The festive season is in full swing, and after the year we have had who could blame us for wanting to indulge?
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t always come to the party when we find ourselves overdoing the wine and cheese, with frequent reports of bloating and weight gain after a big night out. So if you too find that you’re prone to stomach discomfort, here’s everything you need to know about what is happening inside your tummy this party season, in an attempt to keep discomfort to an absolute minimum.
Why am I so bloated?
While individual foods are often blamed for being the cause of bloating, in reality for most of us it is the mix of high-fat, high-calorie foods and extra alcohol that slows down digestion causing abdominal distention and discomfort. In addition, when this large volume of food and drink is teamed with especially salty food and the fluid retention it causes, you have the perfect storm for a bloated belly.
This is quite different to bloating experienced as a result of food intolerance. Here, individual foods and the nutrients they contain such as dairy and lactose, wheat and gluten and the sugars or FODMAPS found in a range of plant foods, can cause gas to accumulate in the digestive tract and subsequent bloating and discomfort. When such intolerance is present, the solution is to avoid these irritants where possible.
While food intolerance is increasingly common, at this time of year, chances are your post-party bloat has a lot more to do with the extra food and drink you are enjoying and that your body is not used to.
How to avoid the bloat
The good news is that knowing what causes bloating makes it a whole lot easier to prevent it in the first place. Simply avoiding eating large volumes of food in one sitting is the most powerful thing you can do for stomach comfort. For example, waiting an hour or two in between courses, and avoiding extremely fatty and salty foods such as deep-fried canapes, roasted meats with skin and gravy, and creamy desserts.
Choosing flat rather than fizzy alcohol drinks too will help reduce the amount of gas in the gut, as will drinking plenty of water. Another trick is to move as much as possible when you are eating and drinking heavy foods, as this will help stimulate the digestive system to process the food and drink in the gut. The worst thing you can do is recline on the couch for several hours after a large meal.
Another simple trick is to eat lightly the day before more indulgent eating days, choosing liquids and fibre-rich foods so any food in your digestive tract has already been processed by the time you start to eat your heavier meals. Including a yoghurt with probiotics or a fermented drink such as kefir too has been shown to help improve gut comfort in individuals who report feeling bloated regularly.
Foods to help ease the bloat
In an ideal world, we would not find ourselves in a position of needing remedies for post-party bloating but should things get out of hand, the good news is that there are several ways you can ease bloating relatively quickly.
To start with, drink loads of fluid, especially fluids that have a diuretic effect and draw extra fluid away from the body — think herbal tea, especially peppermint or dandelion, vegetable juices or soup.
Next, get moving — even a simple walk will help to reduce abdominal discomfort and stimulate the digestive system to process the offending foods.
Finally, keep the food light and liquid — yoghurt with probiotics, smoothies and green juices will have your tummy back to its best within a few hours.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
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