Hi! If we haven’t met, yet, my name is Mona, and I am the in-house dietitian and supplement consultant at Clark Professional Pharmacy. I started working in this position a little over a month ago and I have to say, it has been wonderful. I’ve learned quite a bit, had great conversations, and worked towards building relationships. Stop by and say hi!
I love food and I love cooking. Although my training is in dietetics and human nutrition, I am a self-proclaimed foodie. I figured it would be a good time to put this passion of mine to use, and share some tips on how to avoid (very common) stomach issues during the holiday season.
We all know that, as holidays approach, festivities are going to be different this year. Some of us are planning smaller than usual meals, socially distanced gathering or even a virtual meals with friends and families. The pandemic has definitely added a layer of stress to the holidays. Instead of stressing more, let us get creative about managing stress and preventing digestive issues this holiday season. It is possible to indulge a little without sacrificing your health.
Our eating habits have changed in the past few months. Stress hormones decrease the number of digestive enzymes responsible for breaking down our foods and starting the nutrient absorption process. As a result, some people are experiencing unpleasant symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, or irregular bowel movement. The good news is that most, if not all, of these symptoms could be improved or eliminated with some lifestyle changes.
10 Strategies to Help Deal with Stress and Prevent Digestion Issues During the Holidays
1. PLAN. PLAN.PLAN.
First things first; have fun and look forward to your favorite holiday foods. Our feelings about our food may drastically impact how our bodies process it. Assuming your preferred food is not one that you are allergic or intolerant to, think of food as a treat that nourishes your soul and body.
By now, most of us have an idea of where, what and when our holiday meals are going to take place. Plan by ensuring that you get appropriate amounts of food and physical activity however that may look like (walk the dog, park further than you normally do, etc.). DO NOT SKIP MEALS. Just because you have a large meal planned, does not mean you should go hours without eating. Skipping meals can reduce your blood sugar making you binge later.
2. Choose your foods wisely. No need to try everything.
Holiday meals often include a lot of variety of delicious foods. Survey the food offering before eating. Consider foods that you do not often eat. Eating a little bit of everything adds up unnecessary calories. Aim for 50% of the meal to come from non-starchy vegetables, 25% from protein and 25% from starches (and desserts).
3. Slow down and enjoy your food
We tend to eat a lot more when we socialize, watch television or experiencing tense social moments. If possible, turn off your phone, sit down and savor every bite. If you are a fast eater, put your fork down between each bite. Stay focused on family and friends and remember the reason for the gatherings: a time to celebrate with those you love.
4. Probiotics and enzymes may help avoid an upset stomach during the holidays
Remember that digestion starts in your mouth. Take your time and chew your food thoroughly. It takes our body about 20 minutes to register satiety. If you are a fast eater, you do not allow your brain to communicate that you are full and as a result may end up overeating.
I highly suggest taking digestive enzymes supplements if you are experiencing any type of digestive distress. When we eat, our pancreas produces digestive enzymes that help breakdown the food. During the holidays, our eating patterns and food amounts change. A digestive enzymes supplement taken with a large meal may alleviate GI fullness and distress. Digestive enzymes supplements are best taken with the first few bites of a meal and can be used multiple times a day.
If your diet does not include any probiotic food sources, you may want to consider taking a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are live bacteria that are considered beneficial for your gut. You can get them from fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics, but I suggest a probiotic supplement added to provide a large amount in one dose. With the increase use of hand sanitizers, antibiotic use and stress, the beneficial bacteria in our gut may get outnumbered by opportunistic bacteria. Supplementing with a quality probiotic can help create a healthy community of bacteria in your body. Look for a supplement that contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. I would be happy to help you select one that is suitable for you, contact us to schedule an appointment.
5. Count your drinks
Be mindful of the amount of alcohol and sweetened beverages you drink. Savor your favorite drink by sipping slowly and being mindful of the number of drinks you consume a day. Remember to drink plenty of water and non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
6. Move anytime you get a chance
Exercising increases blood flow and can help move food through the digestive tract. It can also alleviate eating related GI distress symptoms. If you currently follow a regular exercise regimen, make sure you stay consistent during the holidays. Take walks before or after meals when possible. Incorporate physical activities such as dancing and physically active games.
7. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
This one is a hard one. Our schedules change during the holidays and we are tempted to stay up later than usual and sleep less. Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep at night. Limit caffeinated beverages and heavy meals before bedtime as they may interrupt your sleep.
8. Manage stress with Ashwagandha
Among many stress management strategies (deep breathing, exercises, meditation, etc.), I am a fan of Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is an herb that is classified as an adaptogen, and it may help your body manage stress. It may also boost brain function, lower blood sugar and lower cortisol levels and help with anxiety and depression. Ashwagandha comes in a spray form or as 500 mg supplement.
9. Plan your symptoms management regimen
- Have you tried peppermint tea after meals? I never leave the house, travel or go to a party without peppermint tea bags in my purse. Peppermint is a known digestive aid and may help aid with digestion and GI distress. It is not only tasty, but affordable and convenient.
- You can also try activated charcoal capsules. Activated charcoal may aid with digestions by reducing intentional gas and those pesky hangover symptoms.
- Drink Aloe Vera juice the day after a holiday meal. Aloe vera juice is extracted from the aloe vera plant. It is a digestive aid and 4 oz/day may even help with your bowel movements regularity.
10. Have fun and be safe
And do not forget that keeping our immune system strong has never been more important. I am here to help you; we can discuss your individual nutrition needs or help you pick the supplements that are right for you and your lifestyle. I look forward to working with you!
I hope you find a way to celebrate and find joy in whatever you choose to do.