Stomach bloating tends to occur when the body’s digestive system struggles to break down certain foods – some foods are more notorious than others. Christmas dinner is an opportunity to spend time with loved ones over a hearty meal, so there’s nothing worse than bloating and other digestive issues rearing their ugly head. So what foods are trickier to digest and should you avoid on Christmas Day? Hannah Brarye, nutritional therapist at Bio-Kult, lists six.
Many people see immediate improvements in bloating by avoiding processed foods, said Hannah.
She explained: “Evidence suggests that many preservatives and dietary emulsifiers (such as polysorbate and carboxymethylocellulose) used in processed ingredients and meals, have a negative impact on the balance of bacteria in our gut and can have a pro-inflammatory effect.
“By eating Christmas dinner cooked from fresh wholefood ingredients, rather than pre-packaged products, you can significantly reduce the intake of undesirable additives, and reduce their deleterious effect on the gut.”
Shop bought desserts
If you suffer with bloating and digestive issues, you have an additional reason to make your own Christmas pudding and Christmas cake from scratch, advises Hannah.
“Commercially produced puddings and desserts commonly use artificial sweeteners (sorbitol, mannitol, saccharin, sucralose or aspartame), which are high in sugars known as FODMAPs, which are troublesome for many people with digestive issues.
“They also cause discordant absorption of sugar and drive glucose intolerance and, like emulsifiers, have been shown to have a negative impact on our gut bacteria.”
Drinking too much liquid
Whilst staying well hydrated is important to keep bowel movements regular and avoid bloating, drinking too much liquid just before or during a large meal isn’t advisable, as there is concern that it may dilute stomach acid levels.
Hannah said: “This could make it more difficult for you to digest protein heavy meals such as Christmas dinner.
“ So remember to drink plenty of water throughout other times of the day (especially if partaking in a Christmas tipple or two), but try not to glug to much whilst at the dinner table.”
‘Oh go on then, it is Christmas after all’ is a phase we often hear over the festive season, as we allow ourselves to indulge in food and drinks we know aren’t necessarily good for us.
Hannah explained: “The problem is, if bread/cheese/sprouts etc. don’t agree with you at other times of the year, they still won’t agree with you at Christmas.
“So unless you want to spend the day feeling like an inflated balloon, any foods that you know aggravate your digestion are still best avoided. This doesn’t mean you have to feel deprived.
“Christmas dinner is very easy to make gluten and dairy free if these ingredients cause you issues, free-from mince pies are readily available, there are a range of vegan nut-cheeses and a whole host of delicious types of veg to load your plate up with if sprouts do cause you problems.”
Perhaps the biggest culprit for causing bloating on Christmas day is over-eating, warns Hannah.
She added: “Whilst this is tempting it isn’t recommended, especially if you suffer with digestive issues.
“Try eating off a smaller plate, putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, chewing well and asking yourself, ‘am I actually hungry’ and ‘will I regret this later’ before helping yourself to seconds, thirds, fourths… This will allow your stomach and brain to better communicate, to let you know when you are full.
“Again, you don’t have to feel like you are missing out, bubble and squeak and cold cuts made from the left-overs on Boxing Day is almost as good as Christmas dinner itself.”
Heading straight for the sofa after you’ve eaten
Whilst it’s easy to slip into a food-coma on the sofa after eating Christmas dinner, to reduce bloating this is best avoided.
Hannah advised: “Instead wrap up warm, get outside and go for a gentle walk. During rest research shows we retain a significantly higher proportion of gas in the gut.
“Gentle exercise on the other hand has been shown in studies to enhance intestinal gas clearance and reduce symptoms in patients complaining of abdominal bloating.”
Whilst the above tips will see you through Christmas day, if you do regularly experience bloating, this is a sign that your digestive system isn’t functioning optimally, so working on your gut health may be a good resolution for the New Year.
Hannah said: “Bloating is often a sign that there is an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, with too many pathogenic species (which produce gas as they ferment carbohydrates) and too few beneficial species, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacterium (which produce very little if any gas).
“Taking steps to help encourage a healthy microbial balance is therefore likely to help alleviate symptoms such as bloating. This can be done by regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, live yoghurt, kefir and kombucha.
“These foods are thought to be particularly beneficial eaten with protein rich foods, so why not have a side of sauerkraut with your turkey this year? In addition taking a live bacteria supplement such as Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formulation may also be beneficial.”