A Tummy-Friendly Guide To Surviving Festive Indulgence
One moment you’re throwing back festive fizz, the next it’s frantically co-coordinate shopping, wrapping, and the perfect Christmas dinner. Add rich foods and late nights into the mix and it’s no surprise that this time of year can leave digestive systems feeling frazzled.
So how can you care for your gut during the festive season?
1. Prioritise some space
Christmas is a joyful time, but it can also be incredibly stressful, thank to extra pressures from all angles, including family, finances, work, and a mega-to-do-list.
As well as affecting our mental wellbeing, the release of stress hormones can upset digestion, triggering tummy pain, loose stools and constipation (to find out more about the effects of stress on the gut, click here).
To make things worse, when we’re under lots of pressure we tend to let go of the activities (like exercise and taking time out to talk with friends) that help us to manage stress.
Soothe it To promote calm, prioritise a time-out each day – have a hot bath, listen to music, read, book a yoga class, or try a simple guided breathing exercise (I like the Calm app – it’s free for 7 days, ideal for the Xmas period!).
A daily 30-minute walk is also a great habit to adopt over the festive season – exercise helps to disperse the stress hormones that affect digestion, and research shows exercising in a green space has a calming effect – win-win.
If all else fails, taking a few deep belly breaths (breathing in to a count of four and breathing out to a count of four) can restore a sense of clam.
2. Balance boozy beverages
Festive drinking isn’t off limits, but drinking lots alcohol in one go can irritate the sensitive lining of your tummy. Alcohol (even in small doses) can increase the release of stomach acid leading to heartburn. It can also speed up how quickly food moves through the digestive system, causing more frequent trips to the loo.
Soothe it To lessen the impact, avoid drinking on an empty stomach (which will slow down the release of alcohol into your bloodstream), and alternate every alcoholic drink with a glass of water. Fizzy drinks actually increase the rate at which alcohol is absorbed, so sip that champagne slowly, and aim to stick to no more than one to two drinks per day – your tummy (and head!) will thank you for it.
3. Festive feasting
Christmas Day means rich food, and lots of it – a whopping 6,000 calories according to some estimates! This combo (as delicious as it can be) can lead to the famous food coma, and the ‘oh-why-did-I-eat-so-much’ feeling as we lay on the sofa, rubbing our tummies.
Eating large meals can cause tummy pain and discomfort, especially for people with sensitive tums. Heartburn is also more common after eating fatty, rich foods, which is why you’re often left with a burning feeling in your chest after a heavy Christmas meal.
Soothe it Avoid the over-stuffed feeling by taking smaller portions of fatty foods (a little of what you fancy is a good mantra). Eating slowly also gets the thumbs up – this gives your brain more time to catch up with your tummy, and tune into satiety signals.
Have a breather in-between each course, and consider a walk after your meal (perhaps before dessert), to help digest your meal. Try to avoid eating late at night too – as this can aggravate heartburn.
3 tips to soothe digestion
- Have a minty brew Mint has traditionally been used to soothe digestion. If you’re suffering with tummy pain, try a cup of peppermint tea after a large meal can. If you have IBS, peppermint oil (which can be bought over the counter without prescription) can be helpful for managing tummy pain and bloating
- Go for a stroll Try to avoid the urge for a post-dinner sofa slump and go for a quick stroll -German researchers found as little as 15 minutes of walking was enough to help support digestion.
- Limit the windy ones Brussels, broccoli, dried fruits, onions and garlic can all be guilty when it comes to feeling gassy. Choose from carrots, parsnips, courgette, cranberries clementines and festive berries, as these are less likely to trigger bloating.