According to studies from the CDC, The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), and many others, more than half of holiday travelers report health problems, with stomach or GI issues topping the list. For example, just by touching the escalator handrails at the airport or handling your shoes at security you can pick up a flu virus or bacteria. That’s why health practitioners recommend:
Tip #1: Frequent hand-washing during the holiday season – especially when traveling, and always before eating or preparing a meal. Alcohol-based wipes and hand-sanitizers are also helpful (make sure yours contains at least 60% alcohol). Still, hand-washing is a better choice for reducing the risk of viruses such as norovirus and bacteria, which cause about 80 percent of upset stomach issues, according to Robert Steffen, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Zurich.*
One reason why stomach upset is so prevalent during holiday meals is due to preparation – either the people preparing the food did not cook it long enough; left it out too long, or did not take care in fully sanitizing their hands or cooking tools. Did you know that health inspectors recommend washing your hands for as long as it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday” in order to fully sanitize them? See my recipes tomorrow for holiday foods that help avoid the risk of food-borne illnesses.
Tip #2: Have a plan. Before heading to holiday gatherings, take some time to set an intention about what you want to eat, what you don’t want to eat, and how you want to feel after. Otherwise, you leave yourself open to “winging it” – which can often lead to regret. Setting an intention and creating awareness for yourself can help you feel prepared and in control. So take the time to think this through before the festivities begin. (Making a plan by yourself isn’t always easy. Need support? Let’s create a holiday plan together, tailored to your concerns, preferences and your goals!)
Tip #3: Check in with yourself during holiday meals and ask yourself if you’re still hungry or almost full. Overeating is the leading cause of heartburn or acid reflux. That’s because too much food in your stomach stresses your esophageal sphincter -- the muscle that keeps food and digestive acids from backing up. Acid reflux can cause burning in your throat and pain in your chest.
Tip #4: Chew your food. Digestion begins in the mouth. Are you talking and eating at the same time? Or are you taking your time and chewing your food? As you chew your food, digestive enzymes in your saliva begin to break down the food, making it easier for you to absorb the nutrients. It’s important to chew your food thoroughly to achieve maximum absorption of the nutrients and to avoid indigestion. Putting your fork down in between bites can help slow your consumption, which also gives your brain time to catch up to your stomach. (As you may have heard, it takes 15 – 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that you’re full!) So slow down and enjoy the smell, taste and texture of your food this holiday season.
Tip #5: Don’t let alcohol upset your stomach. I love my wine, but know women are especially susceptible to the effects of too much alcohol. While it is tempting to have more wine or eggnog, too much alcohol can irritate your GI tract, which can cause diarrhea, congestion, headache, and/or reflux. If you want to limit your alcohol intake this holiday, try adding crushed fruit, such as raspberries or blueberries, to your water, and sip that over ice in between the holiday cocktails. Or try one of the all-natural flavored sparkling waters, served cold and straight up. Your body will thank you!
Tip #6: Avoid laying down for three to four hours after eating. Digesting large meals can make us tired, and a nap sounds good, doesn’t it? But laying down after a meal can also cause acid reflux (heartburn), which can cause other symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea. Gravity helps keep food down, so stand or sit up for several hours after your holiday meal.
Tip #7: Tune-in and tune-out. If you find yourself stressed over the holidays, try to make time for your regular routines, such as exercise ( for me it's a long run ), hydrating, meditation, playing a family board game, reading, or whatever helps keep you calm and mindful. In the midst of the chaos, ask yourself: What can I let go of? Where can I find some “me-time?” How can I burn off the extra stress? Perhaps most importantly, try to find ways to manage your stress that don’t include food. Did you know that overeating can cause hormonal, electrolyte and blood-sugar imbalances? That in turn can add to your anxiety, or make you feel emotional, sad, tired, or irritated.
Remember, Bee Fitters, Food determines how we feel and heal so, make this the year that you walk away from the holiday meal feeling happy, healthy and energized!
*Source: Crave Marketing, LLC, Dec 2018