Christmas is notorious for indulging in yummy treats, and social get togethers around special meals are endless… but when your digestive system isn’t playing game, all the hype in December can come with pressure that leaves you dreading the next booking instead of getting excited. So, how can we help? Dietitian Imogen Wolsey shares her tips.
Here are six top tips for eating out this month and keeping a happy tum
1. Check the restaurant menu in advanceChoosing a meal on the spot can often be quite stressful, especially when you’ve got the eyes and ears of the rest of the table on you. Take the pressure off by checking the menu before you get there, or before booking, just to make sure there is something you will feel comfortable eating and accounts for any food sensitivities you might have.
2. Be mindful of what you eat the day beforeSome foods naturally cause more gas in the gut as they are digested and certain foods are known irritants, so best to be slightly mindful in the days leading up to a social occasion to avoid any adverse symptoms. Foods that may increase levels of gas and bloating include onions, garlic, cauliflower… and it’s no surprise that alcohol and hot spices can trigger an eventful morning in the toilet!
3. Don’t go into dinner ravenousIt’s very tempting when you struggle with gut issues to restrict yourself in the lead up to an evening meal with the hope of reducing the chance of experiencing difficult symptoms. This might seem like a good option at the time, but don’t be fooled by the idea that emptiness will make you feel better. Not allowing yourself to eat during the day usually leads to eating too much too quickly in the evening, which only causes more digestive discomfort. Spare yourself a night of indigestion and opt for small portions of food evenly spaced throughout the day instead of one big midnight feast.
4. Small sips of water throughout mealStaying hydrated with water is always important, especially when you might be sipping on something slightly stronger alongside… but too much fluid during a complex meal will dilute digestive enzymes and tax your digestive system. Big gulps may also leave you feeling bloated and make it difficult to gage how full you are, so best to keep to regular sips.
5. Slow downOptimise digestion by taking your time to eat and enjoy. Thoroughly chewing food before you swallow it stimulates digestion and making sure you are not talking too much at the same time will help reduce swallowing too much air as you go. Take a pause between mouthfuls and engage in conversation before you take your next bite!
6. Relax into the experience, maintain perspective on what is important
As distracting as digestive discomfort can be, it’s important to try and maintain as sense of perspective and rationality so as not to let it completely dominate your festivities. Connecting with loved ones and making special memories during the first proper Christmas we’ve had in 2 years - with food sharing and big hugs allowed - is what matters most. Stressing over an extra bite of gluten, or regretting your love of a cheese board, will not help your digestion and only make matters worse. Breathe deeply, take a moment to be grateful and continue to spread joy and be merry… your gut bugs will appreciate it just as much as everyone around you.
Hungry for more? These 10 simple swaps from Gastroenterology Dietitian Dr Sammie Gill will help up those plant points and increase diversity to give your microbiome a boost this Christmas. Dig in!