How to beat Christmas indigestion this year
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With Christmas just around the corner, the risk of dyspepsia, more commonly known as indigestion, is at an all-time high. However, a few simple changes can help you combat digestive discomfort before it ruins your festive fun – without having to cut out your favourite foods.
But what exactly is indigestion?
“Indigestion is a combination of your body producing excess gasses and sometimes water after you’ve eaten, creating that bloated feeling which often results in discomfort in the abdomen” explains registered associate nutritionist Emma Harvey Lawrence.
If left unchecked, regular indigestion can cause acid reflux, which is where the stomach overproduces the acid and bile needed for digestion.
“You may start to experience acid reflux every time you eat, and that can exacerbate the inflammation each time it occurs, which eventually leads to heartburn. You may also have periodic episodes of reflux, where you have an unpleasant, acidic sensation or taste in your throat.”
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Indigestion itself tends to stem from overindulgence, or eating too quickly, rather than one particular food or ingredient.
“The common factor, especially at this time of year, tends to be having a full dinner, followed quickly by a dessert. In that scenario, there’s no one food that has caused the source of discomfort, but instead the accumulation of having too much in a short space of time.”
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Emma suggests remedying this by taking your time as you eat, and chewing each bite thoroughly.
“The best drink to have while you eat is in fact water, as it really helps with digestion. There’s no reason why alcohol can’t be enjoyed at Christmas, but it doesn’t allow your body to absorb a lot of the nutrients you consume as you eat, so I recommend you hydrate yourself with water during your meal, and save that glass of wine for afterwards. That way, your body has a chance to absorb those key nutrients from your food, without alcohol exacerbating the symptoms of heartburn and feeling too full.”
Another way to help fight off indigestion is to have a hot drink before a large meal. “In a lot of Asian diets, it’s common to drink hot water or peppermint tea before a meal, as this can really help settle the stomach before it has to digest food.”
Even how you sit can greatly affect how your body digests food - and Emma recommends sitting upright at a table whenever you eat such a big meal.
“And once you’ve eaten, why not go on a gentle walk after dinner? The light movement will help aid digestion, as well as use up that energy that you’ve just consumed. Even after that, if you can, sit upright on the sofa rather than slouching or laying down, as that will certainly help the flow of digestion.
“If you struggle with indigestion when you sleep, try propping yourself up in bed with a pillow, as it helps stop that uncomfortable burning sensation during the night.”
While many people stock up on antacids before the big Christmas blow out, a 'prevention rather than cure’ approach is key to a happier gut, according to Emma.
“Treat medicines such as Gaviscon and Rennie as a short-term, supplementary aid - but ultimately, if you alter the speed at which you eat, you will find that slowing down does make a great difference. If indigestion is becoming a frequent issue however, please see your GP.”