A Guide to Surviving the Holiday Feast

The holidays are a great time of year to enjoy good company and even better food.  The turkey, mashed potatoes, and pastries are delights that we look to with both desire and dread.  The question we may ask ourselves when considering the holiday fare is “how do I enjoy the delicious food without regretting it later?” Let’s take a look at some of the unpleasant after-effects of the holiday meal and some simple ways to avoid them.

Common symptoms of an upset tummy while making merry include gas, bloating, headache, nausea, heartburn/acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation and Indigestion. Overindulgence is the culprit in most cases and, as we’ll see later, is the key to surviving holiday goodies is maintaining balance.

Feeling a little tight around the belt after eating is a telltale sign of gas and accompanying bloating.  Bacteria and yeast thrive on simple carbohydrates such as sugar and refined flour.  The gas and bloating that you feel is caused by the rapid growth of these microbes in your gut.  Bacterial or yeast overgrowth (dysbiosis) can lead to many other common holiday symptoms like headache, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn/reflux and indigestion.

Feeling a little irritable?  So may your bowels.  Diarrhea and constipation are commonly rooted in anxiety, decreased physical activity, change in routine, caffeine, alcohol, and food intolerances to common ingredients such as dairy, wheat, gluten, and food additives. Constipation due to low fiber foods is common when veggies and whole grains are scarce at the holiday table. Alcohol and coffee are irritants and have a drying effect on the body, leading to constipation in some folks and diarrhea in others.

Weight gain is a common consequence of rich treats combined with alcohol, lack of activity, and low fiber diets.

So how can we enjoy this holiday season with loved ones while maintaining good health?  Here are some tips on treatment and prevention so you can stay merry:

  • Giving thanks for another year and for the yummy meal. Do not eat when anxious, nervous or stressed. Switch your body to digestion mode by taking five deep belly breaths and allow relaxation.  This gives the body a chance to secrete digestive enzymes and prepare for digestion.
  • Keep the peace. Family feuds and emotionally charged issues are best avoided if you plan to digest that holiday meal and indulge in the tasty treats which follow.
  • Digestive enzymes and bitters to the rescue.  A good precaution when taking rich, greasy foods.  Bitter tonics made form herbs are a good way to stimulate your body’s natural production of enzymes. When taken before meals, enzymes and bitters ensure complete and proper digestion.
  • Avoid overeating by knowing your limits. Eat slowly and until you are 2/3 full, limit alcohol and sugar intake, remain active, ensure proper digestion and avoid eating late at night.  Leave time to burn the calories that you consumed!
  • Don’t overdo it. If you are still feeling a little heavy, try Po Chai, a traditional Chinese herbal formula available in many Chinese or herbal stores. With a little warm water, these pills can cure an ailing stomach in minutes.
  • Remember to stay well hydrated and mineral-balanced. Drink lots of water; don’t forget to take your alkalizing greens!
  • Don’t forget your healthy snacks, which can be packed on the go: nuts and seeds, protein bars, fresh fruit, and raw veggies. A little planning can ease a lot of digestive woes.
  • Maintain bowel elimination. Treat constipation with slippery elm bark powder, flaxseeds and psyllium in equal amounts. For diarrhea, include flaxseeds and psyllium with food and avoid allergens and irritants. Triphala, meaning “three fruits”, is an herbal laxative, effective when taken at night before bed with warm water.

Remember that you can have a fun and happy holiday season and stay healthy at the same time.  It is important to plan ahead a little bit and make a few simple but smart eating choices.  The trick is to prevent any digestive problems from occurring in the first place.  If you do happen to run into some trouble, there are some great remedies available to help you through it.  That way, you’ll be able to reflect on this time of year with fondness and look forward to a new year of health and balance!

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