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By Gwen Bastian-Enright, MSc, dipNT, mNTOI
Christmas is a time of joy, celebration and family. As well as plenty of food of course! I’m a big believer in eating everything in moderation, as long as it doesn’t cause us to feel bad (in case of allergy or intolerance for example) – so Christmas is not the time to restrict yourself. What can happen however is that certain foods are harder to digest for some people, and there are things you can do to support your digestive system over the holiday season.
When we eat foods, they are broken down in the body into protein, fat and carbohydrate, by enzymes produced in the digestive tract. These enzymes are sometimes not produced adequately (for a number of reasons, such as pancreatic insufficiency), resulting in some digestive systems such as bloating, excess wind, stomach pains and changes in bowel movements. Enzymes occur naturally in some fruits such as pineapple, papaya, mango and kiwi; but also in fermented foods like kimchi, miso and sauerkraut (Raman, 2018) so adding any of these to your meals over Christmas can help your digestive system do its job. Digestive enzymes can help improve stomach pain, reduce gas and improve stool consistency (Naoum, 2019).
In many countries there are foods and drinks added to meals to support digestion, such as bitters, digestifs and even a strong coffee after a main meal. Teas such as peppermint and fennel, and spices like ginger, caraway and turmeric (Cummings, 2017) have long been used to ease digestive discomfort such as bloating and flatulence so you can include these over the holidays as well. You may also choose to take a supplement that combines enzymes and spices, such as Viridian’s “Digestive Aid”, which contains digestive enzymes, ginger and peppermint leaf. Digestive enzymes in supplement form have been researched for a number of health benefits, those affecting the digestive system include improvements with heartburn, bloating, stomach fullness and constipation (Naoum, 2019).
In Part 2 we will look at stomach acid levels as well as exercise as a tool to support digestion.