During the holidays it may seem like you just can't avoid that bloated heavy feeling. We've all been there, but is there a way around this?
The holidays can be particularly stressful on the digestive system as it commonly brings along not so healthy food choices that leave us feeling not so great.
What causes bloating? Excess gas production and disturbances in the movement of the muscles of the digestive system can trigger that tight belly feeling that can cause discomfort and pain. In addition, when foods are not broken down properly they can putrefy and cause an accumulation of gas which can promote bloating.
This is common with food intolerances such as dairy because many of us lack the appropriate enzymes to break down these food particles. Other causes can include dysbiosis in the gut, swallowed air, fluid retention, infections, and constipation.
Though you may be suffering from food intolerances or other medical conditions, a lot of the time bloating is an easy fix that can be addressed with nutritional and lifestyle changes.
Today we give you our top tips to enjoy the holidays but ditch the bloat!
Top tips to beat the bloat this holiday season
Practice good meal hygiene
Improper breakdown of food is the most common reason for bloating. And it all starts in the mouth. To optimize your digestive function practice chewing your food thoroughly and consuming smaller portions. This will help reduce the risk of bloating and increase nutrient absorption. Make it a habit of sitting down with your meal and eating for at least 20 minutes whilst avoiding distractions such as electronics.
We all know alcohol isn't the healthiest substance but it can also promote gas and bloating due to its high sugar content. Alcohol increases inflammation which can cause damage and irritation in the intestinal tract. Due to its inflammatory properties, it can cause swelling inside of the body, resulting in not only abdominal bloating but puffiness in the face. Try to limit your consumption to 1-2 drinks per occasion and choose lower sugar options such as red wine or a gin or vodka tonic. And remember to drink at least twice as much water as alcoholic beverages! If you feel the bloat come on make the switch to water for the rest of the night. This will also help you avoid the dreaded hangover the morning after.
Be mindful of your sodium intake
Canadians and Americans are consuming too much sodium in the typical diet and this can promote fluid retention and bloating, as well as increased risk for cardiovascular disease. We only need small amounts of sodium per day and the best way to ensure you are not overdoing it is cooking from home.
We recommend avoiding packaged and processed foods that are packed with sodium and contribute to overconsumption of this mineral. Instead of processed foods use Himalayan salt or Celtic salt instead and include potassium-rich foods (banana, spinach, broccoli, potato, beet greens, white beans, avocado, and sweet potato) to help keep your minerals in balance.
Going for a walk after a big meal is a great way to balance your blood sugar and reduce bloating. This helps to keep things moving and promotes movement of smooth muscle tissue in the intestines. Yoga is also another great way to do this. One of the worst things you can do after a large meal is to sit on the couch in front of the TV. So grab your boots and get outside with the family! Your stomach and waistline will thank you.
Consume anti-bloat foods
While some foods worsen bloating others can actually reduce symptoms. These include ginger, peppermint, chamomile, fennel, and lemon water. You can consume these before or during a meal to support digestion or after to reduce pain and tightness. I love a good ginger tea if I feel I've eaten too much.
Adding fiber into your diet (along with increased water intake) can help promote healthy elimination and avoid IBS type symptoms. Good sources of fiber include psyllium husks, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have trouble digesting raw vegetables try cooking them instead to ease digestion.
Avoid bloat triggering foods and drinks
Certain foods trigger bloating more than others and these include commonly allergenic foods (dairy, gluten, corn, soy, wheat) as well as carbonated beverages, gum, excess sodium, and sugar alcohols (xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol). Artificial sweeteners can also increase inflammation and create toxicity in the digestive tract so try to avoid packaged sweets as much as possible or make them yourself!
Probiotics are a popular supplement to reduce digestive discomfort because they help to rebalance the ratio of good and bad bacteria in the gut. When there is an overgrowth of pathogenic organisms such as yeast, bloating can occur as a result as well as gas and constipation. Probiotic supplementation after indulging in sweets and excess carbs may also be a good idea to help reduce the proliferation of yeast and bad bacteria.
Digestive enzymes are a must for any holiday party as you never really know what you're going to receive on your plate! Look for a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme to help you break down your food and reduce stomach upset. This is especially important if you do suffer from any food intolerances or sensitivities.
When all else fails, charcoal is our favorite anti-bloat remedy as it binds onto toxins and chemicals to excrete them through the feces. Charcoal is commonly used for digestive discomfort, bloating, gas, or even in cases of food poisoning.
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.