Generous glasses of eggnog and gingerbread piled onto tiered trays … holiday goodies are delightful—until they’re not. Bloating, gas, heartburn, and indigestion are often what we’re left with when the feasting is finished.
But there’s good news! Simple fixes like mindful eating and natural digestive aids can help.
Try mindful eating
Being more attentive while we eat serves many purposes aside from avoiding digestive discomfort. Mindful eating can help us appreciate and enjoy our food more: It slows us down so we can savor the full experience. It even helps us to find calm and reduce stress.
Eat before you’re ravenous
Don’t wait to eat until you’re starving, and avoid skipping meals; this makes it really hard to slow down and savor your food.
Drink water first
Drinking a tall glass of water before meals can help to minimize overeating. It’s also a great way to stay hydrated.
Chew with purpose
Mindfully chew, then swallow everything in your mouth before raising another forkful; this will slow you down and help cut down the amount you eat.
Stop before you’re full
Eat only enough to be nearly full. This lets your brain’s signals catch up with your stomach’s true fullness.
Try digestive enzymes
If you struggle to digest certain foods, digestive enzymes from your local health food store may be your new BFF.
What are digestive enzymes?
Naturally produced in our body, digestive enzymes help break down food in our stomach and intestines.
There are three main types of digestive enzymes:
- Amylase breaks down starches and carbohydrates into sugars.
- Protease breaks down proteins into amino acids.
- Lipase breaks down lipids (fats and oils) into glycerol and fatty acids.
What we eat can affect our body’s enzyme activity, since many foods contain natural enzymes. When we eat bananas, the natural amylase in the banana helps us digest the plentiful carbs in the banana. But when we experience digestive symptoms, supplementing with the same enzymes found naturally in our system can give our body a helping hand.
This enzyme is needed to properly break down lactose, the sugar found in milk. People who are lactose intolerant don’t have enough lactase, so lactose-containing foods can cause them a lot of digestive upset. Taking lactase supplements or drinking milk to which lactase has been added helps to break down the lactose and decrease symptoms of lactose intolerance like bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
This fancy-sounding enzyme is helpful for those who have trouble digesting “gassy” foods like beans and brassica vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Alpha-galactosidase allows for better breakdown of the carbohydrates found in these foods so they cause less bloating and gas.
Both lactase and alpha-galactosidase are available in a variety of supplements.
Try these digestive helpers
There are plenty of other options at your health food store to tackle your tummy troubles.
You can find peppermint as a tea or as encapsulated oil. Some studies have shown success in using peppermint for relieving symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. If you’re someone who suffers from heartburn or acid reflux, though, be careful: Peppermint might worsen your symptoms.
Also check out this article on the 7 Health Benefits of Peppermint!
Psyllium is a great source of soluble fiber that can be used to normalize irregular stools due to constipation, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)
DGL, in chewable tablets or lozenges, can be soothing and supportive to stomach tissues. It’s commonly used to treat indigestion, acid reflux, and stomach ulcers.
Friendly bacteria naturally living in our guts help with everything from boosting immunity to enabling digestion. Supplementing with probiotics can support the live healthy bacteria in our digestive systems.
Pick up probiotics in supplement form at your local health food store. Benefits can include reducing bloating and constipation, as well as easing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Get it checked
If your digestive woes can’t be easily managed with these tips, or if your symptoms have persisted for a long time, it might be time to see a health professional for a thorough check-up.
Potential underlying causes of chronic digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and reflux include sluggish thyroid; structural problems (including a hiatal hernia); food sensitivities; autoimmune disease; or an overgrowth of yeast, parasites, or bacteria. Getting a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment can resolve the issue for good. And that’s really the best gift you could give yourself this year!