Table of Contents
- How Can Holiday Events Affect Gut Health?
- Navigating Holiday Festivities Without Heartburn
- Learn More Lifestyle Tips
America: home of the free, the brave, and adults with digestive problems.
Digestive diseases are responsible for over 100 million ambulatory care visits across the United States. Over the past ten years, the country has seen a steady increase in patients living with chronic gut disorders like IBS, acid reflux, and food sensitivities.
During the season of holiday events, doctors always notice a rise in patients complaining of gut problems.
But what is the link between holiday festivities and poor gut health? Let’s explore.
The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year, especially for the gut.
A survey of 2,000 American adults discovered 85% overeat during the holidays and 61% experience physical discomfort after holiday meals. The two biggest reasons for unhealthy holiday behavior were availability (like holiday parties with open bars) and stress.
Large portions, rich foods, lack of fiber, and heartburn-causing ingredients are the reason for the indigestion season.
With so many delicious holiday food and beverages to choose from, it’s easy to fill your plate (or go back for thirds).
But large portions lead to overeating. Too much food places stress on the digestive tract. It puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter, an important muscle that restricts digested food to the stomach and intestines.
A weakened esophageal sphincter allows food to rise and cause heartburn, acid reflux, and other uncomfortable problems.
Overindulging also slows down digestion activity. With so much to process, your intestines and stomach cannot move quickly. That’s why people often experience bloating, gas, and constipation after a big holiday meal.
Maybe it’s the family meal consisting of prime rib with a side of mac and cheese. Or perhaps it’s the fast-food you scarf down while shopping for last-minute holiday gifts. Whatever the source, rich and fatty foods are causing heartburn, constipation, and discomfort.
Rich foods stop the lower esophageal sphincter from staying tight and secure. This creates an opening for stomach acids to rise, resulting in acid reflux. Eating fatty foods also increases your risk of obesity, which could explain why many Americans’ pants fit a little tighter after the holiday season.
December means egg nog, mulled wine, and festive cocktails. But what you drink directly impacts your gut health.
Excessive amounts of alcohol increase the amount of stomach acid in your body. More stomach acid raises your risk of heartburn.
Alcohol also damages the lining around the esophagus. This makes the esophagus more sensitive to stomach acid and lowers its ability to fight chronic heartburn.
Consuming sugar in moderation is a-ok. But during the holiday season, cookies, cakes, and candy are abundant. Overindulging in sweets is the perfect recipe for chronic heartburn.
One of the worst holiday foods for your digestive tract is chocolate. It relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows stomach acid to trickle into the esophagus. Once there, the acid triggers heartburn.
What is your holiday party missing? The answer is fiber.
Fiber softens stool and ensures healthy bowel movements. Unfortunately, fiber is not a key ingredient in traditional holiday cuisine. Low-fiber meals lead to constipation and firm stool that are painful to pass.
In addition to eating less fiber, many Americans indulge in more dairy during the holidays. Creamy mashed potatoes, casseroles, and cheesecake are hard to pass up. But dairy clogs the digestive tract and makes going to the bathroom a painful process.
Is it possible to have a holly jolly season without reflux, constipation, and other tummy troubles? Absolutely. Be kind to your stomach now and enjoy the benefits before the year ends.
If you know you’re heading to a holiday party later, start your day with gut-friendly foods. Some of the best ingredients for your stomach include:
Don’t forget to work probiotics into your holiday diet. Probiotics are healthy bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso. They balance your gut and regulate bowel movements.
Dieticians recommend clients use smaller plates to avoid overeating. The same can be said for those trying to prevent gastrointestinal problems during the holidays.
While enjoying your holiday gathering, use an appetizer plate whenever possible. These smaller plates make it difficult to eat large portions of unhealthy holiday favorites. They force you to practice portion control, which is the best thing you can do for your gut.
Do the same for drinking. Too much alcohol leads to heartburn, so opt for a smaller glass when enjoying your cocktail. You’ll be more likely to sip slower and not overindulge in booze.
Moderate exercises can prevent acid reflux and heartburn. Cycling, walking, and swimming are excellent for people suffering from chronic gut problems during the holiday season.
Physical activity also prevents weight gain, which can worsen heartburn and reflux.
So, why wait for the new year to hit the gym? Beat the crowds and get into a healthy exercise routine during the holiday season. Your gut will thank you.
The holidays trigger stress. Stress causes heartburn. Patients often report stress as the biggest factor in worsening GERD symptoms.
Manage holiday stress to prevent heartburn and reflux from ruining your spirit.
Working out, deep breathing, and eating a well-balanced diet can reduce stress in your body. Stretching, taking a hot bath, or treating yourself to a massage are great ways to alleviate physical tension in your muscles.
Holiday events are fun and festive, but they are also a recipe for tummy troubles.
Don’t make your gut suffer through the holiday season. Eat smart and maintain a healthy lifestyle so it can be the most wonderful time of the year for all of your organs.
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