Why the Holidays Are Not So Merry for Your Gut

By Griffin Hospital on 11/30/2017

The holidays are hard on our stomachs – from the Halloween candy to the turkey and gravy to one-too-many glasses of champagne. And while it’s fun at the time, we often pay for all the overeating not only with weight gain, but also bloated stomachs, heartburn, and gas.

This year, break the holiday tradition of an upset stomach. Below are several reasons why the holiday season can wreak havoc on your stomach, and some remedies to help alleviate the tummy troubles.

How the Holidays Make Us Sick

  • Large portions. Quite simply, the more food you put into your stomach, the more pressure on your esophageal sphincter, the muscle that keeps digested food down where it belongs. When the pressure is great enough, food and acid will back up, causing heartburn. Too much food can also slow down your whole digestive system, leading to stomachaches and constipation.
  • Rich foods. Holiday foods are generally high in sugar and fat. Both cause weight gain and can trigger upset stomach. Fat also slows down the digestion and can trigger acid reflux. Some foods known to cause reflux include chocolate, coffee, alcohol, mints, and acidic foods.
  • Lack of fiber. Most holiday foods contain very little fiber, which over time, leads to constipation.  Further, fiber makes you feel full, so you may tend to eat more when consuming low-fiber foods.
  • Holiday stress. Stress -- triggered by shopping lists, cooking, cleaning, travel, and family in general -- can cause upset stomach and heartburn. Further, many people cope with stress by overeating and drinking too much.

How to Remedy Your Tummy Troubles

  • Chew your food slowly. The slower we eat, the less chance we will overeat, since our stomach has time to fill up and signal to our brain that we are full. Plus, chewing your food longer makes it easier to digest.
  • Drink a little liquid with your meals to help keep things moving but try not to fill up too much on liquid (especially alcohol!). Waterlogging your stomach can put excessive pressure on the lower intestine and slow down digestion. If you are consuming water or tea, it should be room temperature to improve digestion.
  • Try a spice. Cayenne (sprinkle a little on your food) and ginger (drink freshly grated ginger tea thirty minutes after your meal) can help increase stomach emptying if you are feeling bloated in that region. Also, a small sprinkle of salt can help with stomach acid production (just don’t overdo it!)
  • Go for a walk. One of the best ways to aid digestion is to move (the worst thing you can do after a big meal is sit down for a long period of time!) Further, regular exercise during the holidays, even walking thirty minutes a few hours after a meal, can help increase motility and lessen digestive issues.
Health Tips & Topics