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December 11, 2014

5 Strategies to Avoid Digestive Distress This Holiday Season

During the holiday season, most people’s lives go from busy to hectic with all of the shopping, decorating, holiday party attending and, of course, overeating. Add seasonal stress and a more relaxed mindset around food, and you have a recipe for digestive disaster.

On average, most Americans eat about 72 % more calories during the holiday season. For people with digestive issues, these holiday indulgences can pack on the pounds and cause digestive issues (IBS, GERD) to flare.

Here are 5 strategies to help you enjoy the holiday season without having digestive dismay on New Year’s Day.

1. Portion Control.

The best strategy for holiday eating is monitoring portion control.

1. Choose a small plate

2. Limit indulgences to 2 tablespoons of 2 decadent side dishes

3. For lean protein, aim for a serving the size and thickness of your palm (no fingers)

4. The rest of your plate should consist of healthy vegetables sides

5. Most importantly, stop eating when you are about 70% full to avoid feelings of heavy gut

Practicing portion control doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy any of your favorite holiday dishes, it just means you will focus on getting the right balance of nutrients on your plate.

2. Work the Room.

Most people overeat when food is in close proximity. Do yourself a favor and mingle away from the food table. By staying far away, you will avoid mindless holiday munching and save yourself the extra calories.

3. Ignore Common Offenders.

There’s nothing exciting about getting heartburn at a holiday party so skip:

1. Tomato based sauces

2. Fatty dips

3. Cheese cubes

4. Lasagna

5. Greasy appetizers

These items are a bad combination of high-fat and acidic foods. Instead, open your meal with some fresh vegetables to rev up your digestion.

4. Avoid Caloric Drinks.

Let’s not forget about calorie-rich drinks such as eggnog, hot buttered rum, or any other traditional holiday concoction. These alcoholic drinks are loaded with excess sugar, fats and empty calories that stress out your gut.

5. Nibble. Don't Gobble.

For many, dessert is the most anticipated part of a holiday feast. Don’t deny yourself this guilty pleasure.

1. Nibble your favorite dessert to trick your brain into eating 30 percent fewer calories

2. Studies find that when you nibble your food and take smaller bites, your brain thinks you’ve eaten more.

Lastly, close your meal with a nice cup of gut calming herbal tea like chamomile. Caffeinated beverages can exacerbate IBS symptoms.

Balancing your food intake will help you stay in control of your digestion. The holiday season isn’t only about food and festivities; it’s about relationships and creating memories with your loved ones. Don’t spoil those memories with symptom flares!

Make it a happy and health holiday.

By Mariam Bandarian

Disclaimer: These are general suggestions. Always check with your medical doctor before modifying your diet.