The holidays are notorious for being an excuse when it comes to overeating. How are you supposed to eat in moderation when there is so much delicious food served everywhere you go?
There are potlucks at work, free treats to try at the store, and every member of your family likes to bake. Plus the holiday meals themselves have four courses in one sitting. It is easy to take on more food than you intend and you are all too familiar with that stuffed feeling.
Large meals make you feel bloated and uncomfortable to the point that moving is not an option. In addition to this, they place a large strain on your digestive system. It is wise to be prepared for large meals and know the right way to handle them.
You know they are coming so approach them with a plan and you and your digestive tract will make it out without damage or discomfort. There are several tips you can employ to help you digest food faster so that heavy meal doesn’t stick around all day.
Optimizing Your Digestion of a Large Meal
Before, during and after your meal, there are actions you can take and information you should know to help optimize the digestive process. Optimal performance in the digestive tract means food will be moved along much quicker, which reduces the chances of discomfort.
Food that sits around in your gut will not only cause gas and bloating but can attract unwanted pathogens. Large holiday meals are more likely to cause this than regular meals, so make note of what you can do to ensure you stay not just comfortable and happy, but healthy too.
Before your meal
Get your digestive juices flowing by eating bitter foods before your meal. Green olives, sesame seeds and raw vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli with dip are ideal bitter foods to enjoy as appetizers.
These foods stimulate gastric acid secretion as well as gastric motility, which move any food already in your gut. In addition, CCK production is increased, which stimulates pancreatic enzymes needed for full digestion.
You can also add sour foods and GMO-free digestive enzymes to your pre-meal plan. Mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in some water and drink to boost gastric acid secretion. It may not taste pleasant but when your meal is fully broken down into useable pieces, you will be thankful.
When food is broken down into small enough pieces, there is nothing left to collect in the gut which keeps nutritional deficiencies and bacterial overgrowth at bay. If you are not excited about the idea of vinegar water, a digestive enzyme supplement that contains a powerful probiotic like Saccharomyces boulardii will perform the same valuable service.
During your meal
Plant-based medications have been used for centuries across the globe to support healthy digestion. Lucky for you, these medicinal plants are also known as herbs; sage, thyme, mint, rosemary and oregano can all be easily added to a meal to boost your digestive power.
Whether you add them to your meat dish, salad or sides, any herbs can help keep the food moving through your digestive tract. The bacteria present in your gut also play a valuable role in digestion so be sure to feed them with fermented foods. These friendly floras are the ones you want in large numbers, so the more the merrier.
Starchy foods and meat can sit heavy on your stomach and are slow to digest, even for the healthiest of guts.
When you eat these meals without raw vegetables, you are at risk for intestinal damage and leaky gut. Throw in some leafy green salads with raw vegetables as a side to make sure all those starches get a helping hand through the digestive tract.d
If you notice that your major complaint after meals is bloating, there is good chance you suffer from FODMAP sensitivity. These compounds are fermentable starches that clog up the digestion process in the gut. Typically these sensitivities only occur when your digestive system is unbalanced, so be extra aware of these foods if you are already experiencing digestive issues.
Finally, during your meal you want to pay close attention to the 80/20 rule. (If the meal is especially large, you can try the 90/10 rule.) This means you eat until you are 80 or 90 percent full so that your digestive system still has enough energy to complete is duties.
If you over-stuff yourself, your digestive system slows and cannot digest food fast enough. You end up with food fermenting in your gut that draws pathogenic bacteria to the scene, increasing your risk of inflammation and serious complications.
How to digest after a big meal:
Once the meal is complete, assuming you left a little room for a cup of tea; herbs are the best way to help digestion along. Carminative herbs like peppermint, ginger, fennel, or dandelion root offer relief from bloating and that fullness feeling.
These herbal teas speed up digestion by helping out your intestinal bacteria, as well as expelling any gas that has been causing discomfort.
Typically if you start to feel bloated while eating or your stomach is making noises you have never heard, it is time to stop eating. In fact, you probably should have stopped a few bites back. You will feel like flopping on the couch and vow not to move a muscle until the pain goes away.
It may be the last thing on your mind, but getting up is actually a better option.
Exercise helps to stimulate digestion and prevents constipation. This does not mean you have to run a marathon or hit the gym but a simple stroll around the block gets things moving and prevents you from getting backed up.
Since the holidays are filled with mouth-watering aromas, delicious foods and huge meals, the chances of you getting full are likely. Rather than suffer in pain after the fact, follow the tips discussed above before and during your meal to assist your digestive system in the best way possible.
The more help you give, the smoother things will go. The best way to avoid discomfort is not to gorge, but in reality holiday meals are just too tempting. Approach each meal with a plan, and give your digestive tract support. You may not avoid that stuffed feeling, but you can be sure it won’t last long and your gut will appreciate the help.