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A Healthy Curiosity: 5 ways to support your digestion this festive season
December 15th 2015
Give your digestive system a helping hand this Christmas and avoid the festive discomfort with Peta Bee's expert guide
As the party season rattles on, so overindulgence begins to take its toll. Eating and drinking in excess puts tremendous strain on the digestive system resulting in the familiar, but unpleasant festive side effects of bloating, indigestion and constipation. Is it par for the course or can we rev up our digestive systems by priming them for the partying that lies ahead? Here we ask experts for the top 5 golden rules when it comes to festive digestion. Take note. Your gut will thank you for it.
Take digestive enzymes
“Taking a digestive enzyme with your rich festive food can help with the breakdown of food and, in turn, reduce bloating and discomfort,” says Ian Marber, the nutrition expert. Once you’ve swallowed food, it enters the stomach where it is churned up and eventually broken down by hydrochloric acid (Hcl). “My advice would be to select an enzyme supplement that contains some Hcl, although bear in mind they aren’t suitable for anyone with a peptic ulcer and should never be taken away from food,” says Marber.
Eat Watercress soup
“In terms of supporting the over-burdened peristaltic (or bowel) movement during the next few weeks, magnesium is important,” explains Henrietta Norton, founder of Wild Nutrition. As the mineral is water-soluble, it needs to be supplied in the diet every day and one of the best ways to ensure you get enough is to eat your greens. “Leafy green vegetables are a tremendously good source of magnesium as well as other immune boosting nutrients,” Norton says. “You could juice them into a smoothie, but naturopathically it is thought that green veg are more easily digested warm at this time of year and a watercress soup is among the best options.”
Tara Stiles, the model and yogi who is author of Yoga Cures (Three Rivers Press; £12.99) suggests some simple yoga moves can help to offset the effects of bloating after a large festive meal. Of course, she says, the best approach is to do yoga daily, but the Down Dog Split posture should offer something of a quick fix. Start on your hands and knees, fingers spread wide. Tuck your toes in and lift your hips, pressing your back into a ‘downward dog’ position. Reach your heels towards the ground and relax your shoulders and neck. Stay here for five long breaths. Inhale and then lift your right leg up behind you, keeping hips square. Lift upwards from the back of your thigh to lift the leg a little higher. Press down through both hands. Stay here for three breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Drink pear Juice
Consuming a 220ml glass of cold pressed pear juice (or eating the fruit itself) a few hours before you head out could pay dividends later on. Earlier this year, researchers revealed that Asian, or nashi, pears (sold in supermarkets here) contain properties that affect metabolism and may even help to prevent a hangover. According to Professor Manny Noakes, a researcher with the Australian government’s scientific research organization CISRO, the pears act on specific enzymes involved in alcohol metabolism. “Overall hangover severity, as measured by a 14 item hangover severity scale, was significantly reduced in the Korean (Asian) pear group compared with those having a placebo drink,” Noakes said. Leaving it too late was not an option, however, as the pear juice had no effect after alcohol had been consumed.
Take a probiotic
Starting from now, a daily probiotic will help to prepare your stomach for the destruction of its beneficial gut flora that is likely to follow. “A healthy gut flora is vital for good digestion, but the problem is that too much sugar and alcohol combined with too little sleep reduce both the diversity and amount of bacteria in our gut at this time of year,” Norton says. What’s more, she says, the less healthy bacteria thrive on the sorts of food and drinks we like to consume at Christmas. “You can offset the imbalance to some extent by taking asupplement,” Norton says. “ Latest evidence suggests that a multi-strain capsule that provides different forms of bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium is the most effect measure.”