lots of simple, healthy recipes that will help reduce the likelihood of bloating because you have control over the ingredients
- Prepare some healthy food ahead of time so that you can freeze it and then have it after Christmas – a simple, soothing vegetable soup works wonders! Once all the festive eating is over, a diet that is low in carbs will help reduce appetite and offset any excesses. It is better to have some carbs than none at all – so limit your intake to one meal a day rather than having them with all three.
- After a day of heavy eating, try to follow it with a light day of steamed vegetables and water. Treat it as a ‘detox day’ after overindulging.
There are lots more useful tips on how to make choices that won’t send your digestive system into turmoil, along with a couple of lovely tummy-friendly festive food recipes in my Christmas Survival Guide, which you can download here: LINK
What are the best supplements to take to reduce bloating?
A simple supplementation protocol, such as the one I suggest with my Christmas Survival Kit, will go a long way towards tummy-proofing your way into the festive season.
My Kit contains 60 Live Bacteria capsules, 60 Digestive Enzymes tablets, 60 Milk Thistle tablets, and 6 FREE Tummy Tea bags, designed to protect and support your digestive system. You can buy the kit by clicking on the image below:
How about a charcoal cleanse?
This is something I recommend all year round, but there really is no better time to do my 5-day Charcoal cleanse than during December.
This is what Sharon had to say about the cleanse:
‘Amazing! Did Linda’s 5-day Charcoal cleanse and I’ve never had such a flat stomach. Bloating has gone completely.’
If you would like to try this cleanse, you can buy my Charcoal capsules by clicking on the image below:
I hope the tips in this blog post, including the advice on taking the natural, gluten-free and vegan supplements in my Christmas Survival Kit will enable you to enjoy the festive celebrations with your family and friends.
I would love to hear how you get on, so please do share your feedback with me on firstname.lastname@example.org