You swirl another ladle of gravy on the mashed potatoes and gulp down another helping of turkey. But before the pumpkin pie is cut, you start to feel that internal restlessness. Maybe it’s just the cranberry sauce mixing in with the green bean casserole. You ignore the conversation between your stomach and your brain and press on with your holiday eating enjoyment. But what’s really happening to your body’s digestion when you overeat?
- Think of your stomach as a balloon. The higher volume of food you eat at one meal, the greater your stomach distends. Higher fat amounts in a holiday meal slow digestion and add to the uncomfortable pressure of digestive gases building up. Eventually, the gas wants to escape back up the esophagus via belching or the other direction through, well … you know.
- Listen to your gut. With the tempting array of foods and aromas of the Thanksgiving feast inviting you to increase your eating, your brain literally overrides your stomach’s desire to stop food intake. Holiday food traditions outweigh satiety and eating mindfulness. As your stomach feels full, sensory nerve receptors in your digestive tract tell your brain that it’s time to put down the fork. But with your digestive enzymes already revved up, your brain often takes to the couch and lets your tummy and central nervous system order anything off the menu.
Is there a way to detox after the Thanksgiving “I-ate-too-much” indulgence? What helps combat the feeling of being stuffed, bloated and tired?
- Start with some mild exercise after your holiday meal. Help clear and wash the dishes. Take a family walk or get outside and toss around the football. Movement aids digestion and burns off those extra calories.
- Return to lighter, healthier foods post-holiday. Nutrition and health experts agree that letting yourself indulge within reason for Thanksgiving is acceptable. You just don’t want to continue heavy eating for days on end. Start off Black Friday with a well-balanced breakfast — oatmeal and fruit is a fiber-rich choice. Include more salads and vegetables in your everyday meals and increase water consumption.
- Add probiotics to your diet. The healthy human digestive system has over 100 trillion microorganisms to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. Eating fermented foods such as yogurt and pickled vegetables and taking probiotic supplements help gut bacteria maintain beneficial levels.
What helps your eating habits and digestion during the Thanksgiving holiday?
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.