4 Ways to Avoid the Holiday Bloat

It’s that time of year again–and by that, I mean we get to partake in the time-honored tradition of stuffing our faces with several courses of meats, greens, sides, and apple pies until our poor bodies are practically screaming for a shot of Pepto Bismol. If you’re like me, it’s not hard to get bloated during the Holidays, and that’s because the average Thanksgiving (and probably Christmas) dinner is packed with over 3,000 calories–much over the average recommended intake for many adults, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. But if you’re trying to curb the dreaded holiday bloat this year and enjoy a little more time with friends and family without feeling like a balloon about to burst, try these tips below!

  1. Recognize Trigger Foods

If you’re a guest rather than a host this year, you may find yourself at the mercy of your host’s menu. But if you can, try calling ahead of time to find out what’s being served so that you know which stomach-upsetting meals to avoid. If you’re not sure what your triggers are, some general foods to stay away from include anything dairy-heavy, large amounts of cruciferous (broccoli-related) vegetables, and foods rich in fiber.

“Whether it’s dairy, gluten, or some other food, being aware of food intolerances and other triggers is important so you can avoid or limit them in order to prevent digestive issues like bloating,” says Dr. Michael Hartman, a nutrition expert. “The last thing they want is for you to feel unwell.”

  1. Eat Consistently Throughout the Day

It may be tempting to save calories for the get-together, but doing so can lead to potential over-eating and digestive upset. Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitian, says that “waiting too long in-between meals until you are ravenous can often lead to eating too fast and too much, which can trigger an increase in bloating.” 

Instead, she says, focus on eating small meals and snacks throughout the day. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

  1. Limit Alcohol Intake

I know, I know, but the science (and my own stomach) doesn’t lie: drinking alcohol after eating can make a swollen stomach worse. Alcohol is an inflammatory depressant that can slow down your digestive processes and increase water retention, according to Hartman, which is why nutrition experts recommend spacing out water before and while you drink. 

“Spacing water out helps to prevent bloat, but don’t try to chug water all at once since that may increase bloat as well,” says Palinski-Wade. As for alcohol-free alternatives, she recommends “incorporating fun mocktails made with sparkling water and 100% juice as a delicious way to enjoy the celebration without the added bloat the next day.” Hartman suggests a strong cider or punch.

  1. Peppermint, Peppermint, Peppermint

I know I made mention of the glorious pink elixir that is Pepto Bismol, but peppermint seriously puts in the work for sensitive-stomach-having people like me. It has a long history as a digestive aid for a reason, so don’t underestimate its power.

In my personal experience, I’ve found that ultra-purified peppermint oil capsules work by far the best. These capsules can be taken as a preventive antispasmodic 30 minutes before mealtime or afterward–your choice. They can be found at most drugstores. If capsules aren’t an option for you, other peppermint-containing medicinal products, mint teas, and peppermint essential oils for external use (rubbed on your stomach) can also be used.

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