Bloating is a sign that something is not quite right, especially if it is accompanied by severe discomfort or pain.
The obvious is eating much larger meals during the holidays, which places a lot of pressure on the digestive system, and snacking between those meals can only make the situation even worse. A bit of sugar here and there, and a touch of alcohol, and your gut is preparing for war.
One of the key issue is that eating too much (and too fast, and not taking the time to thoroughly chew each mouthful) can lead to undigested food to be propelled inside the intestinal tract. This forces the pancreas and the small intestine to pick up the pace, yet might not be efficient enough since the 'tap remains opened' (you continue to eat, even though you are feeling full, and still happily tempted to have some Christmas pudding and some alcohol-infused custard and ice cream).
To make matters worse, mixing many food groups in the stomach at once (it may take a long time for the stomach to churn food and empty its content into the intestinal tract, and so, a three course meal is usually tossed inside the stomach for a long while), increases the release of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) and yet, not all food are fully digested, particularity proteins, which can enter the small intestine undigested and putrefy, producing a large amount of gas. To make matters worse, hydrochloric acid has no effect on carbs (carbs are not digested in the stomach), and so undigested proteins mix with sugar and alcohol in the intestinal tract and feed the wrong kind bacteria, the gas-producing type. And so, you inflate like a balloon and you are spending most of the afternoon trying to digest all of that food and get rid of the discomfort. Excessive pressure can lead to distension and after a while you may experience more or less severe pain. You may have felt ready for a nap but now your body is diverting all the energy it can to manage the raging war inside your gut.
To avoid this, especially if you are prone to bloating, it is important to take a moment before eating. Whatever it is you want to do, let it be breathing exercise, a 5-minute pause (meditation) or a prayer, you are prepared to eat in a more 'mindful' state. This will set the pace for the rest of the meal. Chew each mouthful thoroughly. Take your time. Do not drink too much during the meal as this will dilute stomach acid and also digestive enzymes. Take a pause after the main meal to breathe. Take this opportunity to initiate a conversation with the whole table, talking about feel-good family souvenirs. Anything to activate the parasympathetic ('rest-and-digest') response and improve digestion. This plays hugely on symptoms like bloating and discomfort. When everyone is ready for desert, then you will have enough space in your stomach. You may want to drink a warm tea like dandelion, nettle or fennel, to help you digest, and perhaps happily nod off for a little while, a time during which your body can 'rest-and-digest' some more. If you are prone to bloating, you may benefit from taking digestive enzymes and perhaps hydrochloric acid (if you are low on stomach acid due to medication or chronic stress). This will provide much-needed relief.
Registered Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist, Iridologist, Lecturer, NLP practitioner and Personal Performance Coach.
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