Do you experience bloat, discomfort and lethargy from overindulging during the Holiday Season? If so, you’re not alone! I think we’ve all been there 🙂 The good news is that I’ve got some tips that will help you enjoy the good cheer and delicious foods of the season without the heaviness.
As an Ayurveda Wellness Counselor I’ve spent a lot of time studying and practicing effective strategies for boosting digestion, one of the key bodily functions responsible for our energy level, mood and nutrition. During this time of year it’s easy to let our digestive systems get bogged down by eating too much rich, heavy and sweet foods because it’s fun, joyful and comforting.
Although I don’t advocate throwing all healthy habits out the window because of the Holidays, I do have some simple tips for optimizing your digestion to lessen the bloat and keep your energy strong. The goal is to be able to enjoy good cheer and great food with friends and family while still feeling comfortable and vibrant.
Seems simple, right? But how many of us engage in negative self-talk when we’re indulging? When eating rich foods and sweet treats over the Holidays it’s important to enjoy the experience and not stress about it. Optimal digestion requires relaxation, that’s why the parasympathetic nervous system is also called the ‘rest and digest’ system.
It’s hard to relax when we’re beating ourselves up for the food we’re eating. Negative self-talk and food stress hinders our digestion, our mental health and our overall well-being. If you’re gonna eat it, enjoy it!
Chew Your Food for Real
Take the time to taste and chew your food. Swallowing big chunks of un-chewed food takes up more space in your stomach than well-chewed food, creating bloat and slowing down the digestive process leading to a feeling of lethargy.
When you’re enjoying rich Holiday foods, take small bites and chew each bite at least 30 times (yes, that many). Chewing allows the enzyme amylase in your saliva to effectively break down the starches you’re eating. Remember that digestion starts in your mouth before the food even reaches your stomach!
Taking the time to savor and chew your food brings about a feeling of satisfaction and contentment. Not only will you feel less bloated because you’re optimizing digestion, but you’ll also feel satisfied and joyful.
Eat Sitting Down
The scene at most Holiday parties looks like people standing, moving around and talking while eating. Movement and animated conversation kicks the sympathetic nervous system into gear. This is the system responsible for ‘flight or fight,’ the opposite of ‘rest and digest.’
To optimize your digestion and wellbeing at Holiday parties, find a place to sit down and eat your food. You can still have great conversation while also setting your belly up for success. When you’re done eating challenge yourself to sit for another 5 minutes before getting up and moving around. This allows your food to settle without bloat, and contributes to ‘rest and digest.’
Take a Walk
Gentle walking after a meal helps to stimulate peristalsis, the wave-like movement in the intestines that moves things efficiently through the digestive tract. If you’ve eaten too much and you’re feeling bloated go for a gentle 10 – 15 minute walk and you’ll feel a lot better.
If you’re feeling too full and bloated to move then lay on your left side for 10 – 15 minutes and then go for a 10 – 15 minute walk. When you lie on your left side the stomach and pancreas (which also releases digestive enzymes) hang naturally and gravity encourages food waste to move along the digestive tract.
Left side lying isn’t always accessible – people may think it’s a little weird at an office party 🙂 It’s something to try at home or in a comfortable environment among family and friends. Yes, as seen in the photo, I left side lie on the river when I’m kayaking after lunch. It also helps big time when you’re doing a full day of activity.
Reduce Liquids While You’re Eating
Think of your digestion as a camp fire. If you douse the fire with a bunch of liquid you put the fire out. The same can be said for the digestive juices in your stomach. Too much liquid can take up space in your stomach and dilute your digestive juices.
Don’t drink a lot of liquid 20 minutes before you eat, sip your drink while you’re eating and then wait another 20 minutes after you eat to drink more. Let the digestive juices in your stomach do the work and you’ll feel less bloated and more energetic.
Recipes for DIY Digestive Aids that Really Work
These take a little more commitment and planning, but they REALLY work! I’m listing them in order of ease.
- Bring a digestive tea bag in your purse – an herbal tea with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, fennel and peppermint. Common herbal digestive tea combinations found at your local grocery store are lemon ginger and roobois chai. Gaia herbs even has a tea named Gas and Bloating – available here.
- Bring a baggie with small peeled pieces of fresh ginger with you everywhere you go. Eat a small piece about 10 minutes before you eat. You can also eat another small piece 10 minutes after you eat. Ginger stimulates digestion. Eating fresh ginger before and/or after you eat is like a mini turbo booster for your digestion.
- Cumin Coriander and Fennel tea (CCF tea). Equal parts (1 tsp) cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds in 1 quart of water. Add a few slices of fresh ginger. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let steep until all seeds have sunk to the bottom. Strain and enjoy after meals. You can also purchase a bag of this tea already mixed here.
- Ginger lime pickle. Slice fresh ginger into small, thin pieces and place in a jar or a small container. Squeeze a lime over the ginger pieces. Add a pinch of pink himalayan salt. Keep in refrigerator. Eat a few pieces of the ginger about 10 min. before you eat and 10 min after you. This is the most intense as far as taste and even more of a turbo booster for your digestion than the fresh ginger alone.
Have questions or comments about any of these tips? Please leave a comment below and I’m happy to answer your questions! If you found these tips helpful and you’d like to dive deeper into optimizing your digestion check out my Ayurveda Wellness Coaching sessions.