How many people out there need to unbutton their pants after holiday dinner with your family? Don't lie - I know you do. It's that moment where you just want to slide under the table and fall into a coma. You regret eating all the horrible things you ate, but there's nothing you can do about it now. Let's prevent that this year. How can we do that? By optimizing digestion.
Step One: Chew Your Food
The mechanical action of chewing breaks food down into smaller particles and creates more surface area for enzymes to act on. This is important because digestion actually begins in the mouth with salivary amylase. Chewing also stimulates the rest of the digestive system to start releasing enzymes in preparation for the incoming food - this is why the more you chew, the more enzymes you'll release. How many times should you chew your food? A general rule to keep in mind is that the texture should bear no resemblance to its original form. This means it should be mush, and that usually takes about 20 good chews.
Step Two: Don't Dilute Your Digestive Juices
There are many decadent and heavenly drinks available during the holiday season - apple cider, mulled wine, spiced hot chocolate. But try to have your drink separately from your food. If you consistently wash your food down with liquids you'll dilute your stomach acid and your enzymes, making your digestion less efficient. If you find you're thirsty, try sipping on some room temperature water or warm herbal tea. Drinking cold drinks halts the digestive process because it requires energy to warm it up to body temperature. Also, try to avoid caffeinated drinks after eating because they cause the stomach to empty faster, so large molecules of undigested food end up in the small intestine.
Step 3: Support Your Digestive Organs
Your digestive organs have a lot of work to do - especially if you're planning on overeating this holiday season! So it's important to help them out. What are some natural ways you can enhance your digestion? Take 1 tsp of raw apple cider vinegar with 1/2 cup of water before eating. If you find this isn't sufficient, you can try a multi-enzyme complex with amylase, protease and lipase, with some optional hydrochloric acid and bile salt. Consult your natural healthcare practitioner for more advice on which option is best for you.
Step 4: Eat In The Correct Order
Some of us might already be familiar with the concepts of food combining. If you're not, the basic rules are: eat vegetables with either proteins or grains, but don't mix grains and proteins. Eat fruit separately. Now, this isn't always necessary if your digestion is up to par, and it's also highly unlikely during the holidays when you're being presented with massive amounts of food. However, there are still a few general rules you can follow: eat raw fruits and vegetables first, eat protein and fatty foods last. Raw fruits and vegetables digest much faster than meat, so you don't want it sitting on top of the meat and fermenting in your gut.
Follow these rules and see how they work. Remember to focus on natural foods, but don't be too hard on yourself if you indulge.
Monica is a Holistic Nutritionist and avid cook. She is often found in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes or buried behind a pile of cookbooks. Local, organic, plant-based ingredients are her weapons of choice. Click here to follow her on Facebook and Twitter