Feeling bloated after large meals, especially around the holidays, is painful but common. The good news is that the bloating usually isn’t serious and will pass with time. In the meantime, what can you do to help alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the holiday bloat? Keep reading to find out what causes bloating and 9 ways to avoid holiday bloating, ensuring you can enjoy your holiday more comfortably.
A lot of people get bloated, especially during the holidays when they tend to eat more than usual.
Excess gas buildup due to different factors is often the cause of holiday bloating.
There are things you can do and take to help address bloating, relieving the pain and discomfort often associated with it.
As always, please seek the support of a medical professional to ensure you address your holiday bloat safely and responsibly.
Everyone has experienced the "holiday bloat," which is a mildly uncomfortable buildup of gas and air pressure after eating big meals full of rich and unhealthy foods. Bloating happens when excess gas builds up in the digestive tract during normal digestion. It is often brought on by certain foods, taking in too much air while eating, or consuming drinks with a lot of carbonation.
The feeling of being swollen may also be caused by too many bacteria in the intestines, which produce gas during digestion. No matter what causes the holiday bloat, there are things you can do and take to get rid of it or keep it from happening.
Avoid your triggers
People who know that certain foods make them bloat and have other GI problems should probably stay away from those foods as much as possible. Certain foods, such as dairy, gluten, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts), garlic/onion, highly processed foods, and alcohol can cause sensitivities in some people.
Foods high in saturated fats, salt, and refined sugars can also contribute to or cause bloating. Because these foods can cause excess gas, inflammation, lethargy, and fatigue, it is best to limit or avoid them entirely.
If avoiding your trigger foods is not an option, or if you find yourself succumbing to them as a tasty treat, there are steps you can take to prepare for, prevent, and treat bloating. Continue reading to learn a few tips and tricks for navigating the holiday bloat.
4 ways to prepare ahead of time
Leading up to a holiday meal or party where you know you’ll be eating foods you don’t normally consume or eating or drinking in excess, you can prepare your body a few days in advance, helping to cut down on the possibility of bloating and discomfort.
- Small meals beforehand. Eating small meals the days before, or on the day of, a holiday gathering can help prime your digestive tract and prevent you from overeating. Overeating is a common cause of bloating, so by preventing this, you can prevent bloating and other GI discomfort.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking water regularly, as often as possible, is key to supporting proper GI function and movement. Water and fiber both support healthy bowel transit time (the time it takes food to move through your GI tract) and ensure a pain-free, easy, comfortable digestion process.
- Avoid carbonated beverages. Opt to drink flat beverages. Believe it or not, carbonated beverages increase the gas buildup in your GI tract by introducing even more gas and air. A good rule of thumb is to opt for water or non-carbonated beverages if you’re looking to prevent bloating.
- Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is an inflammatory substance that slows digestion and can create a sense of lethargy, and make you retain water. To ensure you balance alcohol intake with staying hydrated and preventing the holiday bloat, match every alcoholic drink with a glass of flat water and you should notice a big beneficial difference.
3 things you can take
When preparing for your holiday gatherings isn’t enough and you still find yourself uncomfortable with bloating, there are some things you can take to help.
Probiotics are good bacteria in your gut that help break down fiber, boost your immune system, regulate digestion, and produce essential vitamins. A review in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that probiotics decreased the volume of intestinal gas, decreased gas production, and increased gas elimination. Abdominal fullness, bloating, and pain all improved in groups taking probiotics!
Fermented foods are naturally high in probiotics; things like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt can all add healthy bacteria to your gut. If these foods aren’t on your menu, a supplement can be a safe option. Be sure to discuss this with a healthcare professional before taking probiotics.
Both peppermint capsules and ginger teas have been shown to support healthy digestion and prevent or treat bloating. The Journal of Patient Experience found that peppermint oil is a safe and effective way to prevent bloating and flatulence.
- Ginger is more warming and can help support gastric emptying and get things moving if your GI tract is a bit sluggish.
- Peppermint is cooling and can help with heartburn and bloating.
The European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology found that ginger helped dyspepsia (indigestion) which can often lead to bloating. Drinking a cup of peppermint or ginger tea after heavy meals could help you prevent painful holiday bloating.
Some people opt for over-the-counter anti-gas medication like simethicone pills or liquid to help treat their holiday bloat. These products work by moving excess air through the GI tract and can relieve gas, bloating, and pressure.
Although simethicone products have a very low association of side effects, a severe allergy could still occur, so be sure to use this with caution and seek medical treatment immediately if an allergy is suspected (swelling of the tongue, lips, face, rash, itchiness, or difficulty breathing or swallowing).
3 ways to stay active
A great way to get the excess gas or air to move through your GI tract more efficiently and with less pain is through movement. A nice post-dinner walk, stretch, or abdominal massage can make sure you avoid holiday bloating.
A 15-30 minute walk after meals can help your digestion significantly. A study reviewed in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology From Bed to Bench found that physical activity, like walking and cycling, is associated with improvement in GI symptoms like bloating and gastric fullness after meals.
Manual abdominal movement can assist the GI tract in moving excess air through. Massaging in the same direction as the large intestines can be especially helpful. A study published in the Journal of Intensive Care compared two groups of patients, one of whom received abdominal massage twice a day for 20 minutes each time, and the other who did not. They discovered that the abdominal massage group experienced less gastric residual volume (bloating) and discomfort for the rest of the day.
How to do abdominal massage:
- Begin by placing your hands above your right hip bone (where your ascending colon begins) to massage your abdomen.
- With light to medium pressure, rub upwards from your right hip up to your rib cage, then over to your left rib cage, and finally down to your left hip bone.
- Continue moving in a circular motion to help move gas and excess air through your colon.
Stretching and spinal twists
Stretching can also help your body get rid of excess gas. Spinal twists are among the most effective stretches.
How to do spinal twists:
- Lay on your back with your legs long, and pull one knee to your chest before rotating to the opposite side (for example, if you bend your right knee, twist to the left).
- Keep your shoulders on the ground and twist only at the waist or around your abdomen.
This twisting motion can aid in the movement of excess gas through the GI tract, relieving the pressure and pain associated with bloating. You can also do this pose while sitting up (vs laying down). More bloat-relieving stretching and yoga poses can be found in other Healthnews articles.
Bloating and other GI discomfort are common during the holidays, when you may be eating more frequently, in larger quantities, and foods you do not normally eat. Preparing for holiday gatherings, staying active, and taking some supportive substances can all help you address and prevent bloating, allowing you to enjoy your holiday!
- Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating.
- Journal of Intensive Care. Studying the effect of abdominal massage on the gastric residual volume in patients hospitalized in intensive care units.
- Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. Probiotics and Functional Abdominal Bloating.
- Journal of Patient Experience. Patient Suffering in Chronic Digestive Diseases: Will Primary Care-Specialist Collaboration With Effective Interactive Communication and Integrative Medicine in the Plan of Care Improve Quality of Life?
- European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans.
- Advanced Nutrition. Gastrointestinal Effects and Tolerance of Nondigestible Carbohydrate Consumption.
- Yoga Journal. These Yoga Poses Will Relieve Even the Worst Bloating.