Holiday Stomach Problems

With the holidays in full swing, it's inevitable that some of us will have digestive issues. Don’t let them ruin your season!

“Common holiday stomach problems—bloating, indigestion—may be a result of large, rich meals, especially when you're not used to eating these foods,” said Sharon Palmer, a dietitian and author of The Plant-Powered Diet.

So what can you do about it?

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1. Indigestion

When indigestion hits, you know it. That’s why it’s important to eat smaller portions, especially when it comes to creamy or buttery dishes, fatty meats, sauces, and high-fat desserts.

“Instead, fill your plate with simple plant foods—green salads, cooked veggies, fruit, whole grains—and just take a tiny portion of one thing that you'd like to try,” Palmer said. “The simple plant foods will help fill you up and satisfy you without the indigestion, but you'll still feel like you haven't deprived yourself.”

“Consider eating a handful of almonds or having a drink that contains fiber 20 to 30 min before you eat. That way you'll get a head start on satiety,” said Dr. Felicia D. Stoler, a registered dietician and exercise physiologist, noting that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate with your brain that you are full.

Food isn’t the only thing that can cause you to reach for the Tums. Palmer said holiday drinks that are sugary or creamy can also cause indigestion. She recommends having a glass of wine with plenty of water. Peppermint and ginger teas can help treat indigestion too.

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2. Food Intolerance

Palmer said it’s important to remember foods that agitate your system. Now is not the time to slip up and make yourself sick.

“Some people have allergies or personal reactions to particular foods, whether it's dairy, spicy, or high-fat foods. Don't forget these, even during holiday eating occasions,” she said.

3. Constipation

Make sure you always get enough fiber and water, Palmer said.

Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. “Keep your digestion on a nice even flow,” Palmer said.

In addition to watching what you eat and controlling your portions, also make sure to do regular workouts to keep your body healthy and active.

4. Bloating

Bloating or feeling full can be accompanied by pain, excessive gas, and a telltale rumbling in your gut.

Some people over-consume beverages, especially those with carbonation, so that may make them feel bloated, Stoler said.

Also, some foods like lentils can cause bloating, so you may want to limit them. Fiber can help move gassy foods through your system, and potassium-rich foods or some ginger can also help. Probiotics are also a useful supplement if you’ve been feeling bloated.

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When all else fails and you’ve had too much to eat, remember to keep moving.

“Continue to exercise, which can reduce stress and help with digestion," Palmer said. "It's not the time to eliminate it.”