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The winter holiday season is a great time of year for getting together with friends and family to enjoy "good food." And by "good food," I mean lots of holiday treats and meals you typically don't eat throughout the year. While this type of eating can be a fun part of the holiday season it can also be hard on the digestive system and cause unpleasant symptoms like nausea, gas, bloating, cramping, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea. In this article we will discuss the top five tips you can follow to prevent unpleasant digestive symptoms while still enjoying the food of the holiday season.

Tip #1: Eat the Healthy Foods First
The healthiest way to enjoy a treat is after you've had a good meal. That's why we typically have desert after dinner and not before. When you have a good balanced meal first with lots of vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy complex carbohydrates you provide yourself with the necessary nutrients for the body to function optimally. You'll also curb your appetite for excess sugar. Once you've consumed the nutritional requirements you can then enjoy something sweet as an added bonus. If you skip the meal and go straight for the sweet stuff you are more likely to overeat and experience digestive symptoms.

Tip #2: Eat Protein at all Meals and Snacks
Protein is not only required to build strong healthy tissues like skin, hair, nails, bones, muscle, and connective tissue. It also plays a crucial role in balancing our blood sugar and preventing digestive upset. Proteins take longer to digest than most other nutrients. When you eat protein with carbs, sugars, and fats you will delay the release of sugar into the bloodstream, which prevents blood sugar spikes and crashes. Eating proteins at all meals and snacks helps to reduce sugar cravings and prevents the post-treat energy boost and crash.

Tip #3: Moderation
Try to spread out your nights out, big meals, parties, and treats over the entire holiday season. If you go hard for four straight days it is much harder on the body than if you go out once a week for four consecutive weekends. The body and digestive tract can be pushed every now and then without being overwhelmed but when you link too many heavy meals, late nights, or treats together it leads to more digestive problems.

Tip #4: Water and Alcohol
Drinking eight or more cups of water per day keeps the body optimally hydrated and reduces cravings for sweats. In fact, many food cravings are actually cravings for water that are misinterpreted. If you drink alcohol, drink at least one glass of water for every serving of alcohol. By doing this you will replenish the fluid you lose from alcohol consumption. It is not only water that hydrates the body. Non-caffeinated teas also provide the same benefits for hydrating the body so go ahead and pour yourself a cup.

Tip #5: Supplements: HCl, Digestive enzymes, and DGL
Overeating is one of the common joys of the holiday season. However, the momentary pleasure often leads to hours of unpleasant feelings. When you know you are going to eat too much or eat foods you know give you some trouble there are a few supplements that can help. Try taking 500 mg of HCl, 500 mg of DGL, and one capsule of digestive enzymes 15 minutes prior to a holiday meal. The HCl increases your stomach acid levels for better protein digestion. The DGL prevents heartburn by coating the upper stomach and lower esophagus. The digestive enzyme helps the intestine break down and absorb proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.


Dr. Brent Barlow

Dr. Brent Barlow is a naturopathic physician and author of the book series, To Feel Well. The first book in the series is now available. Click Here for more information or to purchase Improve Your Digestive System. He is an expert in the field of integrative and holistic healthcare and has a special interest in treating cardiovascular, hormonal, inflammatory, and digestive system disorders. He is board certified to utilize advanced integrative procedures like intravenous nutrient infusions, prolotherapy, neural therapy, and hormone prescription. Dr. Barlow is a graduate of the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver and practices in Kelowna, British Columbia.