If the soundtrack of your holidays is more “Jingle Burps” (yep, that rude YouTube classic) than “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” your tummy’s not alone. Maybe you saw the recent nationwide survey revealing that from Thanksgiving till New Year’s Day, heartburn makes two out of three people less than holly-jolly. Or perhaps you’ve personally logged more minutes in the powder room than under the mistletoe, dealing with indigestion, constipation, gas, bloating or irritable bowel syndrome — all made worse by holiday stress and Aunt Martha’s wieners ’n’ cheese dip.
How to get back to the merry-making? We YOU Docs have some new ways to dial down digestion woes, including a few surprising foods that cause trouble, plus a waist-management buffet trick that helps you avoid both a Santa-sized belly and that “where’s the bathroom” feeling.
Belly-buster 1: An impossible to-do list. Juggling pre-dawn sales, cookie-baking marathons, parties, post-office lines and, oh yeah, your job, family and pets? Stress doesn’t just boost stomach acid levels. It also makes even a little acid backwash feel like the world’s worst heartburn.
Soothing fix: Scratch one big thing from the list. We vote for the cookie baking! Instead, fill holiday platters and gift baskets with nuts, clementines, pomegranates, dark chocolate and dried cranberries. Also, carve out 10 minutes a day for yourself; relaxation calms heartburn and IBS.
Belly-buster 2: Too much sleigh time. Sitting for long stretches — in planes, cars, behind eight tiny reindeer — is a recipe for constipation and IBS flare-ups. Too much chair time also nearly triples your risk of serious heartburn.
Soothing fix: Move around, even when you’re traveling. Hike the airport if your flight’s delayed. In the air, walk plane aisles whenever there’s a chance, and walk before and after your flight (plan ahead). Pull over at highway rest stops for a five-minute stretch and stroll. Even a few minutes here and there halves heartburn risk, because it speeds digestion and keeps you upright. Helps IBS, constipation and indigestion, too.
Belly-buster 3: Eggnog, cocoa, lasagna, cheesecake, cream sauce. There’s mounting evidence that an overload of dairy causes bloating, gas and diarrhea in more people than anyone thought. The culprit is lactose, a milk sugar some people can’t digest at all. Overloads can bother anyone. All the fat in creamy, cheesy stuff doesn’t help indigestion and heartburn either.
Soothing fix: Skip high-fat dairy year-round, not just now. Its saturated fat jams your arteries and inflates your waistline, as well as challenging your digestive system. Stick to one or two servings of low/no-fat dairy a day for its calcium (get 600 mg from food, 600 from a supplement).
Belly-buster 4: Sugar-loaded and sugar-free sweets. Too much fructose (from foods sugared up with corn syrup or corn sugar) and too many sugar alcohols (from sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and isomalt) can make your digestive system feel as overwhelmed as Santa’s. Gassy and crampy, too. Avoid store-bought pies, cookies, ice cream and sweet drinks, which are usually packed with high-fructose corn syrup. Ditto for sugar-free chocolate and other treats laden with sugar alcohols.
Soothing fix: See fix No. 2! Need something fancier? Peel and poach six firm pears with a cinnamon stick and a couple of inches of peeled, sliced fresh ginger for about 15 minutes. Chill, drizzle with melted dark chocolate, garnish with mint and walnuts. Bonus: Ginger’s a great digestive aid.
Belly-buster 5: Santa-sized portions. Maybe you’re not devouring 20 million cookies during one long, busy night, but loading up at the office party or your neighbor’s New Year’s buffet is a classic recipe for bathroom-bound distress.
Soothing fix: Outsmart Santa-sized portions by tasting everything … but start by filling the center of your plate with veggies, salad and turkey breast or salmon. Then add small spoonfuls of the creamy, high-calorie stuff on the side. Your tummy will thank you. And your jeans will still fit in January.
The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.
Too much of these are bad for your digestion.
- Endless to-do list
- Nonstop sitting
- Rich dairy goodies
- Sugary sweets