How to beat the Holiday bloat

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If you’re like me, you love Holiday cheer, and that means sharing delicious meals and special treats with people you love (or just because it’s that time of year). It also means that you may experience more bloating and lethargy due to the increased amount of rich and tasty foods you’re enjoying.

Here are 8 things to do this Holiday Season to help you eat, drink, be merry and beat the bloat! FYI – if you practice these all year round you’ll boost your digestion, increase your energy and feel great.

Stop the negative self talk about food

Stop engaging in negative self-talk around food during the Holidays. When you stress about what you’re eating your nervous system gets activated and you don’t digest well.

The parasympathetic nervous system, aka the rest and digest system, needs to be activated for optimal digestion. Even when you’re eating the healthiest food, if you’re not relaxed your body isn’t able to properly absorb the nutrients.

When you eat express gratitude for the food you’re enjoying and the family and friends you’re enjoying it with. Choose to relax and be merry so you digest well and feel good.

Chew your food

Take the time to taste and chew your food. Swallowing big chunks of un-chewed food takes up more space in your stomach than well-chewed food, creating bloat and slowing down the digestive process leading to a feeling of lethargy.

When you’re enjoying rich Holiday foods, take small bites and chew each bite at least 30 times (yes, that many). Chewing allows the enzyme amylase in your saliva to effectively break down the starches you’re eating. Remember that digestion starts in your mouth before the food even reaches your stomach!

Taking the time to savor and chew your food brings about a feeling of satisfaction and contentment. Not only will you feel less bloated because you’re optimizing digestion, but you’ll also feel satisfied and joyful.

Sit down to eat

The scene at most Holiday parties looks like people standing, moving around and talking while eating.  Movement and animated conversation kicks the sympathetic nervous system into gear. This is the system responsible for ‘flight or fight,’ the opposite of ‘rest and digest.’

To optimize your digestion and wellbeing at Holiday parties, find a place to sit down and eat your food. You can still have great conversation while also setting your belly up for success. When you’re done eating challenge yourself to sit for another 5 minutes before getting up and moving around. This allows your food to settle without bloat, and contributes to ‘rest and digest.’

Take a walk and lay on your left side

Gentle walking after a meal helps to stimulate peristalsis, the wave-like movement in the intestines that moves things efficiently through the digestive tract.  If you’ve eaten too much and you’re feeling bloated go for a gentle 10 – 15 minute walk and you’ll feel a lot better.

If you’re feeling too full and bloated to move then lay on your left side for 10 – 15 minutes and then go for a 10 – 15 minute walk. When you lie on your left side you give your food a chance to sit longer in the digestive juices leading to better digestion.

You wouldn’t lay down on your left side at a party, but you could do it after or during an informal family gathering. It’s standard practice after river lunch during my kayak classes now 🙂

Don’t drink a lot when you eat

Think of your digestion as a camp fire. If you douse the fire with a bunch of liquid you put the fire out. The same can be said for the digestive juices in your stomach. Too much liquid dilutes your digestive juices.

Don’t drink a lot of liquid 20 minutes before you eat, sip your drink while you’re eating and then wait another 20 minutes after you eat to drink more. Let the digestive juices in your stomach do the work and you’ll feel less bloated and more energetic.

Practice intermittent fasting

When you eat is just as, if not more important than what you eat. Chronobiologists who study circadian rhythm have found that it’s important to fast 3-4 hours between meals and 12-14 hours between dinner and breakfast.

Fasting between meals gives your digestive tract time to work and then rest before you ingest more food. Bloat and lethargy can be a result of the digestive system being too bogged down with food to work efficiently.

Back to our campfire analogy, if you keep piling logs onto a fire without giving the fire time to process what’s already there, your fire gets weak and can’t process all the fuel.

To learn more about intermittent fasting I recommend the book The Circadian Code.

Carry digestive teas in your bag

Bring a digestive herbal tea bag or 2 in your bag. Some of the best digestive teas include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, fennel, cumin, coriander and/or peppermint. My favorite combinations are lemon-ginger or an herbal chai.

Do you have questions about these strategies, and want to learn more about how to implement them into your life year-round? Register for my Master your Whitewater Mindset 8 Week Course. Your digestion and nutrition either supports or detracts from your mindset. In addition to focusing on topics like mental agility, yoga for paddling and hard moves in easy water, the course will also focus on a holistic approach to cultivating courage and confidence through nutrition and digestion. Course starts January 2nd. Click here to learn more!