Healthspan November 16, 2017

We all look forward to a little indulgence during the Christmas period. But what happens when our tummy says enough is enough? Our experts share their top tips to beating overindulgence…

Shocking statistics have revealed that we consume an extra 19,381 calories in food and drink over the festive period.

“It doesn’t matter how many times we have promised ourselves that we won’t do it again, when it comes to the festive season, overindulgence seems to be the name of the game”, says Dr Dawn Harper.

What are the symptoms of overindulgence?

The symptoms of overindulgence include:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hangover
  • Sickness
  • Indigestion
  • Weight-gain

How to cure indigestion

Heavy rich meals can play havoc on your digestive system - especially if you already suffer with heartburn and indigestion, explains nutritionist Rob Hobson. “Try eating smaller meals and eating more slowly in general, which helps stimulate the enzymes required for digestion”, he advises.

Go easy on fatty rich foods as these take the longest to digest, aggravating your condition. Opt for starchy carbohydrates and lean proteins instead, plus plenty of omega 3 (oily fish, dark green vegetables, walnuts and flax seeds or oil) as these essential fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body which can help soothe your gut.

When indesgistion does strike, try chamomile or ginger tea to help soothe inflamed gastrointestinal tissue, while natural extracts such as artichoke supplements can help soothe heartburn.

How to cure a hangover

We all know that the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink at all, but during the party season it's not unusual to indulge in one-too-many snowballs, says Rob. “Dehydration, low blood sugar and the build-up of acetaldehyde in the system produced from the breakdown of alcohol in the liver are what brings on the main symptoms of a hangover”, he explains.

Dark coloured drinks such as red wine and dark coloured spirits normally result in bigger hangovers so opt for colourless drinks such as gin or vodka and dilute spritis with juice rather than fizzy drinks to help to reduce the rate of alcohol absorption.

And make sure you eat! Even a simply snack such as a chicken sandwich on wholegrain bread (which contains carbs, proteins and fats) will slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.

If hangover does strike, make sure you keep a natural alternative, such as milk thistle to hand. A traditional herbal remedy, many people swear by milk thistle’s its ability to neutralise toxic substances and stimulate cell regeneration.

How to cure diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is a common symptom during party season, and is often caused by overdoing it on the fancy appeztisers, feeling stressed, hangovers, and occasionally by food poisoning.

“I recommend probiotics to anyone suffering with diarrhoea, whatever the cause”, says Dr Dawn Harper. “A probiotic is a mixture of live bacteria (usually from the Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium groups) which helps digest our food and keeps bad bacteria like those that cause food poisoning under control.”

Other treatments include: keeping fluids topped up, using rehydration salts, and taking the anti-diarrhoea medication loperamide.

Be sure to avoid alcohol, fried and fatty foods, dairy and sugary drinks, as these can all make your symptoms worse.

How to stop bloating

“Traditional festive foods such as cabbage, beans, onions, pulses and of course sprouts, can cause the amount of gas we produce to increas significantly”, explains Dr Dawn Harper.

“I’m not about to suggest roast turkey without the sprouts”, she adds, “but watching your intake of these foods over the festive season could help reduce bloating.

“Overeating can also lead to bloating, so try to factor in a time delay of at least 20 minutes before you reach for the serving spoon a second time.”

It bloating does strike, try peppermint tea or peppermint capsules to help soothe the gut.

How to prevent weight gain at Christmas

For most people weight gain is an inevitable part of Christmas, but it doesn't have to be!

“If you have a tendancy to overdo it at parties, try to eat before you arrive to curb the temptation to fill up on high calorie buffet food”, advises Rob.

“Watch your intake by keeping your cocktail sticks, opting for just one handful of higher calorie foods and filling up on healthier options such as crudites, healthy dips and lean proteins. Choosing a smaller plate for your meals - though obvious - is still really effective.”

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