It goes without saying that the holidays are often filled will indulging in foods that we wouldn't typically eat. The average weight gain over the holidays is 7 to 9 pounds. While some of this weight gain is attributed to an overconsumption of excess carbs and sugar and overall increased consumption of calories, it also related to impaired digestion.
If we aren't properly digesting our food, it can prevent food from being properly broken down, thus resulting in bloating, constipation, cramping, weight gain etc.
Below are some easy tips to aid in digestion and alleviate the symptoms of bloating and digestive discomfort over the holiday season!
1. Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice to Your Water
Incorporating Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice 15-20 minutes before a meal will help increase digestive enzymes (which are protein based compounds that help you break down food) and help decrease transit time.
2. Avoid PPI's, Antacids, or Any Over the Counter Acid-Suppressing Drugs
Digestion in the stomach is most optimal at a pH of 1.5 to 3. Acid-Suppressing drugs increase the pH of the stomach, thus preventing the action of enzymes that play a key role in digestion. While the theory is that heart burn and acid reflux is caused by an over production of stomach acid, it actually couldn't be more opposite.
As a society, our intake of medications, sugar, alcohol, and processed carbs has resulted in a decrease in stomach acid production. We need stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) to effectively break down food and kill off any potential pathogenic bugs. However, when stomach acid is suppressed, it prevents the break down of food. This can lead to bacteria accumulating in the stomach, which can migrate towards the small intestine and wreak more havoc on the digestive tract.
PPI's (Proton Pumping Inhibitors), the most common being Omeprazole (or Prilosec), harms your heart, brain, kidneys and gut. Apple Cider Vinegar or hydrochloric acid is a much better alternative to these acid-suppressing drugs. I recommend starting with ACV first!
3. Stay Hydrated
Drinking less water slows down your digestion significantly. Making sure you're consuming half your body weight in ounces is important. If you plan on drinking alcohol, coffee, caffeinated tea, or juice, you should be even more conscious of your water intake. These beverages are diuretics and will cause greater dehydration.
4. Avoid Drinking Water Directly Before or After Meals
While stay hydrated is important for gut motility, drinking water directly before, during or after meals actually dilutes the strength of digestive enzymes. The less strength the enzyme has, the slower food is digested and the more likely you are to feel bloated.
This is not to say you cannot drink water with meals. Sips with a meal is perfectly fine. However, drinking water 20 minutes before meals and at least an hour after will help improve digestion and absorption.
5. Drink Peppermint or Ginger Tea
Peppermint and ginger tea will help regulate stomach acidity, stimulate peristalsis (movement of food through the intestines) and decrease transit time.
For Ginger Tea, I recommend grating 4 to 6 quarter-size pieces of ginger. Drop them in a pot filled with water. Bring the water to boil cover and steep for 10 minutes
6. Increase Probiotics & Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on sugar and starch to create lactic acid. The process of fermentation preserves the foods and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, omega 3-fatty acids and various strands of probiotics (that will help increase beneficial bacteria in the gut).
Traditionally fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and tempeh will help balance the production of stomach acid, improve nutrient absorption and aid in digestion. I always recommend Incorporating 1/2 cup of kimchi or sauerkraut with your meals. It's best with all three meals, but starting with just one meal will still make a difference!
While you can make all these foods, you can easily purchase them at the store. Here is my favorite sauerkraut brand. They also have a great Gut Shot product if you're not one for sauerkraut. Always look for your favorite fermented foods to be refrigerated and with minimal added ingredients.
7. Slow Down Your Eating
Eat your food slowly, always chew thoroughly. Take deep breaths. When you are relaxed, this is when digestion is most optimal! You will notice some of these tips are a slight repeat of my 10 Tips For a Guilt-Free Holiday Season, but that is primarily because some of these points are so important!
8. Incorporate Movement
Even if you're just going on a walk, exercise will help increase gut motility. Even a gentle belly massive or easy spinal twists will help increase the digestion of food through the intestines and promote a bowel movement.
Try lying on the ground with your arms out in a T-shape. Bring your legs into your chest and move your knees slowly from side to side, ensuring that both shoulders are planted on the ground. Yoga is also a great way to focus on deep breaths and spinal twists that will help promote digestion and cleanse organs.
9. Avoid Foods You Are Sensitive To
If you have a sensitivity or allergy to specific foods that cause you a lot of pain, indigestion, bloating and upset stomach, I highly recommend avoiding them.
With over 70% of the population have a food sensitivity to dairy, I would say your conventional milks, cheeses, and ice cream are the number one culprits for all these unwanted ailments. If you have a sensitivity to dairy, I highly recommend avoiding it or sticking to raw dairy.
10. Take Activated Charcoal or Digestive Enzymes
If you plan on traveling over the holiday season, plan to eat foods you have not prepared or simply have a hard time avoiding foods you are sensitive to, I recommend taking activated charcoal. It is a safe and effective way to help your body flush out toxins. It also helps prevent gas and bloating. Read more on the benefits from Dr. Axe here.
Some of you might not be familiar with digestive enzymes, but I also recommend them as an effective way to aid in digestion.
If you are experiencing:
- Gas and bloating after every meal
- Feel full after a few bites
- Continue to feel full after a meal for an hour or more
- Undigested food in your stools
- Floating stools
- Stools aren't well formed
- An "oil slick" in your stool (suggesting undigested fats)
You might want to consider taking enzymes in the future. If this is you, please feel free to reach out to me at Ali@NourishedAbundance.com. I would be happy to talk to you more about what protocol that would benefit your body and promote digestion. No individual is the same, so it would be impossible for everyone to benefit from the same enzyme.
I hope you all found this list helpful! What other ways have you found help alleviate bloating? Feel free to leave in the comments below.
Have a wonderful holiday! Enjoy this time and give thanks for having the opportunity to spend time with family and friends!
In Abundant Health,