It's difficult to enjoy the holidays when you feel like a balloon has been blown up in your tummy. Between the festive snacks, company lunches, parties and turkey (or tofurkey) dinners, bloating during the holidays can seem inevitable - but it doesn't have to be. There are several natural ways to reduce bloating (and improve your overall health and wellness) that you can implement starting today.
What Causes Bloating?
Bloating can be a stubborn health symptom because it often has more than one cause. While overeating is the most common cause of the "food baby", other culprits can play a role in bloating, such as food sensitivities and a lack of friendly bacteria in your digestive system.
Other common causes of bloating include:
— Chewing Gum
It almost sounds too simple, but chewing gum can cause you to "swallow air", trapping air in your digestive system. A buildup of air in your GI tract can lead to abdominal pressure and
When you chew gum, your body also gets "tricked" into thinking you're about to eat a meal and prepares for digestion by secreting digestive enzymes and stomach acid. However, when there's no food to digest, an overproduction of stomach acid can lead to bloating.
— Improper Food Pairing
Food combining is simply the practice of pairing foods that digest well together, which is primarily based on the amount of time they take to digest. For example, the sugar (fructose) in fruit digests very rapidly, which can cause a "traffic jam" in your digestive system when combined with nutrients that are slower to digest, such as protein or fats.
It's believed that this intestinal traffic jam impairs digestion and is a major cause of bloating and gas, as food can begin to ferment in the GI tract when it's poorly digested.
— Low Stomach Acid
While high stomach acid can cause bloating, low stomach acid can, too (1).
Without adequate gastric acid secretion, we cannot properly digest the food we eat. When digestion is sluggish, there's a greater chance for food to "sit" and ferment, which causes gas and bloating.
Low stomach acid can be caused by diet and lifestyle factors, such as frequent antibiotic use, chronic stress, refined sugar and frequent antacid use.
— Drinking Ice Cold Beverages With Meals
According to Ayurveda (ancient Indian medicine), drinking cold water dampens your "
As mentioned above, when your stomach acid production is low your body takes longer to digest the food you eat, which may result in bloating.
— Underlying Digestive Issues
It should also be noted that chronic bloating may be a warning sign that an underlying digestive condition is present, such as leaky gut syndrome, candida overgrowth and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) (2).
When bloating isn't resolved when appropriate dietary or lifestyle changes are made, it's best to speak with your doctor or natural healthcare practitioner to determine if a more serious condition could be causing your symptoms.
Now, avoiding a distended tummy during the holidays is simple when you understand how to improve digestion through your diet. By understanding the causes of bloating and avoiding "bloating triggers," you can easily prevent the sluggish and heavy feeling that often accompanies holiday meals.
Here are 7 simple ways to avoid bloating during the holidays.
1. Sip on Fennel Seed Tea
Fennel is a spice that's been used for thousands of years to combat gas and bloating. In fact, fennel is one of the most effective natural digestive aids for those who suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) (3).
Fennel can help soothe inflammation in the digestive tract, and research shows that it can also stimulate the release of trapped gas from the GI tract and offer a mild laxative effect to help relieve constipation (4).
You can make fennel seed tea at home simply by steeping crushed fennel seeds in boiling water for five minutes. You can add other herbs to your homemade tea that help promote digestion, such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cardamom. You can also find fennel tea in digestive herbal tea blends at your local health food store.
2. Drink Warm Water With Apple Cider Vinegar & Lemon Before Meals
It was mentioned above to avoid drinking iced cold bevies with meals to reduce bloating - so what do you drink instead? A warm or room temperature beverage, which won't interfere with stomach acid production.
Adding a splash of apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of lemon to warm water can help improve digestion. Apple cider vinegar contains a nutrient called acetic acid, which has a similar pH to stomach acid, while the citric acid in lemon is said to help stimulate the production of gastric acid (5). This is why warm water with lemon is commonly recommended to drink as a digestive aid, approximately 20 minutes before meals for improved digestion.
Understandably, if you have
Note: Water with lemon and apple cider vinegar should always be sipped through a straw to prevent the acidity from eroding tooth enamel.
3. Avoid Dairy and Gluten
Many of our favorite holiday recipes include gluten and dairy, both of which are common food allergens. Studies suggest that gluten is a common food sensitivity because a protein it contains, called gliadin, elevates our zonulin levels. Zonulin is a protein that has been linked to digestive disorders such as leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, and promotes inflammation within the digestive tract.
As you now understand, underlying digestive disorders are a major cause of bloating, and inflammation in the digestive tract can also cause abdominal pain and distention.
Dairy is another common culprit in bloating because many of us stop producing lactase -the enzyme required to digest lactose in dairy - after the ages of breastfeeding (6). When our bodies can't digest a certain food, not only do we suffer from systemic inflammation, but our digestion becomes sluggish and we bloat out like balloons.
Now, between Grandma's award-winning stuffing, Dad's famous gravy, eggnog and holiday baking, it can seem impossible to avoid dairy and gluten completely. However, you can make simple healthy "holiday swaps" that won't leave you feeling deprived of your favorite dishes.
For example, you can make a stuffing recipe with sprouted grain bread (which is typically lower in gluten and easier to digest from sprouting) without compromising the flavor. Eggnog made with almond or coconut milk is also available at most health food stores during the holidays (although as a processed food, it's best to consume vegan nog as a treat, in moderation).
4. Add Chlorella to Your Diet
Chlorella, the amazing green superfood, is a single-celled green algae that contains several nutrients to support digestion. Chlorella is high in fiber, which is the primary nutrient needed for bowel regularity and preventing constipation and bloating. As a living food, chlorella also contains enzymes that help us digest the foods we're eating.
Another benefit of chlorella is that it promotes body detoxification. Bloating can also be caused by a buildup of toxins in your digestive tract, which is why natural detoxification is necessary for improving digestion.
You can add chlorella to your diet as a nutritional supplement with Sun Chlorella® tablets, or mix Sun Chlorella granules in with your favorite juice and smoothie recipes. With
To preserve all of chlorella's delicate nutrients, I recommend avoiding cooking with chlorella on high temperatures and instead, using chlorella in raw food recipes. If you're looking for recipe inspiration, Chlorella in the Kitchen recipe book is loaded with creative (and delicious) ways to add chlorella to your diet, from Chlorella Lime Pie to Vegan Pad Thai (we call it "Rad Thai").
5. Eat Fermented Foods
Since bloating can be caused by a lack of friendly bacteria in your digestive system, eating fermented foods can help recolonize the probiotics in your gut. Fermented foods contain strains of probiotics, such as lactobacillus, which are needed to properly digest and absorb nutrients from the foods you eat (7).
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, beet kvass, kimchi and coconut milk yogurt are dietary sources of probiotics, and a probiotic supplement can be taken to provide your body with a more concentrated dose of healthy gut bacteria. You can find probiotic supplements in the refrigerated section of your local health food or supplement store.
6. Avoid Fizzy Drinks
Carbonated drinks such as sparkling water contain a gas called carbon dioxide, which becomes carbonic acid when mixed with liquid. When you drink fizzy beverages, this gas is released into your GI tract and can result in gas and bloating.
Although breakfast mimosas and holiday champagne toasts can be tempting, you may want to stay away from the bubbles to avoid the bloat.
7. Pick a Smaller Plate
With so many delicious sides to feast on during holiday dinners, who wouldn't want to pile their plate high - especially after smelling the mouthwatering aromas coming from the kitchen all day! The truth is, you're more likely to overeat, which will leave you feeling bloated, when your dinner plate is larger. This is the easiest fix of all when it comes to bloating, because you can simply choose to fill a smaller plate.
I recommend waiting 10 minutes before going back for seconds, as it usually takes at least 10 minutes to realize when we're truly full.
As you can see, reducing bloating during the holidays is simple: all you need to do is increase the nutrients that support
About Brandi Black, RHN
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from Vancouver, B.C. Experiencing her own health challenges at a young age led her to become passionate about educating on the healing properties of food, and how to achieve hormone balance, clear skin and sustainable weight loss naturally. In her spare
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