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How To Relieve Bloating During the Holidays

Friends celebrate the holidays with a healthy meal to relieve bloating

Tis the season for holiday parties, big family meals and uncomfortable bloating! Making a few mindful changes can help ease digestion.

Why am I so bloated?

Bloating is caused by gases produced by bacteria in the colon. High fiber foods such as beans, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts tend to produce more gas.

Another common culprit is dairy. Some people are born lactose intolerant, but everyone eventually loses their ability to digest lactose with age. Artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages, gum chewing and talking on the phone all day, which causes you to swallow excess air, also cause bloating.

How to reduce bloating

NEMG gastroenterologist Raquel Rozner, MD, says there are several ways to help ease bloating:

  • Avoid overeating
  • Eat slowly
  • Watch your portion sizes
  • Focus on lean proteins and vegetables
  • Don’t load up on high fiber foods or dairy
  • Stick to smaller portions of carbohydrates such as pasta or rice
  • Try a ginger tea after eating
  • Get up and walk around after a meal

Heavy holiday meals can also cause uncomfortable symptoms in those who experience acid reflux or heartburn.

“A lot of patients will come to me with reflux, especially over the holidays if they’re overeating. I always tell everyone you must give yourself enough time after you finish a meal to sit upright,” Dr. Rozner said. “I generally recommend eating three hours before bedtime and then when you are laying down to go to sleep, making sure you sit somewhat upright with at least one pillow to promote gastric emptying and reduce the occurrence of reflux.”

When it comes to bloating after a big meal, an over-the-counter gas medicine can help break up gas bubbles. However, Dr. Rozner does not recommend anti-bloat supplements, which lack clinical trial data.

How to treat diarrhea and constipation on vacation

Planning a holiday getaway? Travel is another time when many people experience bloating, in addition to constipation or diarrhea.

“When we go on vacation it disrupts our routine. Often, we’re eating different foods, we don’t know how they’re being prepared. They most likely have more salt in them, more butter, more oils,” said Dr. Rozner. “Our intestines sense the change; they know that you’re not in your routine and they’re processing new foods.”

If you plan on traveling, it can be helpful to keep an over-the-counter laxative or medication to treat diarrhea on hand to help with unexpected digestive issues. Once you return from your trip, ease back into your normal routine.

Getting back on track after the holidays

So, you overindulged over the holidays, now what? Don’t be tempted to starve yourself or start a juice cleanse. Instead focus on eating a balanced, healthy diet low in processed foods and think about attainable ways to improve your health.

“Consistency is key. Especially with the New Year, people set these unrealistic goals for themselves that they can’t achieve, so set realistic expectations, step-by-step, so you can hit your goals,” said Dr. Rozner.

For example, if you love ice cream, limit it to twice a week. Once that sticks, go down to eating ice cream once a week. Don’t forget about moving your body! Regular exercise is key for long term health.

If time goes by and you are still suffering from issues like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or fatigue, don’t try an elimination diet on your own. Dr. Rozner says those could be signs of another underlying condition such as IBD which would require medical attention.