The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be fun, but it can also wreak havoc on your digestive system. Running around, shopping, traveling, cooking, and cleaning can become stressful and lead to heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation and other ailments. When you’re feeling stressed, your body diverts the majority of its energy to helping your body and mind function. During these times you probably notice your increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and boosted energy. It’s called the “fight or flight” response, but leaves little energy for digestion. Here’s what you can do to keep your digestive system on track.
Get a little exercise. If you have a regular fitness plan, don’t give it up during the holidays. Keep up your routine as much as you can. Regular exercise can help to release stress and keep your digestion chugging along. If you can’t manage a full workout, find time to get moving throughout the day. After eating a heavy meal, take a walk. Avoid reclining, which can lead to heartburn and acid reflux.
Slow down. Carve out some time each day to relax and unwind. As much as possible, try to eat in a comfortable and relaxing environment - not while dashing through the mall or driving in the car. Take several slow, deep breaths before eating to help you relax. Chewing thoroughly and eating slowly can help the digestion and possibly suppress the appetite.
Don’t compound stress with overeating. We’re surrounded by treats this time of year. It starts at Halloween and ends on New Year’s Day. So enjoy the festivities, but be mindful of what and how much you eat. During the holiday season people tend to eat larger meals along with rich desserts. That could cause flare-ups for people who suffer from dyspepsia or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). To make things worse, many people deal with stress by overindulging in alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol can irritate the GI tract and trigger heartburn. But you can avoid many of these issues by watching what you eat and drink.
The good news is that for most people the occasional upset stomach or bout of heartburn is nothing to worry about. But if you’re having frequent digestive problems, it’s probably time to see a doctor. Don’t carry chronic symptoms into the new year hoping that they’ll resolve on their own.