Today is Thanksgiving, so you’re probably anticipating large meals, extra snacking, many cocktails, and more desserts than usual. All of these things can be enjoyed as part of your holiday season, but beware of the bloating that may occur after overindulging. If past holidays have left you uncomfortably full with gas and bloating, here are some tips to avoid the discomfort this season.
- Watch your portion size. Eating too much too quickly can result in digestive discomfort. Avoid going into meals overly hungry as this can lead to fast eating. Enjoy small snacks throughout the day to avoid ravenous hunger, and practice reasonable portions once you get to your meal.
- Chew your food well. When eating too fast or talking during your meal, you may not be chewing your food as much as you need. This can take more effort from your digestive system to process this food, leading to bloat. Ensure you are taking time to adequately chew your food before taking your next bite.
- Enjoy the company. Holiday meals are meant to celebrate the day and enjoy the family and friends around you. While eating can be part of the fun, enjoy those around you more than focusing on the food. Taking time to converse with less emphasis on the meal can slow your eating, leading to less overeating.
Even with these tips, you may find yourself with the inevitable holiday bloat. Rest assured, I have you covered with ways to ease this post-meal discomfort. Here are eight easy ways to debloat after overeating.
Known for its spicy and bright aroma, ginger may be able to ease your stomach bloat. This root has properties that calm intestinal activity and reduce intestinal gas, reducing your feeling of bloat. You can reap these benefits from sucking a ginger candy, enjoying a mug of ginger tea, or eating pickled ginger after a meal. Additionally, ginger may be able to alleviate nausea, adding to its digestive benefits.
Staying hydrated has benefits well beyond reducing bloat, yet many adults find themselves under-consuming fluid. Liquid is needed for the passage of all food products throughout your digestive tract. When you are dehydrated, your digestive organs may be less lubricated, impacting digestion. If you find yourself frequently bloated after eating, assess how much water you are drinking throughout the day. Adults should aim for at least 80 ounces of fluid per day, at least half coming from water. In order to maximize your fluid benefits, spread this amount across your entire day, not going longer than one hour without drinking something.
Movement is another great tool that promotes healthy digestion. After eating, try to engage in some light activity. This can simply be light housework, or more intentional, like a walk around the neighborhood. This movement may be able to aid digestion and relieve bloat. Additionally, walking shortly after a meal may promote weight loss, further aiding in overall health and wellness.
Lay on your side
While laying on your back after a meal could lead to reflux, there may actually be some digestive benefits to laying on your side. If you are experiencing bloat, try lying down on your left side. This allows gravity to aid in the digestive process, moving content through your stomach and intestines. Additionally, research notes that left-side laying may reduce the incidence of symptoms related to gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Digestive enzyme supplement
We each have our own unique make-up of enzymes in our digestive tracts that help break down and process food. However, these important compounds can be thrown out of balance by a number of factors. This imbalance could lead to problems digesting food, causing uncomfortable bloat. For chronic bloating after eating, you should discuss enzyme testing with your doctor. This can inform you of specific enzymes you need to supplement to improve digestion. For more occasional bloating, an over-the-counter (OTC) digestive enzyme supplement that contains several different types of enzymes may be helpful.
Small portions the rest of the day
Sometimes bloat is not a result of an internal chemical imbalance, and is just caused by your digestive tract being overwhelmed with the amount of food it needs to process. To aid your system in normal digestion, eat small portions of food for the rest of the day. If you are experiencing bloat after lunch, avoid a large dinner, and instead eat two to three small snack-size portions the rest of the day. Easy-to-digest foods may also help, so consider broth-based soup for one of your small meals to ease bloat.
Avoid carbonated drinks
Carbonation can enhance the feeling of bloat, leading to even more discomfort after overeating. While fluid is important in reducing bloat, carbonated water, sodas, and other bubbly drinks could actually make it worse. If you enjoy carbonation, avoid fizzy drinks immediately before, during, and after eating. This can ease bloat and reduce the likelihood of its onset. Enjoying carbonated water between meals or with a small portion of food, like a snack, is a better approach to these drinks in your day.
Similar to digestive enzymes, the healthy bacteria in your gut play an important role in digestion. Probiotics can also become imbalanced over time, so a daily supplement may be beneficial in reducing to onset of bloat. While a probiotic supplement immediately after eating may not drastically improve your bloat, daily supplementation could make it less likely you experience digestive discomfort, even after overeating. For more immediate bloating relief, you can take OTC products that contain simethicone, like Gas-X and Alka-Seltzer.
Melissa Rifkin, MS, RDN, CDN