Glazed ham. Deep-fried fish. Candied yams. Eggnog. Buttery sugar cookies. Cheesecake. These are just some of the favorites that make up our annual holiday feasts. And while we can't wait for a taste, many of us can't help but overindulge, ending up literally sick to our stomachs! How can you enjoy your favorite holiday treats and still avoid the annual tradition of holiday stomach distress? Dr. Jonathan Finegold, a gastroenterologist at WESTMED Medical Group, has some tips to offer on keeping your stomach happy this season:
1. Increase omega-3 fatty acid intake before and after holiday meals. Omega-3s can be found in such foods as salmon and walnuts and can help to offset some of the unhealthy fats that we sometimes can't avoid.
2. Avoid overeating and/or eating too quickly. These can lead to indigestion, acid reflux and regurgitation. Better to eat slowly and take smaller portions.
3. Increase fiber and water intake. Fiber and water are great for the digestive tract and help with regularity and avoiding constipation.
4. Volunteer to bring a healthy dish or dessert to your holiday gathering. Trays of colorful vegetables and low-fat spread; fresh fruit and yogurt dips; dark chocolate–covered strawberries are all great ideas.
5. Excessively fatty foods and those with high sugar are the worst culprits. High-fat and sugary diets not only lead to excess weight gain and increased risk of coronary disease, but also contribute to a greater chance of indigestion, bloating and acid reflux. Further, if eaten late, these foods may lead to difficulty sleeping, since high-fat foods take longer to digest than low-fat foods.
6. Stick to foods you know when traveling. Holiday travel can bring with it uncomfortable ailments such as travelers' diarrhea—a term used for illnesses ranging from upset stomach to loose stools during or after travel, generally caused by consumption of foods or beverages a person is not used to. To help avoid this, stick to foods and beverages you know. Especially when traveling internationally, stick to bottled water and freshly cooked foods. And always remember to wash your hands before eating.
Although bloating and indigestion can be attributed to overeating and/or eating the wrong foods during the holidays, these symptoms could also have nothing to do with the holidays and may be due to more serious conditions such as significant acid reflux disease; stomach ulcers; pancreatic, liver or gall bladder dysfunction. Please contact your physician if you are experiencing any of these symptoms frequently.