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It is easy to gain weight during the festive period, but luckily, Dr Elizabeth Philipps, a nutritionist and clinical neuroscientist, shared six tips to prevent food coma and improve digestion this Christmas.
Get some fresh air
The doctor suggested people prevent bloating by practising low-impact cardio, such as a medium-distance walk, which can help with digestion and ease bloating. This makes the food move through the stomach quicker than when sitting.
It can be easy to grab a selection box or a couple of mince pies after Christmas dinner but it is key to give the gut a few hours, and she shared the four hour rule for desserts.
“Four hours is the perfect amount of time for your stomach to empty. The quicker you snack, the more bloated you’re going to feel for longer, as you haven’t given your stomach enough time to digest,” the nutritionist explained.
Dr Philipps said many people forget to pace themselves when eating Christmas dinner but this should be “an obvious” tip.
“Since it’s such an exciting time that we’ve been anticipating for weeks, it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and stack our plates. Slowing down is normally enough to ward off that all too familiar bloat.”
When people eat fast, they don’t chew their food for as long as they should, and it is more difficult for the stomach to digest smaller pieces of food, the expert explained.
“Chewing for longer not only helps with digestion, it also reduces the likelihood of overeating, as your brain is given more time to feel full which results in less chance of a bloated stomach.”
Herbal teas have natural digestives that help boost digestion and relieve the stomach from bloating.
“Whilst teas like peppermint, ginger and chamomile all have slightly different benefits, all will help calm your stomach and improve digestion,” Dr Philipps said.
Peppermint tea is a great gastrointestinal stress relief, ginger tea has anti-inflammatory properties and chamomile can have calming and therapeutic effects.
The expert recommended adding a cinnamon stick or two as they are filled “with antioxidants that offer an abundance of health benefits and would certainly elevate your festive game”.
Improve your gut health
The doctor recommended taking probiotics to improve gut health, “ideally after eating”.
A lot of caffeine, sugar and alcohol is consumed over the Christmas period and good bacteria can be lost, but probiotics are “essentially friendly bacteria that are great for your general gut health”.
The nutritionist said that taking them over the festive period is “an assured way to optimise your digestive health and be one step ahead of bloating this Christmas”.
Healthline explained that “probiotics help balance the friendly bacteria in your digestive system and help prevent and treat diarrhoea”.
Don’t drink too much
Drinking can fill the stomach up, affect its acid activity and drinking excessively before a meal can lead to indigestion and bloating.
The doctor explained that foods digest easier when your stomach’s acidity level is between one and two on the pH scale, and “overdrinking liquids can slow down the digestion process which can result in becoming bloated easier than normal”.
Some nutritionists argue against drinking at all during a meal, although she suggested “limiting your consumption of liquids and a small drink is fine”.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommended that adults drink in moderation by limiting intake to “two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women”.
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