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Digestion & Weight Control over the Holiday Season

Posted by : Erika McCarthy   /  

Soon sweet, sugary, and savory dishes will not only occupy a significant portion of our imaginations but our stomachs too. Even though the holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and relaxation where we indulge in our guilty pleasures it often turns into the season of over-indulgence, weight-gain, and malaise for our digestion. So, can we enjoy ourselves during the holiday season and not wreak havoc on our digestion systems and waistlines?

Yes! This is not going to be a blog telling you to give up all your favorite foods. We all know even the most careful eater or dedicated dieter can be lulled by the rich and savory dishes of the season. For those times when you give in, we will show you how to indulge and yet be gentle on your digestive system. Read ahead for our top tips to beat the holiday bloat.

Be mindful. Many cases of digestive upset like gas, bloating, and heartburn are the result of over-indulgence, so moderation is a great tool to use. Moderation is pretty easy when you:

  • Only eat what you truly love. Don’t fill up on bread or other items you can eat year-round. Also, don’t feel obligated to eat foods just because someone made them. It’s your digestion system, not theirs.
  • Choose a smaller plate. If you don’t have that option, then make sure you can still see your plate. If your plate starts looking like a mini Mt. Everest of mashed potatoes and turkey, it’s time to slow down.
  • Savor your food, slowly. While it may seem like a marathon of food you don’t have to finish first. Eating more slowly will allow your body to sense when it’s full before you’ve overeaten. Paying attention to how you feel: If you begin to sweat and you can feel your heartbeat, it is time to call it a day.
  • Take digestion enhancing supplements.

  • Digestive bitters are herbs that support digestive function by stimulating bitter receptors on the tongue, stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas increasing the production of stomach acids, bile, and enzymes that help us break down and absorb nutrients1. As bitter foods have largely disappeared from our diets, they are often underutilized but great tools in your digestion toolbox. Bitters come in liquids as well as travel-friendly mouth sprays. Try a few sprays before, during, and after your meals.
  • Digestive Enzymes are blends of enzymes that break down proteins, starches, sugars, fats, fiber, and more2. They supplement our enzymes and are useful when our digestive system becomes overwhelmed. Take enzymes 15 to 30 minutes before you begin eating to enhance your digesting abilities.
  • Fennel is one of the most effective herbal digestive aids, as it reduces cramping, gas, and bloating. The oils contained in fennel seeds sooth and relax the intestines while helping remove pockets of air that can slow digestion3. Trying drinking a cup of warm fennel tea 30 minutes before eating to prime the intestines or take fennel containing supplements during and after meals to combat gas and bloating.
  • Ginger is probably the single most popular digestive herb and for a good reason. Ginger stimulates saliva and gastric acid production while at the same time promoting gastric emptying to reduce bloating4. Once out of the stomach and in the intestines, ginger reduces intestinal inflammation and pain in general5.
  • Herbal Teas are fantastic at easing digestive woes but even more importantly can calm nerves and reduce stress. Look for herbal tea blends that contain carminative (gas reducing) and calming herbs such as chamomile, mint, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, and tulsi basil.
  • Reduce stress and your waistline. Stress has a direct impact on every aspect of digestion. During times of stress blood flow to the stomach is reduced which can cause inflammation, a reduction of digestive enzymes, and imbalances of gut bacteria. Also, stress increases the hormone cortisol which increases cravings, slows down metabolism and causes water retention. Managing holiday stresses can be challenging, but simple things like a quick 15-minute walk, yoga, even deep breathing exercises can work wonders. Essential oils like lavender6, chamomile7, and bergamot8 are easy to travel with and great stress reducers. Herbal supplements containing lemon balm9, ashwagandha10, kava11, or holy basil12 are also effective stress busters.

    We hope our healthy digestion tips can give you and your tummy the gift of good health this holiday season.

    [References]

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4446506/
    2. http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/cfb/enzymes.htm
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2736926/
    4. https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10178636
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
    6. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/pms.2001.93.3.713
    7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3600416/
    8. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.3325
    9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3326910/
    10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/
    11. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-009-1549-9
    12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/

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