digestive tips for a happy gut this holiday season
Tis the season for celebrating (lots of celebrating…), but if you’re someone with a digestive system that is easily thrown out of balance this season may not be the easiest for you. Here are some tips that can help!
Full disclosure, there was a time in my life when I abhorred the holidays. I am a creature of habit and I did not appreciate a string of holiday parties throwing me (and my digestion) off my routine. Coupled with distorted eating and orthorexic tendencies, and it’s safe to say the holiday season was enough to throw me into a tailspin of anxiety and overthinking.
Thankfully, after years of tenacious self exploration into the depths of my soul and natural healing in hopes of dismantling old habits and beliefs I was able to rebuild more balanced habits and discover a new found, dare I say, relaxation around the holidays.
One thing that helps me feel relaxed is when my body feels good. For me, good, means my digestion is normal, food is digesting properly, and bloating is at a minimum. Digestion has always been a point of weakness in my system and I have tried (pretty much) every supplement and diet under the sun to get my digestion to perform like a well oiled machine. :/
Ok, without getting too much into the nitty-gritty details I want to share with you a few of my favorite tips and tricks to get me through the holiday season feeling more balanced than bloated.
I want to preface these recommendations by saying it is important to get a full evaluation from your doctor of choice before taking herbs and supplements (especially if pregnant, nursing or on medications).
1. Digestive Enzymes: Enzymes are great for when someone experiences gas, bloating or the inability to fully digest the food they are eating (that gut bomb that can come from a big meal). Compromised digestive system can come from a whole host of things like stress, aging, medications or an imbalance in gastric acids. Digestive enzyme blends help to break down carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and even gluten. I alternate between two digestive enzyme blends. One is a chewable tablet (Vital Zymes) from Klaire Labs. I take this as needed before a big meal, or if I am traveling to help keep my digestion on track. Vital Zymes is vegan and non-gmo. The other product I like is Digestzymes from Designs for Health. This product contains HCL (the acid found in the stomach) to aid in the breakdown of our food. It has been found that often an increase in gas, bloating and heartburn can actually stem from deficient stomach acid rather than too much stomach acid. Read more about this product on their patient education material.
2. Curing Pills: This is the name of a patented formula used in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine. The herbs in this formula help to balance the digestive microbiome by transforming dampness and clearing food stagnation. Curing Pills are known to aid in digestive upset, traveller’s sickness and even hangovers. They come in travel sachets that I carry with me to holiday meals or on trips, making relief quite convenient.
3. Hawthorn - Rose Cordial: Hawthorn Berry is used widely in TCM as a digestive aid to alleviate food stagnation as well as to support heart health. It has been found in modern times to reduce serum cholesterol levels. A cordial is an after dinner aperitif that was traditionally made with herbs to help digest the meal that was just consumed. This recipe is a great addition to a holiday meal, offering a unique flavor of tart cherry and hawthorn, ginger and rose. This recipe was created by Audrey Barden Rossetti from Good Luck Wellness in Austin, Tx. I tweaked it by adding rose petals to assist in the support of the emotional heart and nervous system. Scroll down for the recipe and hop on over to my IG for a short video demonstration.
4. Ginger Peppermint Tea: A tea of fresh ginger and fresh peppermint makes a simple digestive tonic. Making a big pot of this tea to sip in the mornings is a great way to awaken the digestion, especially if you tend toward constipation. Ginger has been found to improve gastric muscle tone and to help alleviate nausea. Great for mornings after a little overindulgence. To steep this tea add fresh ginger to a pot of water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add a sprig of fresh peppermint and cover. Let this steep for a few minutes. Covering the tea traps the soothing volatile oils from the peppermint.
5. Triphala: (Tri-fah-lah) This is an Ayurvedic formula consisting of “three fruits.” Amalaki, Bibithaki and Haritaki. I love this formula and have worked with it for many years. I attribute much of my digestive healing to triphala, but I won’t get all mushy about my love for these herbs here, I’ll save that for another post and stick to the facts today. Triphala is a digestive tonic, meaning it helps to heal the tone of the intestines (like ginger!) without causing purgative effects or dependence. Some herbs promote bowel movements by increasing peristalsis (intestinal contractions) which can cause the body to become dependent on such herbs. Triphala works through a different mechanism of action that prevents adverse reactions. In fact, it is said in Ayurveda that if one has loose stool they can use Triphala and if one has constipation they can use Triphala. It balances all constitutions. I buy the Organic India brand of capsules most often, though I have bought bulk powders from Mountain Rose herbs and made my own capsules with veggie caps or make a tea. I will warn you though that the flavor of triphala is sour, and quite astringent (some of the magic of triphala is that it contains all 6 medicinal flavors) and I have found capsules to be the most palatable. I personally play with the dose as my needs change over time. Sometimes I take bottle dosage, sometimes I double that dose. I take Triphala on and off / as needed.
6. Tulsi Tea: Tulsi (also known as Holy Basil) is an herbal adaptogen that helps support our innate stress response. Tulsi is incredibly calming to the mind and spirit and helps reduce blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels making it a great ally for the digestive system. I buy Organic India brand tea bags and love their Sweet Rose flavor for a calming and uplifting tea blend. You can also read more about Tulsi from a January 2020 blog post!
7. Boundaries: Sometimes, it’s ok to say NO (thank you)...to the party, or the extra cocktail, or whatever the thing is that may add more stress to your plate this season. I had a great friend tell me once, “You’re going to have to learn to disappoint people.” I am an introvert, and I looooove being alone, which means sometimes a radical act of self-care is to decline the invitation to yet another holiday party in order to ask myself, what would really feed my soul right now?
Hawthorn - Rose Cordial:
Yields about 20 ounces