How To Reduce Your December Bloat- By a Nutritionist
December is a time for fun and frivolities, not a time to be battling with the dreaded bloat. Unfortunately, the combination of festivities, rich food, plenty of bubbles, late nights, a lack of exercise and the added stress of family get-togethers can all prime your gut for quite the festive ride.
Read on to discover how to support your gut over the holidays and my top tips.
FILL UP ON LOW-FODMAPS
FODMAPs are a group of compounds that may be resistant when it comes to being digested in some individuals. Instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream, they reach the far end of your intestine, where they can contribute to symptoms of IBS and bloating.
Your gut microbes use these carbs as fuel, producing hydrogen gas and triggering digestive symptoms in those that are sensitive to FODMAPs.
Whether you’re attending a dinner or a drinks party, be careful of the foods you consume before or during an event to avoid the sudden bloat pop-up. Try to fill up on low-FODMAP foods such as olives, smoked salmon, roasted plain meats, roast vegetables, greens, onion-free salads and fresh berries.
I am afraid cauliflower cheese, Brussel sprouts, stuffing, pastry canapes, bread sauce, mince pies, Christmas pudding and sauces are all off the cards as they often contain onion & garlic which are big culprits when it comes to belly bloating.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Life can get very busy during the festive season, and sitting down and eating a meal alone can seem like a waste of time. Instead, most of us pack in a meeting, emails, life admin or scrolling whilst we eat. Whilst this might be time efficient, it can actually be a significant trigger for bloating and other gut discomfort.
When we eat mindlessly (not paying attention to the act of eating), we can miss our hunger and satiety hormones and end up overeating (which can make anyone feel tired and bloated!) or not feeling satisfied. And not feeling satisfied can leave us with cravings for sugar or snacks, which can trigger bloating.
Plus when was the last time you thoroughly chewed your food? Most of us are still chewing our first mouthful when the fork is ready to give us our next bite! And chewing is one of the first stages of digestion.
Whilst not every meal needs to be perfect, try implementing a few of the below suggestions:
- Chew your food well – ideally to the consistency of apple sauce
- Put your fork and knife down between each bite
- Dedicate 5-10 minutes to your meal time – distraction free and allow your senses to enjoy the moment
CALM BEFORE YOU BITE
When we get stressed, our body enters into a fight or flight response, and with that, we divert resources and blood flow away from the gut, and instead towards the brain, heart and limbs (to help us fight or flight!).
When blood flow is diverted away from the gut, digestion may become sluggish, leading to indigestion, bloating and changes in bowel movements.
Bringing down those stress levels when you’re eating by putting down the tech, avoiding challenging conversations or walking whilst eating, can help to keep digestion running smoothly.
If you feel stressed before a meal, I suggest trying out some breathing exercises and taking 3 deep breaths before tucking in.
Fibre is my favourite F word and can do wonders for gut health, BUT introducing fibre into your diet can actually backfire, especially for those with sensitive digestive systems… whilst brussels sprouts are delicious and wonderful for you, they are a high-fibre food and can make anyone gassy!
Whilst adequate fibre is key for regular bowel movements, too much fibre can be over stimualtory, especially if you are going from a standard 15g of fibre per day to over 30g!
The answer – go low and slow. Slowly build up your fibre and cook fibre-rich foods well when first introducing them. If you find all fibre-rich foods a trigger, you might benefit from the low fodmap diet or working with a nutritionist.
Just like we need a break, our gut needs a break from digesting food. When we are constantly eating, our gut is constantly working on digesting that food, and doesn’t have time to work on the other jobs it has to do.
Our MMC (migrating motor complex) is the guts cleansing system that helps to push food through the intestines and reduce bacterial infections and overgrowth. When we have periods of fasting, this can allow the MMC to do its job. SO, to support your gut health, aim to keep a 12-hour fast overnight and leave 3-4 hour gaps between meals and snacks.
Check out my guide to snacking here which covers when and what to snack on.
TRY BITTER FOODS
Digestive bitters trigger receptors on your tongue to signal the production of additional digestive juices and enzymes in the digestive tract, that are key for breaking down our food thoroughly.
My favourite way to use bitter foods is by consuming a handful of rocket, chicory salad or a shot of apple cider vinegar (around 1-2tbsp mixed with water) 15 minutes before a meal, which helps to prime your digestive system for the digestive process that is about to take place.
CONSIDER A DIGESTIVE ENZYME
Digestive enzyme supplements contain different enzymes such as lipase, amylase and protease that work to help break down difficult to digest food groups, which in turn can help reduce bloating and gas.
I normally suggest taking 1 capsule before each meal (2 for a large meal). My favourite brands when it comes to digestive enzymes are:
- Designs For Health Digestzymes available here
- Nutri Advanced Nutrigest available here
- Enzymedica available here
*Remember to always check in with your healthcare provider when taking a new supplement.
If your bloating seems to be a never ending vicious cycle that you want to work on, there is no better time to prioritise your gut health than the new year.
My January clinic is now open where I will be offering my GUT HEALTH package for all your bloating and digestive discomfort needs. Book a free call with me to talk you through how I work at https://clarissalenherr.com/book-a-discovery-call/