‘Tis the season to be jolly, and for many of us, bloated, gassy and constipated. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? But it’s hardly surprising given the additional 900 calories and 40g of fat many of us will pack away with each sitting. Christmas is traditionally a time of excess and indulgence but there’s still plenty you can do to prevent the festivities from weighing too heavily on your body.
Be selective with your diet
Keep an eye on what you eat. Swap red and fatty cuts of meat, which can be hard to digest, with lean cuts of white meat or fish. Turkey is perfect in this respect.
There are also plenty of vegetarian alternatives to choose from and whilst a traditional nut roast is delicious, nuts can be very difficult to digest and heartburn can result. The vegetarian Christmas dinner needn’t consist of nuts. Why not try your hand at a vegan wellington packed with roasted vegetables, cooked beetroot and kale, or a vegetarian wreath crammed with roasted butternut squash and juicy mushrooms?
Foods to avoid if indigestion is a problem
Cheese can wreak havoc on your digestive system, so if you are prone to intestinal upset, try keeping this indulgence to a minimum. You should also reduce your intake of sugary foods, cakes, biscuits and rich puddings. Christmas pudding is one of the worst offenders, but that doesn’t mean you need to forego the sweet stuff altogether. A delicious fresh fruit salad can be very refreshing.
Chew your food to avoid indigestion
Take your time and chew your food! Chewing not only breaks your meal down to a manageable size, it also alerts the stomach to the imminent arrival of food, giving it the time to produce the digestive enzymes it needs to digest food properly. If you need a helping hand with digestive enzymes, a prebiotic supplement like Molkosan Fruit Drink taken half an hour before each meal can help. You should also stay seated for at least 20 minutes after you’ve eaten to relax your digestive system.
Go easy on the veggies to reduce bloating
Yes, you read correctly! Brussel sprouts are for many synonymous with Christmas dinner, but a sudden increase in brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, sprouts etc), can encourage the production of intestinal gas and cause bloating and flatulence, especially if your cabbage consumption is ordinarily limited to once or twice a year. That’s not to say don’t eat them – brassica veggies are delicious and a great source of fibre and other nutrients, just limit your intake.
Remedies for indigestion
If indigestion does strike regardless of your good intentions, there are a number of herbal gems that can help. For bloating and indigestion associated with feelings of fullness and wind there’s Digestisan from A.Vogel. It contains Cynara (Artichoke), Dandelion and Boldo to help stimulate digestive enzymes, and Peppermint, to help reduce the symptoms of colic and wind. Dilute 15 to 20 drops three times a day in a little water.
Look after your liver
Milk thistle is also a great herb at this time of the year. It is well known for its role in protecting the liver against alcohol-related toxins and is often called upon to help counter the effects of a hangover, but because the liver also produces the bile needed to digest fats, it can also be supportive of the digestive system. Without adequate bile you may find you feel nauseous after eating fatty foods. Dandelion can also help to support the liver.
Combat nausea with ginger
If nausea is a problem, ginger is another festive favourite to consider. It is recognised by many as a digestive tonic that can help with flatulence, cramps and nausea. Its active compounds, called gingerols, are responsible for its distinctive taste and smell. Try steeping some fresh ginger in hot water to make a ginger tea, and if the taste is not to your liking, try adding a little honey and lemon to make a great winter warmer.
Help with constipation
If constipation is a problem, drink plenty of water (not in coffee or traditional tea, as they can make things worse), and drink it away from meals so as not to dilute your digestive juices. For a real blast to get things moving again try Triphala or Psyllium, starting with a low dose.
Finally, a gentle walk after dinner is thought by many to help digestion and help improve blood sugar levels – just make sure you let those sprouts settle first!