Avoid Christmas indigestion with our 9 top tips
Would you like to get through your Christmas dinner without the fear of indigestion?
We hear you! The holiday season is a time for indulgence in all your favourite foods and drinks, from Christmas pudding and yule log to mulled wine and eggnog. Nothing spoils the festive fun like a case of Christmas indigestion!
Indigestion in winter is common, especially around Christmastime. You should of course consult your doctor if your indigestion doesn’t go away, but if you’re simply looking for some top tips in times of overindulgence, you’re in the right place!
Symptoms of indigestion
Indigestion, also referred to as dyspepsia, is characterised by discomfort in your upper digestive system. There are a range of causes of indigestion, including fatty or spicy foods, being overweight, smoking, pregnancy, stress, chronic health conditions and some medicines like ibuprofen.
Indigestion can be felt in different ways, but it’s likely that you’ll experience some or all of the following symptoms after eating or drinking:
- Heartburn (a painful burning feeling in the chest)
- Acid reflux (bringing up food or bitter-tasting fluids into your mouth)
- Feeling full and bloated
- Feeling sick
- Burping and farting
There’s usually no need to see a GP about indigestion, but if you’re experiencing symptoms regularly, you may be suffering with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD, sometimes referred to as GERD).
Top tips to tackle indigestion this Christmas
Nobody wants a bad case of indigestion to ruin the festive season - with roast turkey and pigs in blankets on offer, you won’t want to miss out!
While it can be difficult to stick to a completely healthy diet over Christmas, there are some simple adjustments you can make to your diet and eating schedule to avoid any unwelcome heartburn or acid reflux.
Know which Christmas foods trigger indigestion
We’ve all got our favourites when it comes to Christmas foods, whether it’s the Brussels sprouts, mince pies or a classic Christmas fruit cake.
Whatever your Christmas traditions are, your festive menu is likely to contain a lot of rich foods that may trigger indigestion. The typical triggers for indigestion include:
- Fatty foods
- Greasy foods
- Spicy foods
- Carbonated drinks
Knowing which foods trigger your indigestion will help you to eat within your limits and stay in control. If you know you’ll be having an indulgent meal, consider having an indigestion remedy to hand like an antacid.
Watch your portion sizes
Our appetites tend to increase during the winter months and most of us are more likely to eat large meals full of our favourite comfort foods. This is especially true over Christmas, whether you’re going out for a special meal with your friends or having the family round for a homecooked feast.
It’s easy to overeat at Christmas, but try to avoid it as much as you can if you want to prevent indigestion. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a hearty meal, but listen to your body by only eating when you’re hungry and stopping as soon as you’re full.
When you’re cooking at home, using a smaller plate is a great way to watch your portion size. Using a large dinner plate encourages you to fill it up with more food and you may feel obliged to finish everything on there, even if you’re already full.
If you regularly suffer with indigestion, you can still enjoy your favourite foods by eating little and often rather than having everything all in one go. In fact, many experts believe that ‘grazing’ throughout the day is more beneficial for the body in comparison to eating 3 large meals a day, as it’s easier on the digestive system and keeps your energy levels stable.
As much as eating on the go is convenient, especially with our busy schedules around Christmastime, it may lead to unwanted indigestion.
Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow more air, resulting in bloating and gas. Chewing your food slowly will help to break it down into smaller bites that are much easier on your digestive system.
If you find yourself regularly eating too quickly, slow yourself down by using the following methods:
- Chew your food more than you usually would
- Drink water with your meals
- Put your knife and fork down while eating each bite
- Use a timer
- Avoid distractions while eating
- Take deep breaths
Reduce alcohol intake
Enjoy a festive tipple? You might need to cut back if you’re suffering with indigestion. Drinking alcohol causes stomach acid to rise up your oesophagus (food pipe) towards your throat, resulting in symptoms like heartburn.
Some evidence even suggests that your stomach will produce more acid when you drink alcohol. This can eventually wear away your stomach lining, making it painful and inflamed. This is known as gastritis.
Cutting down on alcohol will not only ease your indigestion, but it will benefit your health overall. You can find out more about reducing your alcohol intake at Drinkaware.
Drinking less alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Christmas season. There are plenty of low or non-alcoholic options available in stores, bars and restaurants. You could even have some fun making your own mocktail!
Don’t eat before bed
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to have your Christmas dinner earlier in the day, look no further!
As much as a big meal can make us feel sleepy, going straight to bed after eating isn’t easy on your digestive system and can cause indigestion symptoms.
Experts suggest waiting at least 3 hours after eating before going to bed to give your body enough time to digest food. If you lie down right after eating, stomach acid can easily rise up into your oesphoagus and cause heartburn.
Reduce your caffeine intake
Are you partial to a tasty gingerbread latte? Or do you need one too many espressos to get you through the busy Christmas season?
While caffeine can be great for a burst of energy when we need it, it’s also one of the most common triggers for indigestion. This is because a high intake of caffeine relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter (the muscle that connects the stomach to the oesophagus) and an opening is created for stomach acid to rise up towards the throat.
If you find that caffeine is giving you indigestion, try reducing the amount of caffeinated drinks you have each day or consier switching to decaf.
Avoid certain painkillers
Preventing indigestion doesn’t just stop with your eating habits. A lot of us tend to pop more anti-inflammatory pills during the winter as problems like joint pain get worse in the cold weather.
Common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are great for relieving pain, but they can unfortunately cause indigestion, nausea and even stomach ulcers.
If you need to take painkillers, consider an option that’s easier on the stomach like paracetamol. If you do need to take ibuprofen, avoid taking it on an empty stomach.
Choose your clothes wisely
If you’re looking forward to glamming up this Christmas, think wisely about your outfit. Wearing tight clothing around your waist can put too much pressure on your upper abdomen and cause indigestion.
Opting for loose clothing like a floaty dress or loose fitting trousers will keep you comfortable and reduce any risk of unwanted digestive discomfort on the big day.
Reduce your stress levels
Christmas can be a stressful time for some of us. Whether you’re dealing with bereavement, financial troubles or it’s just a busy time at work around Christmastime, stress can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health.
Indigestion is one of the many physical symptoms associated with stress. It’s thought that stress could increase the amount of acid in your stomach and cause your oesophagus to spasm, resulting in symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux.
Stress can be hard to tackle, but there are plenty of things you can do to help you feel better:
- Stay active
- Talk to your support system
- Enjoy some ‘me time’
- Avoid unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking alcohol
- Try a new hobby
- Practice gratitude
If you follow all of our top tips, you’ll have a good chance of avoiding indigestion this Christmas. However, we do know how easy it is to overindulge at this time of year!