by Dr. Kristen Bovee, Peninsula Naturopathic Clinic & Hydrate IV Wellness Centre –
Welcome to that time of the year of endless holiday events where there’s always a plethora of celebratory feasts! And if you’re like my family, everyone’s birthday is also in December. As a result, it’s also a challenging time for our digestive tracts. Holiday meals tend to contain ingredients that people are commonly intolerant of, and rich, abundant dishes make your digestive system work to capacity to break them down.
Our digestive tract is both complex and simple at the same time. Food goes in, it digests and absorbs into our bodies. We have many organs that support and contribute to our digestion. However, many of these organs may not be functioning optimally. Those with no gallbladder would have a hard time digesting fats. Medications such as proton pump inhibitors affect the breakdown of meats (proteins) and vegetables (minerals and vitamins). If you have high yeast levels (candida) or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), carbohydrates and certain fibers will cause gas and bloating in the small intestine. A combination of all these factors is not uncommon!
As we head into the month of food, family and festivities the following are some simple tips to aid digestion so you can enjoy yourself to your fullest.
Eat slowly. Take your time to chew your food well and consume small amounts of water with your meal. This will allow your digestive system to efficiently break down your meal and respond to it by secreting the digestive juices needed. Drinking too much with the meal can dilute these essential acids and enzymes needed to allow full breakdown and absorption.
Take a Break. Between courses, take a pause for your body to complete digestion of the dish before. Wait one to two hours after your main meal before having dessert. Even better: take a short walk to stimulate digestion and give your body some activity before consuming more. This also allows time for leptin (the hormone that tells your brain you are full) to set in and slow down your intake.
Use digestive support. Even with taking the time to chew and process your meal, we inherently may not produce enough hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes or bile salts to break down our food. This is where digestive enzymes can help. Using a formula that has a combination of betaine HCl, pancreatin and bile salts can make eating meals much more comfortable. Probiotics are also important for the breakdown and absorption of your meals. Both of these can be found at quality health food stores.
Limit reactive foods. Many people have foods they know they don’t tolerate well. If you’re not sure what these foods are for you, it’s possible to easily get tested for food sensitivities (naturopathic doctors test for these regularly). If you know what they are, limit them if you can’t completely avoid them. Reactions are often dose-dependent, so having a little bit could be OK (especially if you’re using digestive enzymes) but too much can be very problematic.
I teach my patients how to eat optimally on a daily basis; however, even at the best of times it can be a challenge to eat well. Depending on your symptoms, you can use these tips to keep your tummy happy in times of excessive eating and food-focused festivities.