From the smell of mulled wine to the warm glow of candles, Christmas is a truly magical time of the year. Family gatherings, work parties and all that tasty food are central to the wonderful experience that the festivities bring. For those of us with a sensitive digestive system however, December can be a somewhat problematic month.
If you happen to be one of these people, don’t despair, our nutritional therapist, Eva Humphries, DipION, mBANT, CNHC, rounds up the latest science on getting through the festive season without discomfort.
Eat little and often
Irrespective of how well your digestive system functions, overeating is the biggest cause of bloating (1). Whilst in ordinary circumstances it would be ideal to leave gaps between meals in order to allow the digestive system to clear and repair (2), let’s assume that this isn’t going to happen over the Christmas period with so much tempting food ‘on tap’. We are allowed to treat ourselves every now and then after all. So over the festive season, aim to have smaller amounts of the food you desire since large quantities of it are more likely to sit in the gut, expand, ferment and cause that uncomfortable bloated feeling. Interestingly, adopting more of a ‘I can eat what I like’ mindset is less likely to lead to episodes of binge eating (3) and more likely to contribute to a positive mental attitude. So go for it – relax and enjoy the food, just focus on small regular meals.
Boost your digestion
Depending on your sensitivities, you may find certain foods harder to digest than others.
Luckily, there are ways to give the digestive process a little boost:
- Protein digestion can be enhanced by consuming a small salad dressed with lemon juice prior to a meat-rich meal. A good level of stomach acid is required for efficient protein breakdown (4) and the lemon juice acts as a mild boost.
- Stimulating the gall bladder with bitter foods such as rocket, endive or artichoke can improve the way fats are absorbed (5).
- Taking Just for Tummies Digestive Enzymes brings together ingredients that can boost stomach acid for better protein digestion; the additional enzymes speed up the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Taken before a meal, the supplements can also assist with processing greater quantities of food.
- Remember that your best asset in the digestive process is chewing. Chewing food fully reduces the possibility of chunks of food ending up in the colon, fermenting and causing bloating.
With the abundance of alcohol and caffeine around during the festive period, coupled with the less than pleasant outdoor conditions, you’d be forgiven for trying to give a cold glass of water a miss. Sadly, the lack of water intake alongside higher caffeine and alcohol consumption contributes to dehydration (6). When it comes to tummy troubles, this is not good news since dehydration is a factor in constipation (7).
As a rule of thumb, aim to drink a 200ml glass of water with each caffeinated or alcoholic beverage. Herbal teas are generally caffeine-free so they make a great warming replacement for water. Some teas, including ones containing liquorice, ginger, fennel or peppermint, such as the Just For Tummies Tummy Tea, even have tummy-soothing properties. And just in case you accidentally find yourself with a hangover, milk thistle works wonders (8). The Just For Tummies Milk Thistle tablets are therefore another festive season must-have!
Balance gut bacteria
The final piece in the bloating and gas production puzzle lies in the colon, where friendly, as well as some unfriendly, bacteria ferment fibre and other undigested materials. There are many different colonies of bacteria, some make vital nutrients such as Vitamin K and biotin for us, and others just cause havoc. The relative balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria can influence the degree of bloating and gas (9). Whilst changing this balance to a more beneficial one takes time, a systematic review of evidence conducted by Durham University found that supplementing with certain strains of bacteria can improve symptoms such as bloating, gas and distention (10).
The Just For Tummies Live Bacteria recolonise the gut with friendly strains of bacteria – the lacto acidophilus and the lacto rhamnosus strains in particular, shown in a review of evidence to be effective in reducing two of the main symptoms of IBS – bloating and abdominal pain. These magical capsules are one part of the Just For Tummies Seasonal Survival Kit, (the Kit also includes Digestive Enzymes, Milk Thistle and Tummy Tea) the go-to product to get you through the festive period by supporting gut health and building immunity.
We hope that Christmas just got a whole lot easier on your tummy. Enjoy the festivities!
Eva Humphries DipION, mBANT, CNHC is a Midlands-based registered nutritional therapist, speaker, columnist and founder of the health and wellbeing site www.wholefoodwarrior.co.uk.
Having become disillusioned with the diet and weight loss industries, Eva translates the latest science on various health- related topics to promote evidence-based nutrition.
She believes the gut plays a central role to wellbeing and regularly focuses on digestive health in her nutritional therapy clinic.
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