6 steps to better digestion this holiday season
Cheer and goodwill aren't the only things Americans share during the holiday season. We also swap germs, overindulge in seasonal foods and spirits, and stew in stress -- all of which can lead to digestive woes.
You know you'll have to work hard at self-control if you don't want the numbers on the scale to climb by the end of the holiday season. But you can also take steps to minimize stomach upset, indigestion, bloating, reflux and general intestinal distress during the holidays.
So good yet so bad
Holiday foods taste good because they're often rich, and high in fat and sugar -- qualities that cause not only weight gain but also digestive discomfort.
During this hectic time of year, most of us eat more -- especially at celebrations.
Giving up holiday treats and favorite dishes would be like going through the season without a single cornucopia or twinkling decoration.
Rather than suffering digestive distress through indulgence, or choosing to deprive yourself entirely, start with a plan for how you'll deal with holiday digestive upset, then take action.
Steps to feel better
• Stay hydrated. The hectic pace of the holidays may make you forget to drink enough water.
What's more, overindulging in holiday libations like cocktails, wine, champagne and beer can actually dehydrate your body.
Nonalcoholic sugary beverages like mulled cider, hot chocolate and pumpkin-flavored coffees can also throw off your body's balance. Remember to drink plenty of water every day throughout the holidays.
• Prioritize food choices. Sure, that slice of pumpkin pie looks great on the plate and tastes yummy going down, but will it be worth the heartburn and bloating you'll experience later?
Raw veggies are a healthful and fiber-filled alternative to fatty hors d'oeuvres, but be aware that raw vegetables can also cause bloating and gas.
Pay attention to the foods that trigger discomfort and decide how important they really are. You may be able to substitute something else that's just as satisfying but less upsetting to your stomach.
• Promote gut health. If your digestive tract is already in good shape, it will be better equipped to handle occasional holiday overindulgence. Taking a probiotic supplement, like Family Flora Daily Balance, can support the growth of good gut bacteria that aid in digestion.
• Reduce portion sizes. Do you give yourself license to overindulge during the holidays, figuring you'll pay for it later when you step on the scale?
Large portions can also make you pay for them right away when you feel indigestion or reflux after finishing a big meal. Reducing portion sizes can help ease holiday strain on your stomach and digestive tract.
One easy trick for controlling portion sizes -- serve yourself on a dessert-size dish, rather than a large dinner plate. Smaller portions will look like more on a smaller plate.
• Limit variety. Whether a buffet or a sit-down dinner, holiday meals often feature multiple dishes that just look so good you want to try them all. Mixing too many different foods, however, can lead to stomach upset.
Trying everything -- even if it's just a bite or two -- can rack up the calories, fat and sugar. Instead, choose just a few favorites to have at each meal. If you have a spoonful of green bean casserole with your Thanksgiving turkey, pass on the yams and plan to have them with tomorrow's leftovers.
• Keep exercising. Along with all the other benefits exercise brings, it can also promote digestive health.
In addition to its positive physical effects, exercise can also help relieve holiday stress -- a contributor to holiday stomach upset. Whether it's an hour at the gym or 30 minutes on a yoga mat in your living room, it's important to maintain an exercise regimen throughout the holidays.
The holidays are meant to be a time of enjoyment, and that includes eating foods you just don't have around at other times of the year.
With some proactive steps, you can help ensure your holidays stay bright and your stomach stays healthy throughout the season.