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How to Prevent Digestive Issues During the Holidays

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Food and travel are often the themes of many holidays. During the winter season, gatherings and parties are left and right. And the last thing you want to become is a party pooper.

However, if your tummy is not sitting well, that’s exactly what you’re going to be (figuratively and otherwise).

Every year, about 62 million Americans seek medical health for their digestive problems. These issues usually aggravate during holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New year.

Digestive or gastrointestinal problems can be triggered by overeating which is pretty common during the said holidays. Add up the stress of travel and other factors such as inactivity and excessive drinking, and then you get the perfect formula for gastrointestinal discomfort.

So, how do you prevent these digestive issues during the holidays?

Experts promote a habit of mindfulness during gatherings. But, despite the merriment, you still need to be conscious of what you eat and drink.

And if that’s something you want to work on, check out our practical tips as you read on.

Why Do You Get Upset Stomach During the Holidays?

The increase in people experiencing gastrointestinal during the holidays comes as no surprise considering the drastic changes lots of families make during celebrations. But to be more specific, digestive issues arise due to the following:

1.      Lack of Fiber rich-food

A typical meal on many American families during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and the Fourth of July celebrations consists of food with minimal fiber.

In fact, different types of meat become a staple on the table during these events.

As you may already know, dietary fiber is a structural carbohydrate commonly found in many fruits and vegetables. 

Our digestive tract cannot break down fiber, but still, it plays a crucial role in keeping a healthy bowel movement. Plus, it’s proven to lower cholesterol levels and control blood sugar.

A diet with less fiber often leads to intestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.

2.      Eating Foods High in Salt and Fat

More often than not, people tend to indulge in unhealthy foods during the holidays. 

As delicious as these meals are, most of them are smothered in salt and fat. This leads to people gaining weight, especially during the holiday stretch from November to January.

Salty foods cause bloating, fluid retention, headaches, and high blood pressure. The latter is associated with several heart and kidney problems. Likewise, food high in salt can also disrupt protein digestion.

On the other hand, foods rich in saturated fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol. Moreover, excessive consumption of fatty foods is linked to a leaky gut.

So, when you eat any food high in salt and fat, you could experience an upset stomach and other digestive distress.

3.      Consuming Large Portions of Food

It is common to overeat during the holidays, which results in gastrointestinal problems.  One of its consequences is heartburn.

When you consume too much food, the stomach produces tons of hydrochloric acid necessary for digestion. The sheer volume of food and gastric juices lets the hydrochloric back up, causing the condition.

Common Digestive Problems During Holiday Season

Holiday dinners are notorious for triggering digestive problems. So if your stomach is upset, the chances that it’s due to the setup of the celebration (food and booze-wise, at least) is high. 

However, if the symptoms are severe and persistent even after the celebrations, it might be time to see a doctor.

Nonetheless, here are some of the common digestive problems you can experience during the holidays.

1.       Heartburn

There are many stories about people getting heartburn after a feast-like Christmas or New Year celebration.

Heartburn is the regurgitation of stomach content back to the esophagus. It comes with a burning sensation in the chest that can last for a few minutes or even hours.

Overeating, mainly if it includes any acidic food or those high in fat, leads to heartburn. Another trigger for heartburn is excessive alcohol intake. This consumption is expected during the holidays, so it’s pretty expected that some people experience heartburn.

2.       Diarrhea

It certainly puts a giant cloud over your day if you have an irritable bowel with diarrhea. 

Unfortunately, it could be inevitable if your stomach gets upset due to some food. Nonetheless, this could be avoided if you master your digestive patterns well.

For example, if you are entirely aware of any digestive condition such as Celiac disease, you’ll have the drive to stir clear from foods that could trigger the disorder. This includes bread, beer, wheat, cake, pastry, and food items with dairy.

3.       Constipation

Since more holiday dinners are not exactly rich in fiber, there’s a chance that you could have constipation. In addition, a lack of hydration and exercise could aggravate this. 

Moreover, if you’re traveling, the stress and changes in your regular routine can disrupt your bowel movement.

4.       Stomach ache

Sometimes digestive discomfort comes with abdominal pain. It could range from a tolerable level to severe pain, which can be a sign of an underlying condition.

Nevertheless, overeating is associated with abdominal pain or stomach aches. 

Your gastrointestinal tract can only hold a certain amount of food. Exceeding that limitation is like a punishment to your stomach and intestinal walls.

5.       Food Poisoning

Holiday meals pack lots of meat and eggs in its ingredients. With that comes the possibility of serving it raw or undercooked. 

Unfortunately, this could lead to more than just an upset stomach. Sometimes it becomes the very trigger for food poisoning.

Food poisoning is certainly an unpleasant aftermath of your party. So, to avoid this condition, it’s essential to keep your food preparation safe and clean.

5 Tips To Keep Your Digestive System Healthy During the Holidays

You will be at your happiest during the holidays when you keep your digestive system in its optimum health.

While holiday dinners tend to bring the possibility of digestive disruption, you can still avoid it entirely in the following ways.

1.       Don’t forget to hydrate.

Water remains a huge part of your digestive health. With all the different types of beverages around, it’s still imperative to secure the recommended water intake to avoid any problems with nutrient absorption and bowel movement.

2.       Eat slowly and consciously.

Often, the abundance of decadent and delicious food leads to problems with self-control. And with that comes the tendency to eat faster than your usual pace. But if you’re consciously avoiding any digestive issues, it’s easier to keep control and maintain mindful eating.

It’s best to enjoy your meal by eating it and savoring the flavor. That way, you don’t just get a positive feeling in the process. You can always ensure that your stomach won’t be upset.

3.       Balance your meals.

A balanced meal with enough carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and fiber is still crucial even during the holidays.

Ensure that what’s on your plate completes the components of a nutritious meal. If you consume too much of just one of these organic compounds, the chances of experiencing gastrointestinal problems increases.

For example, too many carbohydrates will leave you bloated. And if you have a food intolerance or celiac disease, this will just trigger some unpleasant symptoms.

Therefore, you will need to filter your food and muster the will to refuse the temptation of prohibited foods from your diet.

4.       Limit your alcohol intake.

Alcohol often governs many holiday celebrations. People often say it’s no party without alcohol. While this has been embedded in the core of party cultures, it doesn’t give an excuse to consume alcohol beyond your capacity.

Aside from the mental inhibition caused by excessive alcohol drinking, it can also trigger other health conditions and introduce new ones. For example, overconsumption of alcohol leads to heart problems and contributes to the prevalence of heart attacks during the holidays. 

So, if you want to protect your digestive system and your health as a whole, know when to stop drinking alcoholic beverages during holiday dinners and parties. 

5.       Maintain Proper Exercise.

Holidays are often deemed as the season for fun and indulgence. But, unfortunately, that’s why most people forget to hit the gym or do any exercise during these times. 

Plus, from November to December, the season that holds the most holidays, it’s winter in many areas. So, if you’re hit with winter fatigue, it’s even more unmotivating to exercise.

Nevertheless, it is still imperative to take exercise seriously during the holidays. It’s generally to prepare your stomach for the inevitable feast and preserve your health and energy. 

Summary

Indigestion is an unpleasant experience you don’t want to go through, especially during the holidays. Fortunately, you can always do something about it. 

However, it takes a great deal of mindfulness to execute the recommended tips in keeping your digestive system happy during the holidays. Still, keeping your gastrointestinal tract in its prime condition will leave you with no regrets. 

But if you have underlying conditions like Celiac disease, you will have to take your consciousness even more seriously for the sake of your health. 

Nonetheless, if you are unaware of having this disorder, it could end badly. So, get tested for digestive conditions like Celiac disease and make your holiday fun and worry-free. 

Medically Approved By Dr. Edward Salko, MD

Dr. Edward Salko is the board-certified physician who reviews lab tests provided by PERSONALABS™. He earned his Bachelor of Science in chemistry and pre-med from the University of Florida in Gainesville and his Doctor of Osteopathy Medicine in 1980 from Kansas City University School of Medicine.

Dr. Salko’s career has specialized in family and emergency medicine. His passion is to provide clients with the tools they need in the most convenient way possible to allow them to take charge of their own healthcare. He has held a variety of positions in Kansas, Florida and Washington. Currently, in addition to his duties as Medical Director for Personalabs, he is a practicing emergency physician in Kennewick, Washington.

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