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Stomach bloating: Why our stomachs swell at Christmas and how to avoid it
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Overindulging at Christmas is pretty much a given but unfortunately for many, so is the inevitable swollen stomach. This year, less time in our party shoes and more time at home with the cheese board means the sluggish, bloated feeling is likely to hit us harder than ever.
Much of the population suffers from stomach bloating as a result of many different factors including anxiety and stress, medication and food intolerances.
Over the festive period, indulgence and change in our regular diet could leave us feeling seriously uncomfortable and unwell – not the Christmas we deserve after a difficult year!
Dr Deborah Lee of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy explains why this time of year is so tough on our stomachs: “Festive food is typically high-fat, high carb and high in cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli and sprouts), washed down with fizzy drinks and alcohol.
“Once we’ve shovelled it all in, our guts are awash with a host of foods that put our digestive systems under pressure, resulting in an instant build-up of gases – this is the Christmas bloat!”
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So how can you get ahead of your gut?
The rich and salty food we eat at Christmas alongside excessive consumption of alcohol dehydrates us quickly, said Dr Deborah, so you should drink plenty of tap water with your meals and try to prevent dehydration by sipping water regularly throughout the day.
She added: “Low levels of magnesium can cause sluggish bowels, stomach cramps, and constipation.
“Try coconut water to rehydrate and replenish the body. With naturally occurring electrolytes (potassium) and high levels of antioxidants and magnesium it can help offset bloating symptoms effectively.”
Vita Coco’s Pressed coconut water is sweetened with the fleshy meat from the coconut and also provides your entire daily dose of Vitamin C per 500ml carton.
Enjoy smaller, slower meals
Let’s face it, none of us are in a rush this year. Make the most of a more relaxed festive period and take your time with meals, chewing food properly and swallowing slowly.
Dr Deborah advised: “Every day our bodies are subject to a potentially harmful process called oxidative stress. This is taking place continuously as older cells die and need to be replaced.
“When too many electrically charged particles are produced they can cause DNA damage and disrupt cellular repair.
“Antioxidants are obtained from the diet and are crucial to keeping us healthy. Think about what you’re eating and try to reduce fat and carbs but keep eating plenty of food rich in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables.”
Physical exercise has a host of benefits for the body but it’s also a great way to help relieve bloating as it helps to ease the excess gas that causes pain and improves digestion.
Dr Deborah said: “Make sure you continue exercising to help with digestion – a long fresh walk after Christmas dinner can work wonders and will keep the sluggish feeling at bay!”
Certain foods can lead to bloating. The NHS recommends cutting down on the following foods:
But you should make sure you still eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Swallowing air is also a common cause of bloating. The health body advises: “Try not to swallow too much air.
“Do not talk and eat at the same time, sit down to eat (sitting upright and not slumped over), reduce the amount of fizzy drinks you consume, stop chewing gum and chew with your mouth closed so that you’re not taking in excess air.”
If your bloating symptoms persist, consult your GP to rule out a more serious condition.
Bloating and a persistent feeling of fullness are key symptoms of ovarian cancer.