How the festive season can affect your digestion
The winter holidays can be a magical time of year, especially if you’re celebrating! The chances are you’ll get to spend some close time with your family and your social calendar will suddenly be buzzing with work night outs and catch-ups with friends.
Seasonal foods will be everywhere, from turkey dinners to mulled wines and hot chocolates and, while in moderation this is great, it can sometimes have some unhappy repercussions for your digestive system which can struggle to breakdown an onslaught of sugary foods, fats, alcohol and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage.
This can then cause the usual symptoms to occur, namely that tell-tale bloated feeling underpinned by bouts of constipation and flatulence – not exactly how you want to feel when surrounded by your nearest and dearest. That’s why today I’m going to talk about several foods that might be able to help when bloating gets the better of you, plus I’ll discuss how you can avoid it in the future!
1 – Ginger
Pumpkin spice season might be almost over but nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger are still popular flavours at this time of year which is just as well for your gut! Ginger is a carminative herb that can help to alleviate symptoms such as trapped wind, plus it has natural anti-inflammatory properties which can help to soothe an inflamed colon, relaxing your gut and allowing food to pass through quicker.
Studies have also found that ginger is pretty good at combating nausea too so if you’re feeling full and slightly queasy, this herb is a great go-to option.1 You can add fresh ginger to your meals or you could unwind with a comforting cup of ginger tea.
2 – Peppermint tea
Who doesn’t like the refreshing smell and flavour of peppermint? Another popular seasonal flavour at this time, I don’t recommend going to candy canes for your fix. Instead, tea should once again be your first port of call. Firstly, it has antispasmodic properties so if you’re getting cramps and spasms peppermint is definitely a good option.
Since it contains volatile oils peppermint can also be quite stimulating for your gallbladder, helping it to release more bile so your food is broken down more efficiently.
3 – Asparagus
There are so many sugary foods floating around at this time of year but it would be wrong to say that veg doesn’t get some representation too. Broccoli, cabbage and kale are all popular options and are often served with turkey dinners however, if you’re prone to bloating, you may wish to avoid these veggies.
This is because, as healthy as these vegetables are, they all contain raffinose, a type of sugar that your gut may struggle to digest. This then prompts the bacteria in your gut to ferment this undigested sugar thus leading to symptoms such as bloating and flatulence. If you don’t want to miss out on your greens though, asparagus can be a good alternative, especially if you’re suffering from water retention.
Asparagus contains an amino acid known as ‘asparagine’ which can act as a diuretic, helping to reduce the symptoms of water retention. Asparagus also has another added benefit though – it contains prebiotic fibre which not only helps to keep your digestive system moving, it can also nourish the healthy strains of bacteria in your gut preventing any imbalances such as gut dysbiosis.
4 – Bananas
Constipation is a huge underlying trigger for bloating and the best way of combatting this unpleasant symptom is to include plenty of fibre in your diet. Bananas are a good fruit to incorporate into your daily routine as they contain a type of fibre known as ‘soluble’ fibre. Soluble fibre helps to attract water, making your stools easier to pass and preventing any blockages.
They’re also rich in potassium which can benefit another common cause of bloating – water retention. Of course, there are many, many different ways you can go about increasing your banana intake. You could simply eat this fruit by itself or add it to a smoothie or even include it in your pancake recipes!
5 – Papaya
Papayas are a delicious exotic fruit that’s lovely for adding to salads or eating by itself but, unfortunately, it often gets overshadowed by the more popular pineapple, which is a real shame. Papayas are rich incredibly rich in vitamin C which can help to support your immune system (never a bad thing at this time of year!) as well as keep your bowels moving regularly!
This is because, unlike bananas, papayas contain insoluble fibre which helps to add bulk to your stool so you can pass it easily. Papayas also have the added bonus of containing an enzyme known as ‘papin’ which can help your gut to breakdown fibre and protein, allowing them to be digested more efficiently. So, if you feel as though your digestive processes have become a bit sluggish over the festive period, why not nibble on some papaya?
6 – Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds are a little bit similar to ginger in that they have been used as a traditional remedy for digestive symptoms for centuries. They can help to calm the gastrointestinal tract which in turn makes it easier for your gut to get rid of trapped wind, a major cause of bloating. You could try incorporating dry fennel seeds into your cooking routine or alternatively, invest in a flavoursome fennel tea.
7 – Cucumber
Cucumbers are a great food for tackling the symptoms of bloating – there’s a reason we included them in our de-boat smoothie! It’s true that while water is the main component of cucumbers, they also contain an antioxidant known as ‘quercetin.’
Quercetin has recently been gaining quite a bit of attention, primarily due to its role as an anti-inflammatory. It’s this particular quality that makes cucumbers capable of combating bloating too (and incidentally what makes them so effective for puffy eyes too!).
8 – Lemon water
Lemons, aside from being rich in vitamin C, can act as a mild diuretic, helping to flush waste products and toxins out of your body. This could explain why recently they’ve become popular for detoxing, with lemon water, in particular, being extremely popular! Of course, if you feel as though your bloating symptoms are being brought on by fluid retention, the chances are that the idea of consuming yet more water probably isn’t that appealing.
However, nothing will exacerbate the symptoms of bloating quite like dehydration – after all, the reason your body is retaining fluid in the first place is to prevent this outcome. If you try to avoid water not only will you make your symptoms worse, you could also contribute to other unpleasant digestive problems such as constipation. If your digestive system doesn’t get the flow of water it needs it will struggle to excrete waste products which will sit in your gut and start to ferment – yuck!
So, if you feel all those fizzy drinks are taking their toll, I’d heat up the kettle and pour a glass of hot water with a zesty slice of lemon.
What else can you do to beat the bloat?
When it comes to tackling the festive bloat it’s important to realise how much you have strayed away from your usual routine. At this time of year, you are surrounded by all sorts of trigger foods from cruciferous vegetables to sugary treats, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
That’s why I’d recommend trying to give your stomach some time to process what you’re eating – at this time more than ever, chewing your food matters! You could also try reading my blog from last year, ‘A healthier festive plate’, if you want some inspiration for a few of the healthier swaps you can make so that this year’s turkey dinner is a little bit easier on your gut.
Our Digestisan tincture is also a useful aid if you feel as though you just can shift that bloated feeling. It contains a range of bitter herbs including peppermint, dandelion and boldo which can help to stimulate your digestive secretions, helping to breakdown food in your gastrointestinal tracts, alleviating issues such as bloating, flatulence and indigestion!
If you want more information about how you can tackle bloating, I’d highly recommend heading over to A.Vogel Talks Bloating where our Digestive Advisor Ali goes a little bit more in depth about why your symptoms are occurring, how you can alleviate them and when to consider your dietary habits!