The holiday season is upon us and with the tinsel, lights, and family events also comes a plethora of snacks, treats, and heavy meals. If you’re on a specific meal plan for health reasons, you might find this time of year extra tricky to stick to your guns when it comes to food choices. We’re here to help. While we aren’t advocating ditching all the food that makes you feel your best, we are ready to arm you with a few tools for those moments when you realize you may have overdone it (bloating, upset stomachaches, heartburn, and the like—we see you!). Here are a few tools to keep in your supplement arsenal to combat the potential side effects of holiday indulgence.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar before protein-heavy meals is a preemptive measure that can help improve digestion. The theory is that apple cider vinegar increases the acidity of your stomach, which helps your body create more pepsin, the enzyme that breaks down protein. Sipping 1-2 teaspoons in a glass of water before a big meal may help give your digestion a jump start.
Digestive bitters are herbs that support digestive function by stimulating bitter receptors on the tongue, stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas. Their primary effect is to promote digestive juices such as stomach acid, bile, and enzymes to break down food and assist in the absorption of nutrients. You only need a small amount of these bitter to help—place a few drops in a glass of water or sparkling water right before or right after a meal to cut down on bloating and to aid digestion.
Long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a digestive aid, ginger is well-known for its stomach-soothing properties. Ginger seems to aid digestion and saliva flow, making you more comfortable and helping to reduce stomach pains. Studies have also found that taking ginger can reduce nausea and vomiting (though we really hope your holiday meals don’t come to that). Try ginger tea or ginger chews after a meal to alleviate your symptoms.
Another well-known plant for digestive support is peppermint. It’s used for reducing gas, bloating, and indigestion. Studies on animals demonstrate that peppermint relaxes your digestive system and may ease pain. It also prevents smooth muscles from contracting, which could relieve spasms in your gut. Try drinking peppermint tea after a meal, or using sugar-free mints containing real peppermint extract for post-meal relief.
We often prescribe digestive enzymes to patients needing ongoing digestive support, but you can use them intermittently too. Digestive enzymes help boost your body’s natural digestive process, giving you more access to properly and effectively break down food, which can alleviate symptoms like indigestion, heartburn, upset stomach, bloating, gas, and nausea. Look for these specific types on supplement labels, depending on what you might be having trouble digesting:
- For the breakdown of gluten & casein (recommended only for intermittent use—don’t use as a way to regularly breakdown gluten if you’re allergic, sensitive, or have celiac disease): DPP-4
- For broad spectrum breakdown: lipase, amylase, pancreatin, bromelain, papain, Betaine HCl (not to be taken with ulcers)
- For breakdown of fats: Ox-bile extract
- For breakdown of dairy: lactase
We know it’s easy to go a little overboard on the delicious holiday food that’s readily available this time of year—but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through the season! Start by making the best food choices for you, and then add in a few of these supplements if you find yourself suffering with digestive symptoms.
Not sure what foods are the best to fuel your unique body? Set up a free consultation call with us to get a more complete picture of your health, and determine the best meal plan for you.
Dr. Cassie Wilder is a registered Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) and founder of MIMC. Her passion is empowering her patients through education, understanding, and support through their healing journey. After graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Health, Dr. Wilder earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, a fully accredited and nationally recognized institution in Phoenix, AZ. During her clinical training, she received extensive hands-on training with many leading experts in the field of functional medicine and developed a passion for treating hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and adrenal fatigue.