7 Tips to Support Your Digestion This Holiday Season

  • Written By:Michele Ross
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Thanksgiving just may be the best food holiday all year, followed by even more merry meals and indulgences through New Years. As delicious as all this festive fare is, it can still be taxing on your digestive system.

To discover how to beat bloating, gas, and the “must unbutton immediately” feeling this winter, we spoke to registered dietitian and gut health expert Sarah Greenfield. Below are her top tips to support your digestion and overall health while still enjoying your merry meals—and even alcohol!

1. Perfect Your Plate

Greenfield kicks things off with a general tip to eat balanced meals, which will not only support digestion, but also keep you full and healthy during peak cold and flu season.

She advises building a balanced plate that looks like this:

  • 1/2 vegetables
  • 1/2 protein
  • 1/2 carbs
  • Some healthy fat

In addition to avoiding an all-carb or all-protein plate, you should also “try to incorporate fiber into your daily diet, which will help diversify your gut microbiome,” she shares. Plus, she advises limiting your sodium intake to mitigate water retention.

2. Dress for the Occasion

As you’re planning your holiday outfits, you’ll want to keep something important in mind that goes beyond fashion. “Tight clothing can impede the natural movement of food and gas through the intestines, leading to digestive discomfort,” Greenfield explains. For that reason, oversized sweaters, loose dresses, and yes, stretchy pants, may be your best sartorial bets to stay comfortable and regular amidst holiday feasts.

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3. Imbibe, but in Moderation

Greenfield says that moderate alcohol consumption (i.e., one serving every hour or two) should be fine as far as your digestion is concerned. However, much more than that “won’t only make digestive symptoms worse, but also negatively impact the diversity of your gut microbiome,” she warns.

On a similar note, Greenfield also recommends opting for low- or no-sugar mixers. “Too much sugar will feed bad bacteria and make you feel bloated,” she explains. (You’ll probably want to save your sweet tooth for dessert, anyway.) If you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, opt for tequila, gluten-free rum, and other spirits that won’t ignite symptoms.

4. Sip Smarter

Alcohol intake aside, there are certain habits and drinks that can help optimize your digestion through Thanksgiving and beyond. As important as it is to adequately hydrate, you may have heard that it’s best to avoid drinking water during meals. But is this fact or fiction? “It’s more of a philosophy than a hard fact,” Greenfield shares, “but drinking water during meals can potentially dilute your natural digestive enzymes and digestive capacity overall.”

If you prefer to err on the side of caution, aim to hydrate adequately before and after chowing down. (You may also want to keep digestive enzyme supplements on hand for further support.) Also, if you find yourself battling digestive discomfort after your holiday meals, Greenfield suggests opting for herbal teas with peppermint, ginger, anise, and/or fennel to—ahem—move things along.

5. Go for a Walk

Sure, cold weather and holiday traditions typically call for cozying up on the couch after you’ve gotten your foodie fix. However, Greenfield notes that moving your body right after mealtime will help your food move more efficiently through your GI tract.

Research supports the benefits of walking for digestion, and one study even found that walking directly after a meal helps encourage weight loss more so than waiting it out. To reap the benefits for digestion and weight management alike, you’ll want to get your steps in ASAP post-meal and keep at it for at least 30 minutes.

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6. Get Enough Rest

Did you know that getting enough good-quality sleep can support your digestion? (Of course, the benefits of adequate shut-eye also extend to boosting your immunity, mood, energy, and so much more.) “During the holidays and year-round, it’s essential to prioritize getting enough sleep,” Greenfield advises. “Your digestive function will be all the better for it.”

The less stress you have, the better your digestion will be.

- Sarah Greenfield

7. Eat Mindfully

Last but not least, take care to enjoy the holiday season and the foods that help make this time of year so special. “Don’t stress out or shame yourself if you overeat,” Greenfield says. “The less stress you have, the better your digestion will be.” She particularly recommends practicing mindful eating to get the most out of every bite, which can actually help prevent overeating (and accompanying gut issues) and maximize your pleasure of food.

“Put your fork down between bites,” Greenfield begins. “Enjoy all the senses of eating—touches, textures, scents, colors—to help create more pleasure with the actual experience of eating versus the quantity of food you have in front of you.”

In essence, eating mindfully will help ensure that you’re savoring every bite and every moment during this holiday season and beyond—all while minimizing digestive discomfort.

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