During the festive season, food temptation is everywhere. Meals tend to be much larger than normal and you may be offered food you don’t normally eat. This may cause heat burn, indigestion, bloating and pain. Find out how you can boost your digestion to feel good during the festive season.
Hopefully, while you are eating your Christmas dinner, you will be enjoying lovely conversations with friends and family around the dinner table. If you are organising the meal, allow yourself some time to eat calmly, remembering to chew food well. Chewing activates the production of stomach acid which is required to break down food. When food is eaten too fast, it is not broken down properly by the body and the nutrients from the food cannot be fully absorbed. This may be the cause of acid reflux, indigestion, bloating or gas.
Drink water before meals
Sipping a little bit of water during a meal is ok but if you want to boost your digestion then it is best to drink water before a meal or 2 hours after. Research shows that following this advice helps with digestion and with the absorption of nutrients. Water also delivers important nutrients to all of our cells, especially muscle cells, reducing muscle fatigue and it helps you feel full longer. This may be a good thing if you are trying not to eat too much.
Boost your digestion with bitter herbs
The use of bitters to help with digestion is a very old practice used around the world. The taste of bitter on the tongue stimulates the brain to release digestive juices in our stomach. At the same time, the taste buds stimulate saliva to release enzymes. Eating salads such as rocket, radicchio or chicory at the start of a meal is real helpful. Otherwise, drinking teas or tinctures that contain herbal bitters before a meal is another alternative to boost digestion. Herbal tinctures are concentrated plant remedies that are better assimilated by the body than dried herbs and capsules. Simply add the recommended amount of drops in a glass of water and enjoy before a meal. Viridian offers an Organic Digestive Elixir which is made with peppermint, fennel, gentian and angelica extracts.
Interesting fact: the history of bitters originated from the 1880s and is linked with that of the cocktails when bartenders discovered that bitters made the often harsh alcoholic beverages more enjoyable.
Eat the rainbow and other high fibre foods
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, in the UK most people do not eat enough fibre (the average intake is 17.2/day for women and 20.1g/day for men). The recommended average intake for adults is 30g per day. Fibre plays a key role in the digestion process. Insoluble fibre in particular found in wheat bran, nuts, beans, green beans and potatoes, helps speed up the time it takes waste to pass through the digestive tract, which prevents constipation, bloating and indigestion. To increase your intake of fibre, go for a wide variety of vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits, and whole grains.
Get some fresh air and move your body
Any physical activity will help with digestion. It is not uncommon to spend long period of time sitting on the sofa, chatting or watching the television during the festive season. When we have eaten, the body receives a surge in glucose. The hormone insulin instructs the body to either use the glucose for energy or to store it in your muscles, fat cells, and liver for later. If the body already has too much glucose, this can cause various health problems. When we move our body, our muscles use up some of the glucose. Even a 10 minutes’ walk can make a big difference. Why not organise a family walk after your big meal?
Now the festivities can start. December is a busy month with many activities in the diary. As well as following the tips above, it is important not to let stress take over. Allowing yourself a few minutes to breathe, drink a cup of tea and eat well is going to help you sustain that much needed energy. And most importantly, have fun! Happy festivities.
NUTRITIONIST, SURREY AND LONDON
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