With all the indulging that goes on around the holiday table, it’s common for women to feel bloated and uncomfortable. I often hear about digestive issues that many women face during the holidays. The good news? You don’t have to suffer!
While relishing the seasonal delights is a must, the connection between the food we consume and our digestive health is undeniable. As a holistic and integrative doctor, my mission is to guide you towards a balanced approach to nutrition, ensuring that the joy of holiday meals doesn’t leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing some simple tips and tricks on how you can prepare your gut for digestion and reduce bloating.
Moderation with Trigger Foods
Gluten, dairy, and sugar, ubiquitous at so many gatherings, are common culprits behind gut issues—ranging from acid reflux and stomach pain to abdominal bloating and indigestion.
During the holidays, it’s realistic to assume you’re going to indulge in a few foods that contain things like added sugar and gluten—even if you tend to avoid them usually. If your plan is to avoid common trigger foods altogether, that’s great, but having a backup plan can help your digestion get back on track and relieve bloating a little quicker.
Prime Your Digestive System for Larger Meals
Let’s explore natural remedies to prepare your gut for optimal digestion and address post-mean gastrointestinal symptoms if they do arise.
One of the easiest ways to prepare your gut for digestion is by consuming a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in a little water before each meal. It helps to stimulate stomach acid production, which aids in the breakdown of food and prevents bloating (1).
Low stomach acid is common with age, as well as with thyroid issues, and even some types of hormonal birth control (2,3). Prompting the release of stomach acid with ACV helps tell the esophageal sphincter (the gate between the stomach and esophagus) to close, preventing stomach contents from causing acid reflux.
You can mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with about an ounce of water, and drink it just prior to eating. Just make sure to use raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the “mother” intact for maximum benefits.
You can also begin your day with this same routine, or incorporate cider vinegar into things like salad dressings. This simple addition can enhance digestion and mitigate the chances of post-meal bloating.
Probiotics are good bacteria that help to keep your gut healthy. Consuming them regularly can prevent digestive issues and bloating. These beneficial bacteria also produce enzymes and other fatty acids that break down foods and help us absorb nutrients.
You can find probiotics in foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut. If you’re not a fan of these foods, you can always take a probiotic supplement.
Sometimes, we don’t produce enough digestive enzymes to break down certain foods. This can lead to bloating, indigestion, and other digestive issues. Digestive enzyme supplements can help to break down complex carbohydrates, fats, and proteins more effectively.
Papaya enzymes, which are a natural source of compounds that help to break down foods, are a handy addition to your purse or travel bag and work great as an alternative to other chalky antacid remedies (4).
If you didn’t have a chance to prepare your gut for your favorite holiday comfort foods and you’re feeling the digestive symptoms, here’s what to do if bloating occurs.
If bloating does occur, activated charcoal can help to relieve symptoms in the digestive tract. It works by binding to gas-producing compounds in the gut, reducing the amount of gas produced and aiding in digestion (5).
The process of activating charcoal creates millions of tiny pores on the surface, making it incredibly absorbent, and that’s how it works in your stomach. It essentially absorbs or mops up toxins and harmful bacteria, preventing them from being absorbed by your gut lining.
Just make sure not to take it with other supplements or medications, as it can interfere with absorption.
Peppermint tea can help to soothe digestive discomfort and relieve bloating (6). It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to relax the muscles of your digestive tract, helping to alleviate intestinal gas that’s often the cause of abdominal pain. Mint teas have been used to soothe symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease and IBS (7).
You can use both spearmint & peppermint leaves, as both of these mint varieties have naturally-occurring compounds that gently relax the GI tract. For those with PCOS, spearmint tea has other exciting benefits as well.
Herbs have been used for centuries in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine to soothe the digestive system. They work by creating a protective layer in the digestive tract and reducing inflammation. You can find them in tea form or take them in supplement form.
- Slippery elm, renowned for its mucilage content, helps coat and soothe the digestive tract.
- Marshmallow root, with its anti-inflammatory properties, offers relief from irritation.
- Chamomile, a gentle herb, calms digestive muscles and eases discomfort. Chamomile has also been shown to decrease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some people (8).
Sip on herbal teas or incorporate these herbs into your routine to provide your digestive system with the TLC it deserves.
Related: 10 Warning Signs of An Unhealthy Gut
What to Remember
Holiday gatherings should be a time of joy, not discomfort. By implementing these simple tips and tricks, you can beat the holiday bloat and enjoy all of your favorite foods without worrying about feeling uncomfortable afterward.