While the holidays in spirit are a festive, exciting time of year, generally spent with loved ones, for those of us with digestive issues, they can be stressful and overwhelming.
If you struggle with digestive issues now, or you have in the past, this article will dig into a number of ways that you can keep frustrating symptoms at bay.
coping with food fear
carminative herbs for bloating and gas
prioritizing fiber for good motility
digestive bitters and enzymes for better digestion
tools for blood sugar balance
Coping with Food Fear
The holiday season can bring up a lot of feels for those struggling with digestive issues.
Whether it be stress over not being able to enjoy the same foods as your loved ones, fielding comments from family members, wanting to enjoy your favourite holiday treats, but worrying about how you'll feel after, or dread over the emotional and mental turmoil that this all involves — it can be a lot.
Here are a few ways you can help cope with food fear, and worry over the holidays:
support your nervous system through practices like breathwork, journaling, going for a walk, spending time outside, etc.
have a compassionate conversation with yourself (finding compassion, and grace with yourself can help this time feel less heavy)
lean on someone for support (whether it be a therapist, coach, loved one, partner, friend, leaning on someone for support can also help to navigate these feelings)
Lean on Carminative Herbs for Bloating and Gas
If you tend to feel extra gassy or bloated during the holidays, you're not alone. When you eat foods your microbiome isn't used to, it can contribute to these symptoms. In normal circumstances, it should be mild and go away within a few hours.
When you're feeling extra gassy/bloated and want a quick way to deal with the discomfort, reach for carminative herbs. These are herbs contain volatile oils that help increase gastric emptying and peristalsis, relieving cramping and expelling gas. They also help relax the stomach and many carminative herbs have anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are six awesome carminative herbs you can try for relief:
peppermint (avoid this if you have acid reflux!)
You can use these carminative herbs as a tea or herbal infusion to sip on throughout your days, or you can find these in a tincture form, where you can supplement with them.
Another great option to help with gas and bloating, is an herbal product called Iberogast. You can find it at most drugstores. It's a clinically proven, herbal formula that contains 9 powerful herbs (including a few mentioned above, like chamomile, peppermint and lemon balm) to aid in common digestive complaints. This could be a great tool to have in your toolkit over the holiday season!
Get Consistent Fibre with Meals (to prevent constipation)
When we're eating foods that are out of our norm, are traveling/moving around a lot, are out of our routine, etc., our motility can become impacted. A lot of people experience constipation as a result. Constipation itself is no fun, but it can also contribute to other digestive symptoms like bloating, distention, and abdominal pain.
Who has time to deal with that over the holidays?
Make it a priority to keep your fiber and hydration habits strong, to keep your bowel moving as efficiently as possible over the holidays. Try to get plants in at every meal. If you have less say in what's available food-wise (say, you're staying at a family member's place, or going out of town), try to bring along some ground flax or chia seed, or psyllium husk, that you can sprinkle on salads, soups, add to smoothies, etc. for some extra fiber.
Try Digestive bitters & Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are great for those who need comprehensive digestion support or for larger meals/eating out or eating foods you don't normally eat.
These are comprehensive formulas that include digestive enzymes, HCl and ox bile together. This supplement provides full-spectrum digestive support, and helps in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Many formulas contain specific enzymes to help with digesting foods like dairy, gluten, and beans.
Digestive bitters are great for anyone who wants to support their digestive function without replacing specific enzymes.
Digestive bitters are a tincture made with a variety of bitter herbs, generally including gentian, dandelion, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, artichoke, black walnut and chamomile. They are helpful for stimulating gastric juice secretions. It helps to signal the release of stomach acid, bile and digestive enzymes. As soon as you taste it, your salivary glands will go into overdrive and you will feel a warming in your stomach. They're also helpful for supporting liver and gallbladder health.
As always, I recommend speaking with a practitioner or health care provider prior to taking any supplementation (especially if you have known allergies, illness, are pregnant, or are taking medications)..
Balance your Blood Sugar for Energy
One thing that makes the holidays so special is all of the once-a-year treats that are available to enjoy!
Don't worry, I'm not going to recommend that you limit your intake of holiday treats, or even avoid them, but there are ways that you can incorporate them that will help you feel better throughout the holidays.
When we consume foods that are higher in sugar/carbs (which, no shade, tend to be much of the holiday treats we love), it can spike our blood sugar levels, which is often followed by a significant blood sugar drop (hypoglycemia). If we experience many of these blood sugar spikes and dips throughout the day, it can impact our energy levels, and even our digestion and hormones!
To help keep your blood sugar levels balanced over the holidays (for more balanced energy and better digestion), here are a few things you can do:
eat your protein and veggies first during your meals, and save the holiday sweets for dessert
avoid eating your holiday treats on their own (either have them at the end of a meal, like mentioned above, or pair them with a protein (and ideally fat and fiber)
take a 10-15 minute walk after meals (bonus if you invite your loved ones who you're celebrating the holidays with along!)
To be frank, alcohol isn't the best thing for our gut, our blood sugar, or our hormones. Again, I'm not going to sit here and tell you not to have any (unless you choose to), however, minimizing alcohol intake can be really helpful in supporting your gut over the holidays.
Consuming it on an empty stomach is particularly stressful to the body, as it can drop your blood sugar levels too low, so it's better to wait until you have eaten at least a little bit to enjoy that nice glass of red. Having alcohol during or after a meal will also slow down absorption.
These tools will hopefully help to make the holiday season a little lighter and easier for you, if you struggle with your digestion.
Happy Holidays, and thank you so much for being here.