|December 20, 2023

6 Ways to Boost Digestion—And Beat the Holiday Bloat

By Kristi Pahr
Reviewed by Theresa Greenwell for Scientific Accuracy

6 Ways to Boost Digestion—And Beat the Holiday Bloat

  • Overeating can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort and a less-than-cheery post-meal feeling.
  • Digestion can be negatively impacted by eating large amounts of food, which makes taking care of your gut health critical during the holiday season.
  • Occasional bloating and discomfort from large holiday meals can be staved off by taking a few precautionary measures.

The holidays are just around the corner, and you know what that means… In addition to the seasonal cheer and comfort that comes from being around loved ones, there’ll be a ton of tempting food and treats! From cookies and brownies at the office to huge holiday meals with family and friends, chances are you’ll want to indulge a little (or a lot) over the next couple of months.

Luckily, there are ways to beat the dreaded holiday bloat and keep your GI system working efficiently so you can make the best of all your celebrations!

How holiday meals impact your body

Thanksgiving table with turkey and side dishes.

We all know that familiar bloated, stuffed-to-the-brim feeling we get after a big, indulgent sit-down. Spoiler alert: Large holiday meals slow down digestion.

When food is in the stomach, the rest of your body responds by sending more blood to the GI tract to help speed up the process, leaving the rest of your body without its usual oxygen-carrying blood supply.[1] That, in turn, can leave you feeling groggy and foggy-headed—and craving a nap.

Noshing on those holiday sweet treats just compounds the biochemical chaos happening in your body. The additional sugar kicks your pancreas into overdrive and your body is flooded with insulin. You may feel a sugar rush in the beginning, but the crash is coming, especially if you’re not typically one to indulge in sweets or a ton of carbs (hi, Bulletproof fam!).

All of these reactions can combine to leave you feeling sluggish and tired as your body tries to recover from the onslaught of food.

6 ways to boost digestion

Man practicing yoga on exercise mat.

There are ways to boost your digestion in anticipation of those big holiday meals, though. You should still be mindful about your eating, but if you want to loosen the reins a bit on the holidays, here are a few strategies that can help curb bloating before you enter food coma territory.

1. Manage stress levels

The holidays can be stressful, but managing that stress is important for your digestion. When we experience stress, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol as part of our fight-or-flight response. Cortisol actually causes the body to shunt blood away from the digestive system and toward the heart, brain and limbs, meaning digestion slows down.

When digestion slows down, food sits, potentially resulting in uncomfortable bloating and gas. While the holidays can be a stressful time with family and friends coming to town, find ways to keep your mind at ease. Whether that means doing a yoga nidra session or hitting the gym, it’s imperative to manage your stress levels in some form or fashion, especially with so many treats and not-so-macro-friendly foods around.

2. Get ginger in your diet

Woman holding ginger roots.

If you want to give your digestive system a boost, find ways to get ginger into your meals. A popular ingredient in Asian and Indian cuisines, it does so much more than add peppery sweetness and depth of flavor to dishes. Research has shown ginger can help with occasional stomach discomfort and gas, as its carminative effect can help break up and expel gas trapped in your GI tract.[2]

This easy-to-make ginger-mint green tea cooler is a refreshing way to give your digestive system some assistance. Or, if the colder weather has you feeling a bit chilly, brew up a hot cup of tea with ginger for a comforting, health-supportive drink.

3. Digestive enzymes

Your body naturally produces digestive enzymes to help convert the food you eat into the nutrients you absorb. However, if your gut health is compromised, you may need some help from a supplement.

Pro tip: Take digestive enzymes according to the directions, usually just before a meal or with a meal, so the enzymes can help break down the food that you are eating for better absorption.

Related: The Ultimate Digestive Enzymes Guide

4. Utilize activated charcoal

hand holds 3 coconut charcoal pills near a notebook and purse

Activated charcoal is a great way to ease occasional gas and bloating. Activated charcoal is full of tiny gaps and fissures that trap gas and help to move it harmlessly through your digestive system. Supplements like Bulletproof Coconut Charcoal can be taken as needed to soothe temporary discomfort.†

5. Stay hydrated

One of the main roles of the large intestine is to absorb water from the food you’ve eaten. If you aren’t drinking enough water, the large intestine absorbs whatever it can get, causing bowel movements to be hard and difficult to pass. This can contribute to occasional constipation and bloating.

Consuming plenty of H2O means the body gets adequate water absorption and stools are easier to pass. Proper hydration also keeps the mucus lining of your gut healthy, which means food moves through more easily, reducing bloat and gut stasis.[3]

While it’s important to drink water throughout the day, keep water consumption to a minimum while eating. Drinking during meals can dilute your stomach acid, which is crucial to breaking down food so it can move from the stomach to the small intestine to be further digested and absorbed.

6. Exercise and move around

Man doing kettlebell plank row exercise.

Even though you might just want to crash after a big meal, exercise is a great way to relieve bloating. Research shows that a short walk after a meal (between 10-15 minutes) can have a significant impact on relieving abdominal bloating symptoms.[4]

Exercise helps move gas and food through the digestive tract, alleviating the feeling of fullness that lingers after big holiday meals. So, as much as you may be tempted to knock out on the couch after your Thanksgiving feast, going for a stroll is a superior option, from a digestion standpoint.

Related: How to Sleep Better and Manage Stress With Exercise

How to Beat Holiday Bloat

What is Glutathione? - Bulletproof

Though the feeling of bloat may seem like an accepted part of holiday life, it doesn’t have to be. There are actionable steps you can take to ensure your gut can handle the holidays and you aren’t left feeling uncomfortable and exhausted. Try:

  • Drinking celery juice, which is another simple way to beat the holiday bloat. Celery juice helps promote peristalsis—the natural movements of the gut that propel food through the digestive tract. Since large meals can cause your gut to slow down, sipping on this versatile veggie is an easy way to get food moving and relieve uncomfortable bloating.
  • Glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and detox support molecule. Using a glutathione supplement like Bulletproof Glutathione Force can support your body after occasional overindulgence.†
  • Following a fasting protocol after a big holiday meal. This practice can help relieve bloating and discomfort by letting your body naturally cleanse and detoxify. Allowing the body to fully digest the food that’s causing discomfort and bloating before eating again is important. If you eat too soon, you’ll just compound the problem and prolong your discomfort. Intermittent fasting also gives your body a chance to perform autophagy, the process by which damaged cell components are degraded and recycled.
  • Avoiding foods that can cause digestive issues, which is another method to possibly prevent bloating. Inflammatory foods like dairy products and whole grains can cause digestive problems on their own. If you have trouble tolerating lactose, or you don’t handle grains well, adding them to an already-bloated GI tract will just compound the problem and make everything worse.

Related: 12 Low-Carb Thanksgiving Sides for Everyone at the Holiday Table

The bottom line: The holidays are a time of indulgence for many, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with discomfort after a big meal. Maintaining gut health and taking a few proactive steps can help stave off bloating and keep your gut in great shape so you have one less New Year’s resolution to make.

Don’t wait till the holidays to take care of your digestive system. Keep things moving smoothly all year round by feeding your body the best foods for optimal gut health.

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