Christmas is looming large, and for many of us that means a festive season full of rich food and over indulgence. While some of you may be able to take the onslaught of Christmas fayre in your stride, others will be tempted to eat too much and may suffer the consequences. Overeating can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable and unsettle your digestive system for several days so here are some simple pieces of advice to help you to keep your digestive system in good working order for Christmas . . .
There is an ancient Chinese proverb which says ‘The Stomach has no Teeth’. Chewing is a vital part of healthy digestion. The mechanical process of chewing breaks the food into smaller particles which aids the passage of food through the digestive system and helps prevent bloating and discomfort. When food is chewed properly it triggers the release of digestive enzymes which also help break down food and absorb the nutrients more effectively. A beneficial side effect of chewing food more thoroughly is that studies show we eat less when food is chewed properly as our system has more of a chance to recognise when it has had enough. Ginger – ginger has a fantastic reputation for soothing digestive issues, make a cup of fresh ginger tea by pouring hot water over a slice or two of fresh ginger. This can drunk before or after a meal, or at any time that your digestive system feels a bit bloated and sluggish. Plain hot water is another really soothing drink for an exhausted digestive system – yes, you read that right, just plain, ordinary water from a kettle with nothing else in it! Sipping hot water during or after a meal can help to relax the muscles of the digestive tract and supports the enzymes to break down the food more easily. Drinking hot water is a much better idea than flooding your system with cold water during a meal which has the undesired effect of leeching energy from the digestive system. Probiotics are wonderful for upset digestive systems, live yoghurts, kimchi, kefir or any cultured or fermented foods can help to resettle an upset system.
If you find you have over-eaten it can be tempting to collapse on the sofa but it would be a much better idea to encourage your whole family to wrap up and go for a walk! Walking after a meal helps the stomach to empty more efficiently which reduces your chances of getting indigestion and heart burn. On top of the benefits to your digestive system, a walk can also help to lower stress levels, improves general circulation and helps improve the quality of sleep. More and more people are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and a short walk after a meal is a great way of using up the spike in blood glucose that happens after a meal, therefore helping you to control your blood sugar levels more effectively. So before relaxing in front of some Christmas telly, go for a walk for at least 15 minutes.
Stress can be another contributory factor to digestive upset over the festive season – starting a regular mindfulness practice will help you to keep your stress levels under control over Christmas. It is also worth making some time in your schedule for some peace and quiet to give yourself time to recharge because your stress levels will increase if you let yourself get over-tired.
Hopefully some of this advice will be of use to you if you have a tendency to develop digestive problems over Christmas and I would like to wish all my wonderful clients and anyone else who reads this a fantastic festive Christmas.