Tips for Keeping Holiday Stress from Impacting Your Digestion

African American family with holiday tree and kid

The holiday season can bring a welcome respite from a challenging year, but it can also wreak havoc on your digestive system. Countless stressors can lead to heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, and other ailments. When stressed, your body diverts most of its energy to help your body and mind function. You probably notice your increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and boosted energy during these times. 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 at home, 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 around or driving in the car. Take several slow, deep breaths before eating to help you relax. Chewing thoroughly and eating slowly can help digestion. ​

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 eat larger meals and decadent 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 the occasional upset stomach or heartburn is nothing to worry about for most people. 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 they’ll resolve on their own. ​

Happy Holidays!​