LET’S face it – Christmas isn’t Christmas if you don’t end the day slumped on the sofa and unbuttoning your jeans as your tummy feels stretched and puffy.
This is because – for the majority of us – the 25 December is spent gorging on rich foods, boozing on mulled wine, late partying and general over-indulgence.
And, according to nutritional therapist Claire Barnes, from Lepicol, this is the nightmare formula when it comes to bloating and ultimately weight gain.
However, Claire says your Christmas doesn’t need to be tainted by bloating – and there are numerous ways in which you can deal with the problem.
Here, she takes The Sun Online through her top tips on how to deal with tummy troubles and boost weight loss this Christmas…
1. Walk off Christmas dinner
Many people would much rather stay in by a warm fire than venture out into the winter chill on Christmas day.
However, a simple walk over Christmas can be key in reducing your bloated belly and burning off all the food you’ve binged on.
Claire says: “Whilst it’s easy to slip into a food-coma on the sofa after eating Christmas dinner, instead wrap up warm, get outside and go for a gentle walk.
“During rest research shows we retain a significantly higher proportion of gas in the gut.
“Gentle exercise on the other hand has been shown in studies to enhance intestinal gas clearance and reduce symptoms in those who suffer with abdominal bloating.”
2. Eat more fibre
Rich indulgent foods are often prioritised on our plates over fibre rich vegetables at Christmas.
However, Claire has emphasised the need to eat more fibre over the festive season to prevent bloating.
She says: “Fibre is particularly important for digestion as it keeps our bowel movements regular, preventing constipation which can contribute to feelings of fullness and bloating.
We should aim to fill half our plates with vegetables, so this Christmas why not experiment with some new vegetable recipes
“Soluble fibre also feeds our beneficial gut bacteria which in turn produce extra nutrients that our body can absorb.
“We should aim to fill half our plates with vegetables, so this Christmas why not experiment with some new vegetable recipes or order an extra side of veg when eating out.
“In addition, taking a high fibre supplement such as Lepicol may be beneficial.”
3. Relaxation exercises
As well as heading out for a walk, Claire recommends trying some relaxation exercises to prevent bloating.
“Yoga, Pilates, meditation and mindfulness all help to relax the body and improve both nervous system health and digestion,” she says.
“Stretching and twisting of the abdomen in yoga moves may particularly reduce bloating.
“You may feel more comfortable trying these moves at home first.
“Ultimately though joining a course of classes will have greater long-term benefits and you may be able to seek out individual guidance for your specific concerns.”
4. Try herbal teas
Sitting down with a cuppa of herbal tea on Christmas tea may work wonders when it comes to tummy woes.
Claire says: “If you do over-indulge and have one pig-in-blanket too many, many herbal teas such as peppermint and ginger can have a carminative effect on the digestive tract.
Fennel is particularly effective for bloating.
“Try soaking a teaspoon of fennel seeds in hot water and drink as a tea after eating, or chew on the fennel seeds themselves.
“You can also buy fennel drops from some herbalists.”
5. Check if you’re digesting properly
As we age, our stomach acid and digestive enzymes reduce, making it more difficult for the body to break foods down ready for absorption.
Although it sounds gross, Claire recommends taking a peek at your stool to see if you’re digesting properly.
Claire says: “A quick and useful sign to see if you have a reduction in digestive enzymes is to take a peek at your stool, if you see undigested particles in it, there’s a strong indication that your body is not breaking down the foods well.
“These undigested foods may start to ferment in the digestive tract causing gas and bloating.
“Pineapple, papaya and mango also contain enzymes that help to break foods down. Why not make some fruit canapes or include these foods in a Christmas buffet
“Taking a tablespoon of organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a small glass of water before eating main meals and eating more bitter foods, such as leafy green vegetables can help.
“Pineapple, papaya and mango also contain enzymes that help to break foods down.
“Why not make some fruit canapes or include these foods in a Christmas buffet.”
While it’s supposed to be the season of peace and goodwill, many people find Christmas stressful with juggling seeing family, cooking Christmas dinner and wrapping presents – which can make bloating worse.
Claire says making sure you’re relaxed will help speed up your digestion.
“Ensure you are in a relaxed state and free of distractions before and whilst eating,” she says.
“If we are feeling stressed, our body turns its attention away from digestion meaning we can’t break down and digest foods properly.
“Try taking ten deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth before starting to eat, sit in a comfortable upright position ideally looking out of a window where you can stare off into the distance. “Take your time to chew the food well, as we chew we produce saliva, which contains enzymes to break down the foods for absorption and also sends signals to the brain to produce stomach acid ready for the food that’s on its way.”
7. Increase beneficial bacteria
Claire says: “Consume more fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, cottage cheese and yogurt, or take a multi-strain live bacteria supplement such as Bio-Kult daily.
“Certain strains of beneficial bacteria produce enzymes such as lactase which help us to digest the lactose in milk.
Alcoholic drink swaps to help you stay on track during the festive period
Diet guru Terri-Ann Nunns shares her advice on how to enjoy alcoholic drinks without overindulging and the best swaps you can make this Christmas.
1. Swap eggnog for…sloe gin
A glass of eggnog could quite easily exceed 350kcals. Another drink that is equally enjoyable but for different reasons is sloe gin. You can have it warm or on ice but it is still a tasty treat – with much fewer calories.
2. Small glass of desert wine for…glass of sherry
Opting for a glass of Sherry (60 calories) would halve your calorie intake in comparison to a small glass of desert wine (118 calories).
3. Mulled wine made with sugar for…mulled wine made with sweetener
Adding the sugar obviously adds more calories but you can actually use sweetener instead of sugar to achieve that sweet taste without the calories.
4. Large glass of wine for…glass of prosecco
A glass of prosecco is likely to be less than half the calories of a large glass of wine. A large glass of wine is 250ml or a third of a bottle, whereas prosecco is served in smaller glasses, generally serving 125ml.
5. Pint of lager for…a bottle of beer
Swapping a pint of beer for a bottle significantly reduces the volume you will drink and therefore the calories, especially if you plan to have more than one.
6. Gin and tonic for…gin and slimline tonic
By changing your mixer to one that is sugar-free, you can make a significant reduction to your calorie intake.
7. Long Island Iced Tea for…Bloody Mary
If you want to go for a healthier cocktail, choosing something like a Bloody Mary would mean you would consume much fewer calories and you could even hit two of your five a day.
“Our bodies can’t digest fibre, however the beneficial bacteria in our colons can feed on these fibres.
“After fermenting the fibres, the beneficial bacteria can produce nutrients which the body can then absorb.
“An unbalanced gut flora, that has higher numbers of harmful bacteria produce unfavourable by-products, such as gases, when they ferment unabsorbed foods in the colon.
“A more balanced gut flora should therefore produce less gas and bloating.”
8. Ditch processed food
Claire recommends ditching processed foods and refined carbs such as white bread, pastries and pasta to help with bloating and weight loss.
She says: “Certain bacteria in the gut will prefer different diets, while the beneficial bacteria like to feed on fibre from grains, vegetables and fruits, harmful bacteria will feed on most things!
“A diet high in processed and sugary foods will encourage the growth and multiplication of harmful bacteria at the expense of the beneficial good guys.
“Following a more Mediterranean-type diet by eating at least five vegetables and two fruits each day from a rainbow of different colours and consuming more oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon will provide numerous nutrients that the body needs as well as reducing inflammation.”
9. Improve metabolism
Claire claims you can encourage regular bowel movements by eating more soluble fibre.
She says: “Soluble fibre from grains, such as psyllium husks or soaked flaxseeds forms a soft gel in the intestines encouraging movement in the digestive tract and helping to eliminate excess toxins and hormones from the body.
“Alongside fibre, ensure you are drinking two litres of water each day in order for the fibre to form a gel and to encourage food to move through the digestive tract.
“Try to consume the majority of water before food and between meals, as drinking large amounts of water with the meal or directly afterwards may dilute the digestive enzymes.”
10. Keep a food diary
As it may be tricky to eliminate food groups over Christmas, Claire instead recommends keeping a note of which foods you are eating so you can see when the symptoms of bloating occurs.
She says: “When we are intolerant to a food, our bodies produce antibodies to that specific food, when we consume it again the antibodies will produce symptoms such as bloating and stomach cramps.
“If we continue to eat foods that we are intolerant to, inflammation in the gut may occur, triggering other symptoms such as diarrhoea or constipation.
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“Unlike food allergies where the onset of symptoms is immediate after consuming an allergic food, symptoms of food intolerance may take hours or even days to occur.
“Common food intolerances to look for are dairy, wheat, yeast, alcohol and eggs.
“So potentially discovering these intolerances now gives you something to work with in the New Year.”