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Beat the Bloat This Holiday Season

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Unfortunately, many of our Thanksgiving favorites incorporate hard-to-digest foods that lead us straight to the couch after dessert. Carb-heavy dishes with fats, sodium and refined sugars across courses may taste delicious, but they can leave us exhausted by the energy-intensive process of digestion. Hallmarks like turkey and stuffing can take between 24 – 48 hours to digest, but next-day bloating isn’t inevitable. To avoid sluggishness and discomfort, consider shifting your traditional fare to accommodate fibrous vegetables and whole foods.

Check for additives


Canned, boxed and frozen foods often contain preservatives or sodium to extend shelf life. Other Thanksgiving favorites full of sodium include gravy and, despite its healthy reputation, even turkey. Check your bird before you leave the grocery store to make sure it’s organic and pesticide-free. Additives like these cause digestive issues and water retention, which can increase bloating. Opt for cleaner foods with homemade recipes like these from EatingWell or these from the Mayo Clinic – roasting a fresh vegetable is an easy way to add variety to your meal, and you’ll feel better knowing exactly what ingredients are on your plate.

Save room on the menu for fiber-rich foods


Traditionally, Thanksgiving dinners showcase carbs, protein and starches across the menu, with a healthy dose of refined sugar and fat for dessert. Unfortunately for your digestive system, dense foods like stuffing or casseroles move at a snail’s pace through your body. Eating vegetables makes for quicker and easier digestion. To mitigate any potential digestive issues after mealtime, consider starting with a salad, as fibrous greens will help you feel full and avoid overeating. Load up your plate with vegetables (and cranberry sauce) and opt for smaller helpings of turkey and stuffing.

Allergies or interolerances?


Digestive reactions to lactose or gluten are common – you will likely host a lactose- or gluten-intolerant friend or family member at your Thanksgiving table. However, even if you don’t have an official allergy diagnosis, our bodies do store excess water when we eat carbohydrates, and the class of sugars found in milk products causes bloating. Take care not to load the menu with other foods that slow us down – aside from wheat and milk products, a few surprising examples include onions, garlic, beans, brussel sprouts and cauliflower.

Drink in moderation


Alcohol can leave us bloated too. Mixed drinks can be high in refined sugar, and air buildup from carbonated beverages like beer or champagne gives us gas. The extra carbohydrates in beer can also leave us feeling sluggish and bloated.

Take a walk


No need to run the Turkey Trot, but engaging in mild exercise like a 15 – 20 minute neighborhood walk after your meal can aid digestion. Blood flow jumpstarts your metabolism, and if you get a workout in the day after Thanksgiving, sweating will help your body flush out salt from the previous day too.

Try a little bit of everything


Thanksgiving is rightly a day of indulgence, and that’s not a problem – take the day off to unwind at the table with family and friends (and enjoy all of Grandma’s favorite recipes). Just be kind to your body by exercising moderation in the food that ends up on your plate. Pair harder-to-digest foods with gut-friendly vegetables and eat slowly, listening to the signals your body sends to tell you you’re full. Take a lap to see the offerings before you load up on every dish – you’ll thank yourself later.

Riverside Medical Clinic