Why it’s important to not overdo it this Christmas period
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A happy Christmas needn’t mean an unhappy gut, say the experts at Nuffield Health Exeter Hospital
With the festive season fast approaching, most of us will be looking forward to enjoying a well-deserved break, spending time with friends and family, and of course, taking the opportunity to indulge ourselves with plenty of food and drink!
Whilst it is really important to enjoy this quality time we can end up burdening our digestive system with enormous challenges.
This can lead to troublesome issues that may not only blight our fun, but can remain with us well into the New Year.
Common symptoms of an unhappy gut include:
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- abdominal pain
- loose bowel motions
Gut problems, if they don't settle quickly, can easily affect the body and mind in general and cause other problems such as weakness, lethargy, nausea, sickness, anxiety and depression.
Ideally it is best to avoid getting yourself into a situation where your gut will suffer.
Overloading it with excess quantities of rich food and drink as is the tradition can certainly give it difficulties.
Large, rich, heavy meals like the classic Christmas dinner and pudding blow the stomach up like a balloon, pushing acid up into the gullet (reflux), and slow digestion and the passage of material through the rest of the bowel, which in turn causes many other possible problems.
How to avoid digestive problems over the Christmas period:
- Try not to be tempted to overfill your plate and eat only to feel just satisfied.
- Eating too many "nibbles" before your main meal can reset your sense of hunger meaning you end up eating much more than normal.
- Chew your food properly, pause a little after each swallow, and take plenty of water with your meals. This gives much more time and space for your digestive enzymes and hormones to work effectively, and for the gut, which is effectively a long hollow tube, to pass the material through itself (peristalsis).
- If you are planning to have several courses, allow time for the gut to process each one before moving to the next.
- The gut, body and mind are really all one system which together impacts our general health and wellbeing. Any amount of outdoors exercise (e.g. walking, running, cycling, swimming) during this time really helps to improve your mood, burns off calories and makes the gut work more efficiently.
Alcoholic beverages, which for many are part and parcel of celebrations at this time of year, can also cause problems. Alcohol is a harmful toxin which the gut has to process and breakdown in the liver, before the body can get rid of its by-products.
Limiting intake is important. Take plenty of water and try to drink to enjoy rather than to get drunk.
Definitely don't drink and drive. Remember, alcoholic drinks also contain many calories and the effects can last much longer than you might think.
Listen to your gut
The gut is a remarkable part of our body, and one we almost always neglect and take for granted.
However, like all fine machinery, if we don't look after it properly it will start to complain, and if we don't listen to it, it might end up becoming damaged, possibly permanently.
Most symptoms, if they are related to excess indulgence over the festive period will settle down fairly quickly.
It may be necessary to take some mild over-the counter medications (e.g. anti-acids, laxatives) to help. If however your symptoms persist, then it is important you seek some specialist medical advice to rule out more serious conditions.
Call our enquiries team to find out more or book an appointment on 01392 249767
For free advice on a variety of health concerns and conditions: Nuffield Health Advice Hub